Peru is truly a country of rich and diverse history. During my travels there, I was fortunate enough to visit Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu, and Misminay Village in the Sacred Village. All destinations provided me with ample opportunities to learn about the country’s transition from Inca times to the Spanish conquistadors, and explore the culture.
Lima is often considered a gateway city with the majority of travelers flying into the city before making their way to Cusco and then Machu Picchu. However, a few day stay in Lima is definitely recommended before leaving on the next stop of your tour. Lima, the city of balconies, offers everything from rich Spanish architecture, museums, art districts, and historic churches. To experience all, I would recommend visits to the districts of Miraflores, Barranco, and the historical city.
It is recommended that you transfer to Cusco after a visit in Lima and spend an overnight there before visiting Machu Picchu. The overnight in Cusco will not only allow you to adjust to the altitude difference before an active visit to Machu Picchu, but it will also allow you to visit the picturesque town and learn more about the Inca and Spanish history. Recommended places to visit include Plaza De Armas, which will put you at the center of numerous churches, Qorikancha and the Church and convent of Santo Domingo, which will give you a taste of both an Inca temple and a Catholic Church build by the Spanish, and Sacsayhuaman.
As for a visit to Machu Picchu, it is recommended that you take an early morning train from Ollanta train station to Aguas Calientes. This will allow you to have a full day in Machu Picchu and avoid the heavy afternoon crowds. Since the temperature does fluctuate from cold in the morning and evenings and hot in the afternoon, you should wear layers to stay cool/warm. The ideal time to visit would be from May to October as that is considered the strong sun season and there is less rain. With ideal weather, the most picturesque views can be seen from the very top. Both the views and smaller crowds make the climb to the top well worth the difficult hike.
For those looking to venture away from the typical tourist destinations and crowds, I would highly recommend a visit to Misminay Village in the Sacred Valley. While a day trip is possible, I would encourage an overnight stay in the village so you are able to experience it in its full scope. After visiting a crowded Macchu Picchu, it is quite refreshing to wake up in a quiet village surrounded by panoramic views of farm land and the Peruvian Andes. From the moment you arrive, you are welcomed with nothing but hospitality and the opportunity to see how locals spend their days. While visiting the village, you will have the chance to work aside the men of the village in plowing their land and making adobe bricks. You will also have the opportunity to work with the women of the village in cooking and making textiles. To experience the religion of the village, you can join in on a hike to Moray and experience Misada while taking in the breathtaking views of the Peruvian Andes. A stay in Misminay Village with give you an authentic experience you will not find elsewhere.
In summary, the ideal itinerary for trip to Peru would include a few days in Lima, followed by an overnight or two in Cusco, a day trip to Machu Picchu, and an overnight in Misminay Village. Such an itinerary will allow you to experience the current and former capital of Peru and the Inca empire, a wonder of the world, and a Peruvian Andes village.