Peru is a huge country and traveling it involves a lot of the same problems as traveling in the USA. To do all of typical Peru would take about two and a half weeks.
The things I didn’t do could fill a trip by themselves. There was the Awamaki weaving village and the excursion into the snowy Andes. I went West instead of South so I didn’t get the plane ride over the Nasca lines or the afternoon chilling on the floating villages of Lake Titicaca. There are also serious dunes and canyons here that provide opportunities for adrenaline junkies.
There was even the extremely tempting side-trip into Bolivia where you can visit the salt flats.
Our trip can really be summed up as hike, shop, spa… ooh a monkey!
Day 1: Fly into Lima. ATM this is unavoidable and a major time suck but tis life. Lima isn’t very exciting for tourists and given the other things you will be I wouldn’t even bother with it. Everyone told me this, I ignored them, they were right. We had no good food, the churches are better in Cusco, and wow do you burn out on taxis/hotels/buses/tourism fast. Stay in the airport and get the first plane to Cusco. If you’re desperate to at least peek at Lima stay in Miraflores and book a day tour around the city (one that picks you up from the hotel). Lima traffic is terrible and the taxis are less than honorable (as in “here we are! oh you didn’t say this random municipal building in the middle of nowhere? that’ll be 50 soles to take you back!”).
Quick tip: Keep your luggage sticker handy (you’ll get it when you check your bags when departing your homeland). Once in Lima they will check this to make sure you picked up your own bag. There is then another scanner before you leave the airport. Security is tight and in rural airports you’re things will be hand checked before they are scanned and sniffed by a drug-dog. Leave extra time and pack so that the inspector can just poke around and zip the bag back up.
Day 2: Fly to Cusco. Stay in any hotel near Plaza de Armas or Palacio del Inca and eat along the street where Hotel Ruinas/ the Marriot is. Wander into the cathedrals. Do the small one first, there will be people offering a tour, take it and learn all the history of the square. Do the large cathedral second. The large one is a working church so tours aren’t offered. Ask if there are any parades happening. There are lots of restaurants con balcony and sitting there to enjoy a parade with a Pisco Sour is quite nice. The Inka museum has a few mummies with conical skulls and evidence of brain surgery. The rest of the museum doesn’t have much but you can run through the museum in 20 minutes and see the mummies. Head up to San Blas for shopping, particularly artisan jewelry.
Day 3: Hang out in Cusco which has many cute shops and pretty mountains.
Day 4: Pisac or Sacsayhuman or day tour of choice. All ruins pale in comparison of Machu Pichu so if you don’t care don’t bother as neither ruin is particularly well-preserved. If you want to do Pisac have a taxi take you to the top of the ruins and hike down (2 hours) you can not hike up – the altitude is killer and it is very steep. The bottom of the hike is the market which is the same stuff they sell everywhere. We oppsied and tried to hike up so we never made it but we did make it to the waterfall and steeps. If you skip Pisac market you can use this day to transfer to Aguas Calientes.
Day 5: Machu Pichu. See my post on how to do this best. I would certainly stay in Aguas Calientes and I’d do all the shopping I skipped in Pisac here as well (the market is huge if lacking in ambiance). I’d also live off of snack in Aguas Calientes or eat in a major hotel.
Day 6: Return to Cusco for transfer. The spa in the Palacio Inka is amazing and with their trio of pools and the star room you can spend the entire afternoon re-cooperating from your hikes for the very reasonable price of a facial.
Day 7: Fly to Puerto Maldonado. I would stay at Reserva Amazonica again no questions asked. They scoop you up like a baby duck and coddle you throughout your stay which is what you’ll want after a week of navigating Peru alone. The PM airport is teeny and the surrounding towns seem to be purely residential. We did the 2 night stay which I blogged here.
Quick tip: check these flights constantly. All flights in the country are constantly changed but flights to and from PM are often condensed due to limited traffic.
Day 8: Hike.
Day 9: Fly back to Lima as late as possible. If you are compelled by the travel fairies to see Lima good luck to you. If not stay at an airport hotel and happily eat room service and look through your photos.
Day 10: Fly on home!
(Our trip was 11 days. We spent two nights (first and last) in Lima, first San Isidro and then Miraflores. We also spent extra time in Cusco which we thoroughly exhausted but enjoyed. We did in fact spend an entire day tucked away in the Palacio del Inka. We stayed in the Sacred Valley instead of Aguas Calientes which cost us about a day. The drive from Cusco to the Sacred Valley is very pretty so consider a taxi or bus for this journey.