Trip Report ✈ Peru & Machu Picchu – Itinerary, Points & Miles

Peru and Machu Picchu need no introduction.
Machu Picchu

View of Machu Picchu from Wayna Picchu in the early morning

Peru is an amazing place that was on my wish list for a long time.  Even more amazing when most of the trip is paid with miles and points.

Peru seems like a small country at first until you realize you will need to fly several times to see everything. The trip can be very expensive especially due to these extra flights.  Fortunately, you can pay for most of the trip with points and miles like I did.  Keep reading to learn which flights you can take, hotels you can stay in, and which miles/points you will need.

The main reasons I went: Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, but I discovered much more.  The biggest surprise was the jungle portion of the trip near Puerto Maldonado.  After Machu Picchu, the jungle was my favorite part and surprisingly, Lake Titicaca my least favorite.

This trip report will be split into the following chapters:

•  Peru 16 day trip: Itinerary, Points & Miles ⌫ (you are reading this)
•  Daily Highlights
•  Lima
•  Hotel: Sheraton Lima
•  Urubamba / Sacred Valley
•  Hotel: Tambo del Inka, Resort & Spa (Urubamba)
•  Aguas Calientes / Putucusi Mountain
•  How to Book Machu Picchu Tickets Online (without pulling your hair out!)
•  Machu Picchu & Wayna Picchu (Huayna Picchu)
•  Hotel: La Pequeña Casita (Aguas Calientes)
•  Amazon Jungle (Puerto Maldonado)
•  Hotel: Amazon Planet (Puerto Maldonado)
•  Cusco
•  Hotel: Palacio del Inka (Cusco)
•  Puno / Lake Titicaca
•  Hotel: Tierra Viva Puno Plaza (Puno)
•  Colca Valley
•  Hotel: Killawase Lodge (Yanque, Colca Valley)
•  Arequipa
•  Hotel: Los Tambos (Arequipa)
•  Sandboarding in Huacachina




ITINERARY – 16 Day Peru Trip

Day City Hotel Activities
1 Lima Sheraton Lima (SPG) Arrive late.  Sleep
2 Lima Sheraton Lima (SPG) Explore city
3 Urubamba Tambo del Inka, Resort & Spa (SPG) Enjoy the hotel, acclimate
4 Urubamba Tambo del Inka, Resort & Spa (SPG) Explore the Sacred Valley
5 Aguas Calientes La Pequeña Casita Hotel Climb Putucusi Mountain
6 Aguas / Cusco Palacio del Inka (SPG) Hike Machu Pichu & Wayna Picchu
7 Puerto Maldonado Amazon Planet Jungle tour
8 Puerto Maldonado Amazon Planet Jungle tour
9 Cusco Palacio del Inka (SPG) Rest
10 Puno/titicaca Tierra Viva Puno Plaza Bus to Puno
11 Puno/titicaca Tierra Viva Puno Plaza Full day tour of Lake Titicaca
12 Colca Killawase Lodge Hike near hotel
13 Arequipa Los Tambos Full day tour of Colca Valley
14 Arequipa Sheraton Lima Tour Arequipa / Travel to Lima
15 Lima Sheraton Lima Free day
16 Lima NO HOTEL – Red eye flight Sandboarding in Ica/Huacachina



MUST SEE/DO/SKIP

Many people try to rush through Peru, leaving only enough time for Machu Picchu.  I think that’s a mistake.  This itinerary can be easily shortened if you don’t have 16 days.  Here are the parts that are must see/do and the parts you can skip:

  • Machu Picchu – MUST SEE
  • Jungle – MUST SEE (would have loved an extra night here)
  • Sandboarding (Huacachina) – great day trip from Lima if you have time
  • Lima/Cusco/Arequipa – nice cities but mainly used as a gateway for the rest of the trip
  • Colca Valley – meh, could be skipped
  • Puno/Lake Titicaca – could be easily skipped

 

ALTITUDE SICKNESS

Don’t take a chance with this – get altitude sickness pills from your doctor before you go.  According to this Machu Picchu website, altitude sickness usually occurs above 8,000 ft.  When you arrive in Cusco you will be at 10,800 ft.  Start heading down towards Machu Picchu as soon as possible.  Staying in Cusco to acclimate at the highest point is a bad idea.  There were some areas along the trip which were over 15,000 feet.  If I were to do it again, I would arrange the cities so that once I acclimate, I stay at higher altitudes.  We made a mistake going from high altitude (Cusco/Machu Picchu) to the jungle (low altitude) then back to high altitude again (Puno).  Leave the Jungle for the end of the trip.

Below is a list of the altitudes in the major areas of Peru which I obtained from http://www.machupicchu-inca.com/machu-picchu-altitude.html:

 

Altitudes of Cities in Peru

City

Feet Meters
Lima 5,080 1,550
Arequipa 7,740 2,380
Machu Picchu 8,040 2,450
Ollantaytambo 9,150 2,790
Cusco 10,800 3,300
Puno 12,420 3,860
Lake Titicaca 12,420 3,860

 

TRAVEL COSTS (using miles and points)

FLIGHT COSTS

Below are the flights and their costs per person.  There were some options to fly to Lima using miles, however, cash flights were on sale for about half price which I wrote about last year.  In total, we paid $443 + 18,000 Avios points per person.  Without the Avios points we would have paid over $1,000 per person.

# Flight Program Cash Pd Miles Pd Full Cash Mile Value
1 EWR – LIM (stop in ATL) (round-trip) Delta $443 $443
2 LIM-CUZ Lv 9:30a Ar:10:50a Avios 4,500 $155 $0.034
3 CUZ-PEM LAN# 2075 Lv 11:20am-12:15pm Avios 4,500 $143 $0.032
4 PEM-CUZ LAN# 2076 Lv 12:50pm-1:45pm Avios 4,500 $142 $0.032
5 AQP-LIM Lv 7:40pm-9:10pm LanPeru 2111 Avios 4,500 $133 $0.030
6 LIM – EWR (stop in ATL) [Red Eye] Delta
TOTAL $443 18,000 $1,016

 


HOTEL COSTS

The total for the hotels came to just over $1400, about $90 per day + 27,200 SPG points.  I created the itinerary around Starwood SPG hotel locations to reduce the cost and to enjoy really nice hotels (plus Platinum perks including upgrades, free breakfast/snacks, wifi).  On the remaining nights, we staying in cheap hotels or bought package deals for the jungle and Colca Valley areas.  As you can see, I was able to stretch the value of a Starwood point up to 6 to 11 cents per point!

Day Hotel Program Cash+Points Paid Full Cash Px Point Value
1 Sheraton Lima SPG $35 2,000 $205 $0.09
2 Sheraton Lima SPG $30 1,600 $205 $0.11
3 Tambo del Inka, Resort & Spa SPG $96 4,800 $371 $0.06
4 Tambo del Inka, Resort & Spa SPG $96 4,800 $371 $0.06
5 La Pequeña Casita Hotel $72 0 $72 N/A
6 Palacio del Inka SPG $96 5,000 $320 $0.04
7 Amazon Planet $207 0 $207 N/A
8 Amazon Planet $207 0 $207 N/A
9 Palacio del Inka SPG $96 5,000 $320 $0.04
10 Tierra Viva Puno Plaza $53 0 $53 N/A
11 Tierra Viva Puno Plaza $53 0 $53 N/A
12 Killawase Lodge $250 0 $250 N/A
13 Los Tambos $78 0 $78 N/A
14 Sheraton Lima SPG $35 2,000 $205 $0.09
15 Sheraton Lima SPG $35 2,000 $182 N/A
16 NO HOTEL – Red eye flight
Total $1,439 27,200 $3,100
Per Person $720 $1,550

 

NOTE:  Make sure you check your hotel receipts.  Tourists do not pay the 18% IGV tax.  Some hotels mistakenly charged us and I asked them to remove it.

 

TRAINS AND BUSES

Peru Rail will take you to many of the places you want to go.  For some areas like Machu Picchu, its the only option.  For other areas, its very expensive and doesn’t make tourist stops.  After Machu Picchu, we chose to travel by bus which was much cheaper and allowed us to see much more.  We booked the trains before we left for Peru.  The others were all booked after we arrived (usually the night before) so I need to find the prices.

Description Train/Bus Cash Pd
Train Urubamba 6:20a Lv 6:50a to Machu Picchu Train $77
Train Machu Picchu 16:13 Lv 16:43 to Poroy (Cusco).  Expedition Class.  Take Taxi or $20 USD for hotel car. Train $79
Bus – Puno/Titicaca Tour Bus
2d/1n tour Early AM Pickup 6:15a PUNO-COLCA-AREQUIPA TOUR Tour
Tour Day 2 of 2: PUNO-COLCA-AREQUIPA TOUR Tour
Early morning Bus Lima/Ica to go Sandboarding Bus
Late Bus Sandboarding to Lima Bus

 

Peru Rail Map

 

Stay tuned for the next chapter

 

RELATED POSTS

 

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Comments

  1. Seems like EVERYONE is going! We’re planning and sorting out the trip for end of September. We’ve gotten most of the hotel stays booked, waiting on some miles to post for the long USA-Peru flight but will be using Avios to book the hops in Peru. We’re going to see how much we can actually book for transportation before we go and hopefully working out some schedules that way. Also, thanks for posting the tips on booking MP tickets. Others on TripAdvisor have also explained how crazy it can make you.

  2. I also read somewhere mistakenly that Lima was high up
    It is NOT high
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lima_District
    It is at SEA LEVEL and perhaps 150m high at most
    The Miraflores area is close to shore but on a cliff

    Going to Lima will not help acclamatize you
    Best to fly US-LIMA-CUZ- -car to Urubamba at once
    Use that as a base, and take trips
    then see Macchu Picchu
    then see Cuzco for a day and finally see Lima

    Lima has several museums, a great water fountain park and wonderful food.
    It also has great dry weather but a bit dusty at times – reminded me of LA / SAN

    • Agreed. Lima is not a place to acclimate. According to the wikipedia link, the elevation is 0-1,550 m (0-5,090 ft). I’m not sure exactly which part, but it seems the highest point in Lima is 1,550m which is still not that high.

  3. great post! These are the kind of posts I always wish I could find when planning a trip – Machu Picchu is next on my “to go” list and this was a great read for all the nitty gritty details of trip planning – buses, routes, flight routes etc. love it!

    Sher
    http://www.shershegoes.com

  4. Great information! Thanks so much for sharing! I am actually looking at doing this trip next month and trying to plan it right now but only for a week to 10 days. I also want to include Ecuador and Galapagos. You gave me some great SPG hotel suggestions as well as using Avios to its full potential so thank you! Don’t know if this will all pan out but keeping my fingers crossed.

  5. @theRewardBoss, the PUNO-Colca-Arequipa two day trip is interesting. Could you please share how you book your tour, which tour you use, and how do you like it? Thank you very much for the great post!

    • @Sherman – I booked a package deal (hotel and tour) through this place http://www.killawasilodge.com/tours.php, however, I would suggest finding another tour/package. The small village you stay in does not have much to offer. I would have been happy skipping this part of the trip all together (specifically the long bus tour and stay at killawasi lodge).

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