6 Day, 5 Night Cusco & Machu Picchu Itinerary
It's a short trip, but you'll see A LOT in just 6 days.
Day 1: Traveling to Cusco
There are no direct flights from the United States to Cusco, so chances are, your flight will go through Lima.
The airport in Lima is small and easy to navigate. The security lines went rather quickly and there were virtually no lines for passport control in the morning. They have pretty standard security lines: laptops and tablets in their own bin, watches come off but shoes stay on. There are plenty of eateries—both inside the terminal and out—before and after security.
We enjoyed a really wonderful breakfast at Tanya Cafe near gate 13. I enjoyed a traditional Peruvian breakfast of scrambled eggs, yuca, sausage and toast that was delicious. For three of us—one full breakfast, three juices and six cups of coffee—it was only about $40 USD.
Before flying to Cusco, it is advisable to start taking altitude sickness pills and keep taking them for the duration of your stay. Locals also swear by coca tea as a remedy. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.
2 Nights in Cusco
Where We Stayed:
Palacio del Inka - A Marriott Bonvoy Property. We stayed in a “Colonial Family” room with 3 double beds - $795 for 2 nights ($265pp)
Things to See:
Plaza de Armas
Alleys San Blas neighborhood
L’Atelier Cafe on Calle Carmel Alto
Plaza San Cristobal (spot for sunset views)
Uchu, Peruvian Steakhouse
Limo, reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fallen Angel (strange ambiance)
L’Atelier cafe in San Blas (coffee)
Limbus Restobar (views)
Our two favorite restaurants were Morena and Chicha. Below are a ton of photos of our food and drinks at Morena, which not only has incredible food and cocktails, but also offers amazing views of the square at Plaza de Armas.
Day 2: Rainbow Mountain
On the second day, we made the trip to Rainbow Mountain. NOTE: Though the other two girls in my group really enjoyed it, I would NOT recommend doing this trek unless you do it later in your trip or have more time in Cusco to acclimatize first. So basically, don't do it on Day 2. Consider doing it if you add a day in Cusco on the end of the trip, but if your only option is to do it on your second day in Cusco, I would skip it entirely.
Day 3: Train to Machu Picchu
Belmond Hiram Bingham - This is one that I highly recommend. It's bucket-list worthy, to be honest. I would make the trip back to Peru just for this train. If you're looking to save on costs, book it one way and take a Vistadome train (or even a cheaper option) on the way back.
Depending on what time of year you go, you will either take the train all the way there or take a bus for the first jog. The bus runs January through April because the narrow track in the Sacred Valley gets dangerous in the rainy season. We went in January, so we had to ride the bus. Honestly, it wasn't that long, so the bus didn't really hinder our experience at all.
Our train left at 7:30. They tell you to arrive at 6:50 for coffee, pastries and some entertainment. The train station is at 9,000 feet. The highest part of the journey is at 12,000 feet!
After we got off the bus, we arrived at the Belmond property in the Sacred Valley. We were greeted with glasses of champagne and light snacks while we waited to board the train. After boarding the train, we were guided to our table, where we would enjoy lunch, but also invited to head to the back where they have the lounge and the bar car. This was, of course, where we ended up spending most of our time. The meal we had on board was incredible, the live music was super fun, and the pisco sours were EXCELLENT. And the views, were--of course--truly astounding.
Once you arrive at the station in Aguas Calientes, you board a Hiram Bingham bus and are then dropped off at the Belmond Sanctuary property--the only hotel that is actually AT Machu Picchu. We considered staying here but decided not to because it is so isolated (you are high atop the mountain and it's a 25 minute bus ride back and forth to town).
What we didn't realize when we booked the Hiram Bingham train is that it INCLUDES ENTRANCE TO MACHU PICCHU! I realized this belatedly and had to shift some bookings around (for the better). We arrived in Aguas Calientes just before 1 pm, started our private tour of Machu Picchu just for the Hiram Bingham passengers, and then ended the tour back at the Belmond Sanctuary for afternoon tea.
Departs Cusco 1/11 at 7:20 (BE THERE AT 6:40 AM)
Arrives in Aguas Calientes 1/11 at 12:40
$510pp (one way)
NOTE: Permitted luggage should not exceed 05 kg / 11 lbs per passenger. If you need special assistance with your luggage, please contact email@example.com, not less than 48 hours before the departure time of the train. Availability is subject to space.
2 Nights in Aguas Calientes
Sumaq Hotel - I paid $1204 for 3 beds for 2 nights, with breakfast and dinner included. That's $200 per person, per night. The food was actually EXCELLENT and we were quite pleased with the portions. The room was nice, with windows that opened up to the sound of the river, and the beds were super comfy--just what we needed after two days of long hikes.
We booked a full day private Machu Picchu tour directly with the hotel for $687 ($229pp). This was what I had originally booked before I knew the Hiram Bingham train included entrance to Machu Picchu. You need tickets to enter, so you do have to plan ahead. But what was great is that after we had already seen Machu Picchu with the Hiram Bingham guide, we simply spoke with the front desk and asked them to change our private tour to something else--and boy were we happy we did!
The concierge at Sumaq suggested the Huayna Picchu Hike, which is really incredible. This is actually the tall mountain you see behind most people's photos of Machu Picchu. Yes, you hike to the top of that, and the views are absolutely insane.
Though we didn't take it, this was our original Machu Picchu tour, which you can book HERE: 6 am and 11:30 am.
Things to Do:
See Machu Picchu (duh)
Hike Huayna Picchu
Visit the Butterfly Farm
Soak in the hot springs
Take a hike (there are many)
Visit the square at night
Day 5: Train to Sacred Valley
Vistadome Train (cheaper option) - this is another great option. We took this train on the way back. It has glass windows and a glass ceiling, so you have stunning views throughout the whole trip. They even have some entertainment on this train as well!
Remember to grab snacks beforehand - the website says there’s no food or beverage service. I'm not sure if this was a Covid thing or the usual rules, but there were definitely no drinks or snacks available.
Our train departed Machu Picchu at 4:22 and arrived in the Sacred Valley at 7:30 pm
Cost: $103pp (one way)
1 Night in the Sacred Valley
Tambo del Inka, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa - We stayed here, in Valle Sagrado, near Ollantaytambo. Though we only stayed one night, I wish we had stayed one more. The spa was incredible and there are plenty of options for things to do as day trips throughout the Sacred Valley. Plus, their cocktails at the bar were INSANE.
Day 6: Back to Cusco, then Home
We hired a car service for the day, which I would highly recommend if you are on a later flight. Our flight out of Cusco to get back to Lima was at 8 pm, so we had all day. We had some shopping we wanted to do in Cusco before we left (hello cute little llamas for Baby T), so we had our driver keep our bags and drop us off at various places around town. We ate lunch at Chicha on the square (after my friend Denisse recommended it) and it was well worth the hype! I am usually pretty distrustful of restaurants in touristy spots (like the main plaza) but almost all the restaurants there are known to be very good. To be honest, we didn't have a bad meal the entire time we were in Peru.
And that's it! That was our short 6 day itinerary to Cusco and Machu Picchu and we really enjoyed it. It's short, but it does the trick and you really see a lot in 6 days.
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