A grand tour of some of South America’s top highlights. Your journey starts in Peru’s lively capital city of Lima before heading to the Inca heartlands of Cusco and the Sacred Valley high in the southern Andes. Take the train to the world-famous ruins at Machu Picchu (and try to save time for some of Peru’s lesser-visited ruins, too). From here it’s a flight to Rio followed by a trip to yet another natural marvel, the thundering Iguazu Falls.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Lima, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, Puerto Maldonado
Activity Activity Nature & Wildlife, Culture
Physical Level Physical Level Easy
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Lima culture and arts

Lima culture and arts

Day 1 in Lima

Peru's sprawling capital city is often overlooked by time-poor visitors en route to more photogenic locations, but dwell a while and you'll find a complex city with onionskin layers of history and excellent museums, a proud contemporary culture, genuinely diverse neighbourhoods, and a world-leading food scene.

Don't miss

Explore Lima's arts scene

Explore Lima's arts scene

Frequently seen as little more than a transit hub for Machu Picchu, Lima is in fact one of Latin America's great cities. World-leading gastronomy jostles with a flourishing arts scene, easily filling several days of deep cultural immersion.

Eat like a king in Lima

Eat like a king in Lima

Lima’s chefs cook up a storm with the fruits of the sea, mountains and jungle. But it’s not all fine dining and exclusive restaurants: Peru’s is an egalitarian cuisine and you’ll find excellent food at street stalls, local markets and neighbourhood cantinas.

Wildlife spotting in the Amazon

Wildlife spotting in the Amazon

Day 2–4 in Puerto Maldonado

Puerto Maldonado, in Peru's southern Amazon, is the most accessible entrance to the jungle. The town itself is nothing to write home about, but it's the best way of reaching one of the many lodges found deeper in the interior. Some lodges are more luxurious than others but all include guided nature and bird-spotting excursions, delicious meals and the unforgettable experience of drifting asleep to the cacophonous sound of the jungle at night.

Don't miss

Visit a luxury Amazon eco-lodge

Visit a luxury Amazon eco-lodge

Puerto Maldonado in Peru’s southern Amazon basin is a wildlife wonderland. Spend a few nights in a full-service jungle lodge and take guided excursions birdwatching, climbing canopy walkways, hiking and canoeing.

Visit the gateway to the Amazon

Visit the gateway to the Amazon

Iquitos, in the northern Amazon is only accessible by boat or plane. Luxurious jungle lodges offer watery nature-spotting adventures by canoe and boat (look out for the pink river dolphin), and the city itself is a jumble of lively markets and bustling streets with a distinctly frontier vibe.

Andean culture in the Sacred Valley

Andean culture in the Sacred Valley

Day 5–6 in Sacred Valley

As the Urubamba River descends from Cusco, eventually connecting with tributaries of the mighty Amazon, it has carved out a sweep of valley whose beauty defies imagination. Little wonder then that the Inca chose this stunning and fertile location as their spiritual and agricultural heartland. Scattered with ruins, towns and villages where Quechua is still commonly heard, the Sacred Valley is much more than a mere stop-off before Machu Picchu. Spend some time here and get a real understanding for Peru's origin story.

Don't miss

Meet Andean culture in the Sacred Valley

Meet Andean culture in the Sacred Valley

Despite the Spanish colonial influence, Peruvian indigenous culture thrives in the Sacred Valley. The village of Ollantaytambo has been inhabited since the 13th century, and nearby Pisac has a vibrant (if somewhat touristy) market. A good guide will help you branch off the tourist trail for a better perspective.

Take a private tour of the Sacred Valley

Take a private tour of the Sacred Valley

The glorious Sacred Valley connects Cusco with Machu Picchu and is dotted with ruins, agricultural terraces, and historical towns, including Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Moras, Moray, as well as many lesser-visited spots. Get under the surface with a full-day private tour and explore the ruins, villages and bustling markets, all set amidst incredible landscapes.

Lost city of Machu Picchu

Lost city of Machu Picchu

Day 7 in Machu Picchu

If you're coming to Peru you'll almost certainly visit the ruins that have come to define the entire country. Despite now drawing millions of visitors a year, the crowds can't dent the ruins' sheer scale and undeniable magnificence.

Don't miss

Take a guided visit of Machu Picchu

Take a guided visit of Machu Picchu

Yes it’s famous and busy, but for a perfectly valid reason: Machu Picchu remains one of the world’s preeminent archaeological sites. In spite of the crowds, an expert guide will bring the place to life and help you make sense of the Inca’s incredible ingenuity. You’ll have the option of climbing the adjacent Huayna Picchu for spectacular views, and can return for a second day exploring if you wish.

See another side to Machu Picchu

See another side to Machu Picchu

For a different perspective of the ruins and a bird’s eye view of the surrounding mountains and valleys, try the moderate hike up adjacent Huayna Picchu. Additional permit is required, our recommended tour operators will be happy to assist.

Historic spectacle of Cusco

Historic spectacle of Cusco

Day 8–9 in Cusco

Seat of the Inca Empire, Cusco is the epicentre for Peru's tourism industry, drawing millions of visitors en route to Machu Picchu and adventures in the Sacred Valley. With layers of archaeology built on top of each other (often literally), Cusco and its surroundings can keep you occupied for several days. Ignore the tourist traps and see Cusco for the living, breathing, contemporary city it is.

Don't miss

Explore historic Cusco

Explore historic Cusco

Cusco, once the capital of the Inca Empire, combines pre-Colombian heritage with colonial-era architecture and vibrant contemporary city life. You can (and should) spend some time exploring solo, but a good quality guided tour will visit the popular sites of Sacsayhuaman, Koricancha and Cusco Cathedral, while avoiding the tourist traps and giving you an insight into the stories behind this fascinating city.

Explore the falls of Iguazu

Explore the falls of Iguazu

Day 10–11 in Iguazu Falls

Exploring the Brazilian side of the Iguazu waterfalls, with excellent views to the more impressive Argentinean side. The Foz do Iguazu National Park is home to pumas, tapirs and many rare species of bird.

Culture and beaches in Rio

Culture and beaches in Rio

Day 12–14 in Rio de Janeiro

Is there another city on earth that can match Rio's beauty? Mountain peaks, lush forests, beautiful beaches and playful inhabitants make Rio a must-see on any Brazilian itinerary. From the famous beaches of Copacabana to edgy Botofago, Rio is the perfect bookend to a Brazil trip.

Spend several days exploring Brazil’s bustling coastal city — and home to the world’s biggest carnival. Visit the city’s famed beaches and diverse neighbourhoods, as well as the urban rainforest of Tijuca Forest. Ride the rack railway up Corcovado Mountain to see up-close the 30m-high statue of Christ the Redeemer — perhaps one of the most recognisable icons of Brazil. Then drive through Santa Teresa neighborhood to explore the area’s history and beautiful 19th and early 20th century mansions.

Don't miss

Visit Rio’s vibrant beaches

Visit Rio’s vibrant beaches

The 4km-long Copacabana beach is one of the city’s most popular, offering a vibrant and bustling atmosphere. For a less touristy experience try some of the lesser-celebrated beaches, including Barra da Tijuca Beach and Joatinga Beach.

Climb Sugarloaf Mountain

Climb Sugarloaf Mountain

Take a relaxed cable car ride up to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain for panoramic views of Guanabana Bay, Corcovado Mountain, Santa Cruz Fortress and Rio-Niteroi Bridge.

Where to stay

Classic

Casa San Blas

Right off the main pedestrian fare in the San Blas district and less than three blocks to the main square, Casa San Blas Boutique offers exceptional location and comfort. Inside, the well-appointed rooms make for a great night's rest, and the family-style suites are perfect for families.

Superior

Isla Suasi

A luxurious eco-lodge located on the only private island in Lake Titicaca. Lodging includes all food and beverages and the opportunity for activities on the lake. The 24 rustic and appealing rooms all have expansive views of Lake Titicaca as does lunch, which is served on the bluff overlooking the lake.

Deluxe

Machu Picchu Pueblo

Hidden in 12 acres of seclusion, the Pueblo Hotel provides a paradise of individual bungalows with stone paths leading you through the gardens and natural fountains. The Pueblo is laid out in the traditional Andean Village style and consists of 85 luxury cottages, a naturalist centre, a natural Andean sauna, and an exquisite restaurant that overlooks the Vilcanota river below.

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