How to combine a beach holiday and the Inca Trail?
My recommendation would be to start the holiday in Cusco, Peru – you will need to fly into Lima and then take a flight to Cusco, most likely the following day if you are arriving from the UK. Because Cusco stands at roughly 3,200m above sea level you do need to acclimatise to the altitude by relaxing, eating lightly and doing little for your first couple of days, but luckily Cusco is a fantastic city, and just enjoying the place and its beautiful surroundings will be a great start to the trip.
Cusco is the gateway to Machu Picchu and is also where you’ll embark on the Inca Trail trek, which usually takes 3 nights. We always recommend a night in the village below Machu Picchu at the end, too – you’ve just spent the best part of 4 days getting there so why rush back to Cusco that afternoon on a 4-hour train ride? The train no longer terminates in Cusco so anyone returning from Machu Picchu must jump off in the Sacred Valley, which is roughly a 2-hour drive from Cusco. The valley itself is stunning and it is certainly worth stopping there for a couple of nights before you return to Cusco. It is slightly lower than Cusco and the climate is much warmer too.
Once back in Cusco, you could fly to the Amazon to stay a few nights in a jungle lodge, as it is only an hour away by air. I would also suggest you take the train across Peru’s scenic high-altitude plains from Cusco to Lake Titicaca, a serene and beautiful place with an incredibly rich cultural heart.
From there I’d take a combination of boat and bus across the lake to La Paz (Bolivia) a really interesting city where it is well worth spending a couple of nights. If you have time you should definitely also try to visit the Uyuni Salt Flats, one of the most surreal and beautiful places on Earth.
To end your trip I’d fly to Rio – South America’s most iconic city, where you can soak up the sunshine and Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha as you enjoy the beach life and atmospheric bars. There are a number of heavenly beaches you can visit within striking distance of Rio, my favourite though is Ilha Grande, a subtropical island with no cars – only miles of pristine beaches, coves and rainforest just waiting to be explored.