What to Do in Peru If You Only Have a Week

How to visit Peru in just seven days PROMPERU
While no one could ever see all of Peru’s attractions in one week, you can still hit some of the country's major highlights in that amount of time. With some minimal planning you can fit in exploring Lima’s culinary scene and major historical sights before setting off on a bucket-list adventure that will take you to Machu Picchu and into the high Andes surrounding Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Stops along the way include the sometimes overwhelming market of Pisac, the salt mines of Maras, and the strange agricultural terraces of Moray.
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Peru in a Week: Day 1: Arrive in Lima PROMPERU
All international flights land in the capital, Lima, often late at night or early in the morning. After checking into your hotel, head to the nearest café for an empanada and fresh papaya juice before taking the Metropolitano to Lima Centro, the historic center of the city. Go straight to the Convento de San Francisco de Asis, a colonial-era church and convent with a spectacular library of old books and a gruesome underground network of catacombs where tens of thousands of bones are spookily arranged in intricate patterns. Afterward, walk a few blocks to Plaza Mayor (pictured above at night), making sure to catch the changing of the guards at the Palacio de Gobierno precisely at noon.

Then hop in a taxi to the Miraflores District and hit up Gastón Acurio’s famed cevichería La Mar, a restaurant that helped turn Peru’s national dish into a worldwide phenomenon. Jump back on the Metropolitano to the bohemian neighborhood of Barranco and spend your afternoon soaking up the streets and ocean vistas. Have a coffee at Café Bisetti, a roaster that specializes in native Peruvian blends, and maybe pop into an art gallery or two. At sunset, stroll across the Puente de los Suspiros, the neighborhood’s iconic wooden bridge not far from Isolina, a two-level criolla taberna where you can order classic Limeño dishes like tacu tacu (refried rice and beans) or cau-cau (a tripe and potato stew).
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Peru in a Week: Days 2: Introduction to Altitude Nicholas Gill
Take an early morning flight to Cusco. Given the city’s high altitude, keep your plans light and flexible; tomorrow, as you acclimate, you can be more assertive. Sip on a glass of coca tea while checking into your hotel and then take your time strolling through museums like the visual and interactive Museo Machu Picchu Casa Concha, which will build your excitement for your upcoming stop at Machu Picchu. Spend some time hanging out on the Plaza de Armas (pictured above) and visit La Catedral, then move uphill to pedestrian-only Calle Hatunrumiyoc and look for the 12-angled stone outline of the puma immersed in the wall. Have a long leisurely lunch in the San Blas neighborhood, followed by an afternoon visit to the stone fortress of Sacsayhuamán, a short taxi ride or steep hike away. Don’t miss the huge rocks with slick grooves that make for superb slides. Have a light dinner at Cicciolina and maybe a few Peruvian-style tapas at the bar with a glass of wine or local craft beer.
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Peru in a Week: Days 3 and 4: The Sacred Valley Nicholas Gill

Spend the next two days based at a resort hotel in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, such as the ones between the towns of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. Ask your concierge to help set up day trips to attractions around the valley. If possible, schedule one day around a visit to Pisac on a market day (Tuesday, Thursday, or, best of all, Sunday), when the sprawl of indigenous vendors selling handmade alpaca throws and scarves, among other things, is at its largest. Combine market browsing with a hike to the ruins on the mountain above town. Follow that with a hot stone massage at your hotel spa.

For your other free day, join a tour, maybe even by horseback or mountain bike, to the Salineras de Maras, salt mines that date to before the Incas, and to Moray (pictured above), an enigmatic Inca site defined by its circular agricultural terraces. Here chef Virgilio Martinez operates the fine dining restaurant Mil, an experience in itself.

 

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Peru in a Week: Day 5: Machu Picchu Aleksandra H. Kossowska/Shutterstock
Take an early morning train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu. Drop your bags off at your hotel and hop on a bus straight to the famous Inca city to get there before the crowds do. Hire a guide at the gate for a two-hour tour of the ruins, followed by enough free time to climb Huayna Picchu, the striking mountain with a narrow cloud forest trail that stands above the ruins and offers once-in-a-lifetime views (you will need to reserve a space in advance online from the Ministry of Culture or a local travel agent). In the evening, hit the bars near the plaza in Aguas Calientes to share stories with some of the hikers who have mastered the Inca Trail.
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Peru in a Week: Day 6: Last-minute souvenirs Nicholas Gill
Take a morning train back to Cusco, where you can stroll through the handicraft markets to pick up any last-minute souvenirs. Have lunch at a no-frills picantería such as La Chomba on Avenue Tullumayo for an authentic, local meal while a band plays on. In the afternoon, walk through the Museo de Arte Precolombino (MAP), a pre-Columbian art museum, followed by a celebratory dinner at MAP Café, the chic restaurant in its courtyard.
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Peru in a Week: Day 7: One Last Adventure Nicholas Gill

Catch a morning flight back to Lima. Spend your last day picking up any final souvenirs at the Mercado Indio, close to Parque Kennedy in Miraflores, where you can nibble on a pan con chicharrón (fried pork with sweet potatoes) sandwich at La Lucha. For one last adventure, sign up for tandem paragliding on the malecón, not far from the cliffside Larcomar shopping center (its mirador, or balcony, is pictured above), where you will soar out over the Costa Verde. Indulge in one last dinner at Maido, a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant that consistently ranks among the world’s best places to eat.

Find more details and get more ideas for your Peru vacation from our award-winning guidebooks, available here.

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