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Cusco to Sacred Valley: How to Spend 5 Days in Peru

How many days in Cusco do you need to see the city, Machu Picchu, and the Sacred Valley? If you’re wondering how to spend 5 days in Peru, the journey from Cusco to Sacred Valley is an excellent option. This stunning area of Peru is world-famous for its picturesque landscape and landmarks. Keep reading for the perfect Peru 5 day itinerary, including must-know information about Cusco and the ideal Machu Picchu itinerary.

About Cusco

While Cusco isn’t Peru’s political capital (Lima is), it’s considered a top cultural and tourist hub in South America. When tourists begin planning their 5 days in Peru, Cusco is often the highlight since it’s the nearest (large) city and airport to Machu Picchu

While a Machu Picchu itinerary is a must on any Peru trip, there’s much to see from Cusco to Sacred Valley. You could spend weeks or months exploring this area without seeing the same sights twice! If you only have 5 days in Peru and are wondering how many days in Cusco you need, keep reading for all my recommendations.

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
Best Cusco ToursClick here to check out the top Cusco tours
Best Cusco Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Cusco
Best Cusco Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Cusco

5 Days In Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Peru Itinerary 5 Days: Cusco to Sacred Valley and More

Day 1: Walk the City

5 Days In Cusco and the Sacred Valley

I suggest starting your Cusco itinerary with a relaxed day of walking around the city. Your first day in Cusco can be a doozy, depending on where you’re traveling from. The town sits at an elevation of over 3,400 meters, or 11,000 feet—more than twice the elevation of Denver, Colorado!

Elevation sickness is real and can happen to anyone, not just people who are out of shape. Take your first day in Cusco easy in case the elevation hits you. 

Start your day with a cup of coffee at Cappuccino Cusco Cafe. If you’re lucky enough to get a table by the window, you’ll have a fantastic view of Cusco’s main square. Here, you can people-watch and observe the local culture while enjoying a delicious drink.

Put your comfy shoes on to walk around the square and up the stairs to the San Blas district. San Blas is a charming area offering many photo opportunities, cute shops, and tasty cafes. Prepare for many stairs—at 11,000 feet, they’re no joke. While the stairs are challenging, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of Cusco and unforgettable memories.

Other sites within walking distance:

By the time you’ve toured all these sights, you’ll be ready for a good night’s sleep to prepare for an early start the following day.

Day 2: Lake Humantay

5 Days In Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Lake Humantay is an excellent addition to any Cusco itinerary. It’s one of the area’s most popular activities and is featured on many people’s must-do lists. The tricky part about seeing Lake Humantay is that it’s several hours away, so you’ll likely have to wake up early. Tours to the lake start as early as 4:00 a.m., but you can catch more sleep on the bus ride there.

While you must start early, the lake is worth visiting, especially for hikers. It’s quite a hike to the top, but most people visiting Cusco are interested in physical outdoor activities, so it isn’t an issue.

You should only embark on a Lake Humantay tour if you feel up for it. I do not recommend this hike if you’re experiencing altitude sickness, as it’s physically strenuous and could intensify the effects. The experience is fantastic, though, and the views are out of this world.

After this full-day activity, reward yourself with a nice dinner at Morena in the Plaza de Armas. It’s an upscale restaurant serving authentic Cusqueñan food—save room for the delicious affogato with churro dessert!

Day 3: Maras and Moray

5 Days In Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Since day two of your Cusco itinerary was long and tiring, opt for something more relaxed on day three. The nearby ruins of Moray are fascinating and less famous than other local landmarks. At this historic landmark, you can learn how the Incans used innovative gardening tactics to cultivate different crops. These agricultural terraces are reminiscent of what you’ll see during your Machu Picchu itinerary.

The Maras Salt Mines are near the Moray ruins, making them an ideal side trip. The mines are impressive, especially when you learn how they are cared for. Each family in the surrounding area is assigned one salt pool to care for and cultivate. This salt is used in packaged food like chocolate or potato chips or sold by itself for cooking purposes.

Maras and Moray can be seen on a van or car tour, but you can also go by ATV if you’re feeling adventurous.

Bonus: Where to Stay in the Sacred Valley

5 Days In Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Since you’re already in the Sacred Valley, I recommend spending one night at the Mountain View Experience. This beautiful land has small private cabins offering a high-end glamping experience. There are llamas on the property that you can feed, and the cabins provide stunning views of the Andes and Sacred Valley. The lodge also serves delicious food, making this a can’t-miss experience.

Day 4: Your Machu Picchu Itinerary Begins

5 Days In Cusco and the Sacred Valley

Rather than returning to Cusco, I recommend traveling through the Sacred Valley toward Machu Picchu. From the lodge at Mountain View Experience, take a taxi to Ollantaytambo, where the Machu Picchu train station is located.

There are some fascinating ruins to visit in Ollantaytambo. I recommend spending the early afternoon visiting the ruins and eating in the square afterward. Take an afternoon train with Peru Rail to Aguas Calientes—it takes about three to three and a half hours and gets you there early in the evening.

Aguas Calientes is a cute little town that’s inaccessible by car. The train is the only transportation option, so no vehicles are on the streets. The town’s main street is too steep to drive on anyway and contains a lot of stairs. Walking around Aguas Calientes and taking a dip in the local thermal pools is a great way to spend the remainder of your day. 

The town is quiet and provides lovely mountain views, getting you excited to experience Machu Picchu.

Day 5: Machu Picchu

5 Days In Cusco and the Sacred Valley

The final stop on this Peru 5 day itinerary is Machu Picchu, which likely brought you to Peru in the first place. I recommend waking up early to catch one of the first buses to Machu Picchu. A bus ride costs around $12, but the experience is well worth it. Some people take the stairs, but they’re a long way, and I like the idea of arriving at the front gate of Machu Picchu fully refreshed and ready to spend as much time as possible in the ruins.

You can purchase Machu Picchu tickets here. I recommend buying them as far in advance as possible, especially if you want to hike some of the surrounding mountains. Securing your Machu Picchu tickets is one of the first things you’ll want to do when planning your 5 days in Peru.

Once in the ruins, take time to soak in the views and feel the magic. Don’t hurry through Machu Picchu as some people do. Enjoy and appreciate this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

If you’re still in the mood for adventure (and want to save $12), take the stairs and trail back to Aguas Calientes. It takes 40 minutes or so with all the stairs, but going down is infinitely more manageable. Even with this option, you’ll have plenty of time to catch a train back to Ollantaytambo and a taxi to Cusco, wrapping up your Cusco to Sacred Valley itinerary.

Bonus Cusco Itinerary

If you have more time to spend in Cusco, here are some additional sights and activities to consider:

  • Pisac: A small nearby town with excellent ruins
  • Rainbow Mountain: Another full-day tour located several hours away that includes a strenuous hike at elevation
  • Urubamba: A small village in the Sacred Valley with river views and excellent local markets

Other Areas of Peru Worth Visiting

Depending on how many days in Cusco you have on your itinerary, you may have time before or after to explore other areas of Peru. Lima is the country’s most popular entry point and is worth exploring for a few days. It’s a beautiful culinary and nightlife hotspot with a rich culture and history.

Huacachina is a desert oasis where you can try exciting sandboarding activities. It’s also a hot party town when the sun goes down.

Arequipa is considered Peru’s most beautiful city, surrounded by volcanoes.

Lake Titicaca is an exciting destination for those who want to experience the native Uros people and see the floating islands where they still live. 

Cusco Hotel Recommendations


Hotel Hacienda Cusco Centro

Muru Homely Hotel Cusco

ANAHUARQUE Hotel Boutique


Hotel Monasterio San Pedro

Cozy Room Cusco

Tika Wasi Casa Boutique


Hommam Hostel Boutique

Amaru Inca

Hostal Mallqui

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Cusco Travel Guide Planning

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m traveling in Cusco?

I strongly recommend using Bookaway. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

Cusco to Sacred Valley Itinerary: Final Thoughts

As one of the most fascinating cities in Peru, there’s much to pack into a Cusco itinerary. You can easily spend 5 days in Peru exploring Cusco and the Sacred Valley. This Cusco and Machu Picchu itinerary gives you a taste of everything: the city of Cusco, the Sacred Valley, glamping, Inca ruins, and, of course, Machu Picchu. 

Author’s Bio

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Andrew is an author and a traveler who has spent a lot of time in hostels in Latin America since 2020. He shares adventures and pro tips on his website, Flights and Footsteps. You can follow his adventures on Instagram.

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