The typical issue has occurred... we've all been there... you have a limited time, let's say 10 days, but a huge country that has soo much to offer. You might have one or two major tourist attractions you want to see and are planning to schedule the entire trip around them. These attractions probably will take you to several different cities but outside of these how long should you spend in each one yet at the same time you don't want to make the mistake of spending half your trip stuck in taxis, buses, airports or train stations. If you're like us you'll research forums for hours and see the classic response that the 3 days you planned in that city isn't nearly enough and you should have some how booked ten weeks (yaaa... super realistic right...these forums never cease to amaze us) (Speaking of forums.. check ours out for likeminded travelers and help contribute here) Well if you are traveling to South America and Peru is on your list we have outlined below the itinerary we created to have the right balance.
10 days starting here..
3 days Bogota, Colombia
3 days Lima, Peru (look to stay in Miraflores or Barranco)
*flight required to arrive in Cusco, Peru followed by taxi and train to Agua Calientes*
1 day Agua Calientes, Peru (for Machu Picchu)
Exploring the town and preparing for MP
1 day Ollantaytambo, Peru (for Machu Picchu)
Exploring the main square
1 night Cusco, Peru (for Machu Picchu and flying home)
Exploring the main square and shops
*Money Saving Tip*
Our journey actually didn't start in Peru but rather Colombia for one simple reason we were able to score $120 one way tickets per person. Before booking of course we checked the cost to fly from Bogota, Colombia to Lima, Peru which at the time was around $60 per person. By being flexible to adding another country to our list we saved hundreds of dollars because Peru flights were easily 700+ round trip. It also allowed us to use points to fly home on a one way trip.
We spent 3 days in Bogota, Colombia and spread our time out by exploring the city,going to the Gold Museum and the Salt Cathedral (see here for the best way to save money by using public transportation). The one lesson learned at the Salt Cathedral is watch your step in town or you might roll your ankle... require a wheel chair at the airport... a mere 4 days before you're expected to explore Machu Picchu. Mount Monserrate is a must just given by the view as seen in the photo below.
Jumping from Colombia to Peru is a rather quick and simple flight away. Once you arrive we recommend using Uber via airport Wifi. It was extremely cheap to get around everywhere we went using Uber and saved us from haggling. While in Lima be sure to check out out Larcomar if you are interested in shopping. It is an underground mall that is built in the side of the cliff that offers stunning views of the ocean. If you are interested in ruins then check out the Pucllana Temple, it is interesting to walk these ruins yet be surrounded by the modern city. If you are a cat lover then check out the cats of Kennedy Park where it is full of stray cats stretching out for a nap or coming by for a pet. This park can be found in Miraflores. Maybe night life is more your thing then if so the check out Barranco. This part of the city at night becomes the spot for nightlife, art and has the Puente de los Suspiros. It is a bridge that connects two streets and is said if you hold your breath crossing it your wish will come true.
I'm sure if you traveled to Peru then Machu Picchu is on your list as a must. Check out this article on all the small details of how to get there. We recommend you set aside at least 3 days to include the travel there, the day of exploring and travel back. Along the way you'll have the opportunity to explore Cusco, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes and of course Machu Picchu. To get to Machu Picchu you will have to fly into Cusco, take a taxi/bus to a train station (an hour+ away) and then a train to get to the city at the base of Machu Picchu. Only trains go there, there is no cars or other alternatives to arrive into the city so it does mean a pricey train ticket. Don't forget to reserve your tickets before hand as well!
After making the journey back from Machu Picchu you'll end up back in Cusco. Altitude sickness is a real thing and with Cusco having an elevation of 11,152 feet it is best to read up on symptoms and be prepared. It never hurts to chat with your doctor around medicine to help with the symptoms because you'll wish you had it once it hits you. The day we were leaving I personally woke up and felt like a semi truck ran me over. At the time I thought we were clear given the time we spent in other areas of high altitude during the trip (Bogota and Machu Picchu) but guess I was wrong. The locals do chew on coco leaves and drink coco tea to help.
For us we had to get back to Cusco to start our long travel day home. It took us an extended time to arrive back in Cusco due to a protest on gas prices and the impacts it was having on income for taxi drives. There were only a few drivers making the journey that day and the high way was littered with debris to make the trip much longer. We did get stuck at a stand still as the local town members formed a line to block the road. The 2 of us plus others in the car decided to make the final 7km walk into town. Fortunately our driver was able to make it through the protest and picked us up after walking for 30 minutes. Cusco has a main square that you can walk around, enjoy food and relax before your long journey home the next day. Our flight did have a 12 hour layover in Lima before the journey back to the USA but fortunately with the lounge access we get from Chase Sapphire Reserve we spent it exploring 4 different lounges. 1 of which was a full restaurant, another a bar, a basic one and a large lounge with showers and places to sleep.
We always recommend to our readers to try the local cuisine. In Peru Alpacha is a common meat and so is Guinea Pig. Yes, you read that right and it sounds crazy but that is all part of the experience when traveling.