Here is our "at-a-glance" itinerary:
Day 1&2. Explore, make bookings, cooking class, salsa dance class, hot stone massages, San Pedro Market... --Slept in Cusco
Day 3. Paragliding, Hotel Andenes, explore new town, ruins --Slept in Ollantaytambo
Day 4. Abra Malaga downhill bike ride, mother's day festival, good food, train ride to AC.-- Slept in Aguas Callientes (Machu Picchu Town)
Day 5. Machu Picchu Day, Aguas Callientes Hot Springs, Train back --Slept in Ollantaytambo
Day 6. Church in Urubamba (9am), Moray, Maras, Salineras, -- Slept in Cusco
Day 7. Tour Peru bus to Puno (8 hours), Explore, fancy dinner -- Slept in Puno
Day 8. Boat to Uros Islands, then to Amantani, Sunset hike, dance night -- Slept in Isla Amantani
Day 9. Boat to Isla Taquile, the boat back to Puno -- Slept in Puno
Day 10. Explore, call home, shower, transfer to Juliaca for our flight home --Slept (read: Didn't sleep) in Airplane
Tips for Travelers going to Peru:
- If you can at all help it, go in the month of MAY! Great weather, cheaper prices, less tourists, more opportunity to do activities because they are less busy... Maybe September or October would be equally good (the end of high season), I don't know...
- Try Alpaca Saltado! It is absolutely my new favorite dish! Seledonia's restaurant in Cusco is fairly priced and very delicious!
- Book tours on arrival for the best prices. Treks to Machu Picchu and through the sacred valley cost at least $550 searching online before, but if you're flexible and brave, book once you arrive for around $200. Travel agencies line the streets of Cusco offering hikes beginning as early as the next morning. (Of course, none of this applies to the Inca Trail hike which you must book 4-6 months in advance. We made friends with people who used Llama Path for their hike and ate like kings and loved their time!)
- As far as packing shoes... I would only really bring tennis shoes and maybe a thin pair of flip flops. These are high altitudes and it gets really cold- I wouldn't have been caught in my beloved Chacos. Please pack light! We took 1 school size backpack each and it was actually more than enough. We were so free to move and do what we wanted bc we weren't weighed down!
- This is definitely best as a childless trip. We have taken our >1 yr old on plenty of trips and aren't afraid... but this location is really best if you can leave the babe with Grandma!
- I would say book a tour to Machu Picchu. My first choice would be to hike it (4 days), but if you don't have the time, I'd say do an overnight tour. You would sleep in either Ollantaytambo, or I would highly suggest spending the night in Aguas Callientes before you Machu Picchu day. There is a LOT of red tape getting to the site. We spent the better part of a day running around Cusco making all our reservations: Bus/taxi to Ollantaytambo where the train starts, hotel for the night, the train tickets, the entrance tickets to Machu Picchu, the bus between Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu... It's possible (obv, this is what we did...) but very logistical. I think you would save money and be less stressed, and make a few friends by doing this with a tour group.
- Go EARLY to Machu Picchu! I think the buses start at either 4:30 or 5am. You must get up there for the sunrise, and to beat all the 1 day tourist groups. The best light is during the "Golden Hour" just before the sun rises and for a few minutes after. The other best time is between 2:30- 4:30pm when the site closes. The middle of the day is hot and very crowded. We found a shade tree to eat our lunch (bring food for sure!) and take a nap for 2-3 hours during the middle of the day.
- I liked Staying in Cusco for a few days to acclimate for Machu Picchu. Then going to Puno/Lake Titicaca next since it is even higher!
- Don't feel like you HAVE to buy the Boleto Turistico. It's the tourist pass to all the historical sites and churches. They make you feel like it is your only option... If you have questions about this specifically, email me!
- If you go to Puno (port city for Lake Titicaca tours) stay at the Intiqa Hotel. That $50 hotel room was a highlight of our trip. We stayed in room 502 (I'm pretty sure!) which is on the top floor in the corner, making it large with a view. Great breakfast, they deliver a hair dryer when you call the front desk... great experience! We booked a tour for this leg of our trip which did not come with this hotel in the package, but we insisted that this is where we wanted to stay, so Sacred Valley Tours in Cusco called them and bundled this hotel into our Lake Titicaca tour.
If you have any questions, feel free to email me at email@example.com for tips!