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10 Days in Peru: The perfect itinerary when short on time

Learn all you can do with just 10 days in Peru. Where to go, tours to take, cities to explore and much more.

If you only have 10 days in Peru, then you need to get as much out of it as possible. It’s very easy to unintentionally fill your itinerary with boring activities and airport delays. This country has enough to surprise everyone, whether it’s the culture, the once-in-a-lifetime landscapes, or the warm people.

The typical tourist has a reasonably predictable route. Arriving at Jorge Chavez Lima Airport in Lima you will most likely explore the capital city for a few days, and then go back to the airport to take a flight to Cusco. Once in Cusco, you’d take a day or two to get used to the altitude, visit Machu Picchu, then a trip back to Lima. It’s not bad, but to spend 10 days in Peru – you’re definitely missing a lot out.

There’s nothing wrong with this route, but it excludes all of the other incredible places that Peru has to offer. With 10 days in Peru you have so much more potential for a great trip than the traditional route.

The ‘traditional’ route for your 10 days in Peru may make you feel comfortable but you will only see two cities. In a country like Peru two cities is not enough. With ten days you can see 5 different incredible places, all throughout Southern Peru if you choose to travel with Peru Hop.

There’s never enough time to explore all that Peru has to offer, which is why Peru Hop was made. Peru Hop is a hop on, hop off bus service that travels to unique and incredible destinations through the south of Peru.

Peru Hop offers you this itinerary for 10 days in Peru for you to take advantage of all your time here.

Day 1: Lima – arriving into the capital

Lima is the second largest desert city in the world. No matter what time of the year you arrive, it won’t be raining in Lima. That’s the reason outdoor activities are such a popular thing in this city. Make sure you pack a light jacket if you are traveling in winter time.

As travelers you probably know that the first day it is better to take it easy, especially if you come from a country with a different time zone. Avoid the stressful jet lag. Follow our tips to explore Peru in 10 days – Have a nice and chill first day, get a Peruvian breakfast and get ready to get to know the famous Lima.

Explore the city on day one of your ten days in Peru and enjoy the magnificent architecture, such as La Plaza de Armas, Plaza San Martín, and Chabuca Granda boulevard. You can take a Lima Walking Tour or see the most emblematic places of the capital by bus.

If you enjoy exercising then you can also take a city bike tour, some of which include top gastronomy stops to try the worldwide famous traditional Peruvian food. For all foodies, learn how to make delicious Peruvian dishes with one of the best 3-hour cooking class in Lima (no experience needed). Don’t miss a visit to the Circuito Mágico de las Aguas and walk around the bars and restaurants of the bohemian district of Barranco. In fact, if you’re wondering what the top 10 things to do in Lima in one day are, then look no further. Remember, you’re leaving early tomorrow morning to discover Peru, so sleep well.

10 days in peru - justice palace

Day 2: Paracas – the adventure begins

Get picked up by the 7am Peru Hop bus and start making your way to Paracas in a luxury bus. On the way to Paracas you will enjoy delicious breakfast at Mirasur and witness a Peruvian Horse Dance Show (yes, the horses dance!) – this place sells the best, and the freshest bread in all Peru.

You will arrive at the beautiful coast town of Paracas at approximately 12pm. This place is the perfect time to enjoy some carapulcra or sopa seca; two of the most traditional dishes of the Ica region, or enjoy some ceviche next to the beach! You can also enjoy the biodiverse environment and the stunning landscapes. Spend the night in Paracas and enjoy our exclusive hopsters’ discounts at many hostels and hotels in the area.

Quick Tip: The best way for families to travel in Peru is with Peru Hop’s flexible hop on hop off service. Visit all of Peru’s main attractions and catch some incredible hidden gems along the way like like the incredible desert oasis of Huacachina and the Nazca Lines viewing tower.

Day 3: Huacachina – the amazing desert oasis

You’ll start the day with two fantastic activities in Paracas: A boat tour to the Ballestas Islands to see the Humboldt penguins and sea lions – If you haven’t booked it then don’t worry, our onboard guides will help you and will recommend you an operator. You can even book on the bus! After you’re free to enjoy a tour through the Paracas National Reserve a stunning reserve full of scenic views that will take your breath away.

After midday you can head to Huacachina, the only desert oasis in South America. Here you’ll be able to zoom up the hill on the buggies (also known as the dunes rollercoaster), and slide down, Tony Hawk style through the highest dunes in South America.

Nights at Huacachina are quite chill and relaxing. You can opt for a night town walk or if you want to go partying and dancing. You can stay at Wild Rover Hostels, also the Peru Hop meeting point for departures and arrivals.

10 days in peru - sandboarding with friends

Day 4: Nazca – options to view the mysterious Nazca Lines

After another exclusive Peru Hop stop at the Pisco Vineyard where you can learn about the Peruvian national drink and enjoy some free samples. If you want to take a Nazca flight you will miss this part and head right to Nazca. For those who want to see the Vineyard, we will make our way to Nazca after.

Once in Nazca, you can climb the Nazca Lines Viewing Tower and enjoy some of the Nazca Lines for free – This is another exclusive Peru Hop stop. You can also choose to book a flight to enjoy them all as well. We don’t spend much time in Nazca, as past the lines, there isn’t much going on. You can hop off if you like, but most continue on.

Don’t worry about the night bus! Our luxury buses are really comfortable, we have lots of blankets so you don’t have to worry about being cold and our drivers care so much about the safety that you’re going to enjoy a splendid night trip.

None of our drivers speed (we know this because each bus is monitored by a GPS tracking system 24/7) and they swap shifts every 5 hours of trip so they are well rested. Once you wake up you’ll find yourself in the lovely city of Arequipa. Think about it this way: 1 night on the bus, 1 extra day.

Day 5: Arequipa – home to the 2nd deepest canyon in the world

Arequipa is one of the most beautiful cities in Peru. It’s historical centre has been declared UNESCO cultural heritage site and its one of the main places in Peru where amazing, once in a lifetime traditional dishes are prepared. Thanks to the bus trip, your body will be already adjusted to the altitude so you probably won’t have issues exploring the city on the same day.

A perfect way to spend the fifth out of you ten days in Peru is in Arequipa, exploring the city and trying all the dishes you possibly can. Our local guides will recommend you places to go, what to eat, and where to stay in Arequipa.

Spoiler alert: Picanterias are a big thing here you should try as much food as possible. The Rocoto Relleno is a MUST!

Arequipa is below the legendary Andean volcano “Misti” – an actual ACTIVE volcano.

So to get back to you itinerary. It’s been just 5 days, and you have seen 5 cities already. Can you see how you are taking really advantage of your time?

10 days at peru - misti volcano

Day 6: Colca Canyon (Arequipa)

This is an optional tour but highly recommended. Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world and you have the chance to visit it in a full day. In fact, if you want to spend more time here, there are two and three day hikes available. This place is special in the whole of South America because you are able to see the majestic Andean condor here.

Since you are short on time, it is best for you to go back to Arequipa City, get rest and ready for our early trip the morning to the Inca homeland: Cusco.

condor flying - 10 days in peru

Day 7: Cusco – welcome to the capital of the Incas

Our trip to Cusco will start very early in the morning from Arequipa. We will stop to have breakfast and to enjoy the unforgettable Lagunilla viewer in Puno. Here, you’ll be able to appreciate the wonderful landscape of Lake Titicaca – The highest navigable lake in the world.

It’s a road trip day and you’ll see lots of the beautiful views that Peru’s highlands have to offer. Before arriving to Cusco, we’ll have lunch on a cheap but excellent restaurant. We’re going to arrive in Cusco in time for the sunset.

You’ll have the rest of the day/night to acclimatize your body and get used to the altitude. While you’re waiting, you can explore the historical centre of Cusco at night. Surrounding the Plaza de Armas there is the amazing architecture of the city – From incredible churches, to big houses and convents built on the Inca stone walls.

Even though the nightlife in Cusco is known for being very VERY wild and active, we strongly recommend to rest if you are doing Machu Picchu the next day. You want to be able to enjoy this site properly!

Day 8: Ladies and Gentlemen, one of the 7 New Wonders – Machu Picchu!

A trip to Machu Picchu is a dream come true. This place so full of energy, history and culture is a fantastic place to admire, from the bottom to the top. Though there are a few treks and tours to get to Machu Picchu that are 100% worth it.

Dedicating a full day to Machu Picchu is the right thing to do. Here I’ll give you a brief summary of how to get to Machu Picchu:

A full day (Recommended if you have just 10 days in Peru)

  1. Take a bus to Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley
  2. Get a train to Aguas Calientes (the town of Machu Picchu)
  3. Once in Machu Picchu town, you can whether take a walk or a bus to the entrance

IMPORTANT: Tickets to Machu Picchu or tickets for the train must be purchased prior to travel especially if you decide to come during high tourist season. If you need any help to plan your itinerary, please feel free to contact us.

2 Day tour to Machu Picchu:

All the same steps from before, just that instead of going up the same day, you’ll stay in Aguas Calientes one night before going to the amazing citadel early in the morning.

Trekking to Machu Picchu:

This is an option for travellers that have more time available and that come specifically to do the Inca Trail (one of the most spectacular treks of the world) – you’ve got to book this trek at least 6 months prior, as they only admit 500 trekkers per day. Other options are the Inca Jungle Trek (4/5 days) or the Salkantay Trek (4/5 days).

10 days at peru - machu picchu view

Quick Tip: To search and compare hundreds of different trips and activities all around South America, use Find Local Trips. A search and compare website that gives you the best prices for tours and trips all over South America.

Day 9: The Amazing Rainbow Mountain

Another day in Cusco, another adventure. Today you have the chance to explore another of the main reasons Cusco is such an emblematic stop for travellers. A visit to the rainbow mountain is a difficult but worthwhile experience.

This tour usually takes 15 hours so you’d have to leave before dawn. Once there to get to the top will take you 2 hours. However, this is a landscape that will take your breath away. Rainbow Mountain is a view that you’d only see once in your life.

On your way back to Cusco, you’ll be tired but satisfied that you have visited an unforgettable destination. You can take a night walk on the city for your last night and maybe buy some souvenirs or even try some traditional drinks.

For trips to Rainbow Mountain, we highly recommend booking with Rainbow Mountain Travels, the top-rated operator with a safety guarantee and being one of the first to arrive!

10 days to travel peru - rainbow mountain

The last day – what’s next?

Your trip in Peru is almost done, but that does not mean you cannot still enjoy some more! Take a flight back to Lima or hop on to Bolivia – And start a new adventure with Bolivia Hop. The best way to take full advantage of this is leaving Cusco very early to Lima or La Paz (Wherever you choose) to enjoy a full day at your destination before flying back for your flight home.

You might think that this is all you can do in 10 Days in Peru. Usually, people think that ten days in Peru is not enough time – Which considering all that Peru has, it actually isn’t. But Peru Hop makes you use your time for the best and take advantage of the full route from Lima to Cusco.

This is just a sample of all you can see and do with only ten days in Peru. If you have other options in mind or a different traveling style then feel free to contact us and will happily set an itinerary adapted to your personality, time and expectations.

With our Hop on/Hop off system you have the chance to explore on a flexible way without losing the freedom to play your own way to discover the real Peru.