Peru and Machu Picchu need no introduction.
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
• 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)
• Hotel: Palacio del Inka (Cusco)
• Puno / Lake Titicaca
• Hotel: Tierra Viva Puno Plaza (Puno)
• Colca Valley
• Hotel: Killawase Lodge (Yanque, Colca Valley)
• Hotel: Los Tambos (Arequipa)
• Sandboarding in Huacachina
ITINERARY – 16 Day Peru Trip
|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|
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
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:
TRAVEL COSTS (using miles and points)
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|
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|
|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|
|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|
|16||NO HOTEL – Red eye flight|
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.
|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|
Stay tuned for the next chapter
- Hack My Trip: Visiting Machu Picchu
- Frommers – Peru Suggested Itineraries
- Peru to tourists: ‘Stop getting naked at Machu Picchu!'
- 10 Tips for Getting to Machu Picchu
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