Best Things to Do in the Sacred Valley Peru

Sacred Valley in Peru

Peru’s Sacred Valley, or Valle Sagrado, stands as a testament to the ingenuity of the Inca civilization. Boasting more than a million annual visitors, the valley is often overlooked as a mere stopover on the way to or from Machu Picchu. However, for those willing to delve deeper, this fertile stretch north of Cusco reveals a trove of cultural wonders and hidden gems. Let us be your guide on a journey that transcends the ordinary, unlocking the secrets of the Sacred Valley.

Unveiling the Sacred Past

The Sacred Valley of the Incas, named for its premium agricultural land owned by the Inca, continues to be Cusco’s agricultural heart. Nestled within its embrace are Quechua villages, preserving ancestral farming techniques, and ancient Inca archaeological sites that echo the glory of a bygone era.

Top 10 Things to Do in Cusco, Peru - Sacred Valley of the Incas

1. Wildlife Exploration at Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary

Located on the road from Cusco to Pisac, the privately-run Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary has been a guardian of endangered species since 2007. A three-hour tour provides an intimate encounter with Andean condors, vicuñas, and elusive pumas, rescued from illegal hunters or poachers. Accessible by taxi or colectivo from Cusco to Pisac, this sanctuary strives to reintroduce animals to their natural habitat.

2. Souvenir Hunting at Mercado de Pisac

Pisac, an hour northeast of Cusco, beckons with its craft market. While tourism has left its mark, the market remains a treasure trove. Hand-woven llama wool scarfs, authentic baby alpaca sweaters, and vibrant bags still adorn the stalls. Visit on a Sunday to witness the market in its full splendor, with fresh produce and the vibrant exchange of goods. Despite the influx of mass-produced items, Pisac’s market retains its charm.

3. Inca Stonework Marvel at Parque Arqueógico Pisac

Perched at 3,500 meters, Parque Arqueógico Pisac showcases the strategic importance of the valley. This archaeological park combines imposing terraces for agriculture with breathtaking examples of Inca stonework. The Templo del Sol, with its precision-cut dry stone walls, stands as a testament to the Inca’s architectural prowess. Accessible through a demanding uphill hike or a taxi from Pisac, the site offers mesmerizing viewpoints down and through the valley.

4. Kayaking on Lago Piuray

Chinchero, an hour’s drive from Cusco, introduces a unique facet of the Sacred Valley – water activities on Lake Piuray. At the Piuray Outdoor Centre, guided tours offer a chance to kayak or paddleboard amidst the serene waters, allowing you to connect with the valley in an immersive way.

5. Chinchero’s Authentic Market

Chinchero, with its adobe brick houses and Inca archaeological sites, hosts a traditional market every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. These markets serve as a vibrant hub where local produce, handcrafted goods, and cultural exchanges take center stage. The market, especially on Sundays, provides an authentic glimpse into Peru’s rich cultural tapestry.

6. Hiking to the “Birthplace of the Rainbow”

A challenging but rewarding hour’s hike north of Chinchero leads to the Catarata Poc Poc, a 30-meter waterfall. According to Inca beliefs, this is the birthplace of the rainbow. The trail, starting from the remains of an Inca site, offers a unique perspective of the valley’s natural beauty.

7. Offbeat Inca Trail from Chinchero

Uncover the “other” Inca trail, starting from Chinchero, passing Catarata Poc Poc, and traversing farmlands on the edges of the Sacred Valley. This nine-kilometer, four-hour trail follows Inca canals that still irrigate modern farms, providing an off-the-beaten-path adventure.

8. Capturing Salineras de Maras

A 30-minute drive towards Urubamba from Chinchero takes you to the Salinas de Maras. For over 400 years, locals have harvested salt using ancient techniques, creating a surreal landscape of salt pans. The site offers not just a visual spectacle but also an opportunity to understand the ancient salt-collecting traditions that persist to this day.

9. Inca Laboratory at Moray

Five kilometers west of the Salineras de Maras lies Moray, a landscape carved with concentric terraces. Believed to be an Inca ceremonial center or an agricultural laboratory, these terraces were designed to test crop growth at various altitudes. Admission is included in the boleto turistico, offering a unique glimpse into the Inca’s scientific approach to agriculture.

10. Explore the Sacred Valley on Horseback

Whether a seasoned equestrian or a novice, horseback riding in the Sacred Valley offers a unique perspective. Hacienda del Chalán, a short drive northwest of Urubamba, provides horseback tours, allowing you to explore the valley’s archaeological sites with the majestic backdrop of the Andes.

11. Whitewater Rafting on the Vilcabamba-Urubamba River

While the Sacred Valley is captivating from all angles, experiencing it from the Urubamba River adds an exhilarating dimension. With varying difficulty levels from Class II to Class IV rapids, a full day’s rafting experience offers a thrilling adventure along the valley’s natural watercourse.

12. Savoring Valle Sagrado’s Craft Beer

The Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado, nestled in Pachar, stands as a testament to the valley’s vibrant craft beer scene. Award-winning brews crafted with sacred valley water make this brewery a must-visit for beer enthusiasts. A 10-minute drive from Ollantaytambo, the brewery’s taproom provides a serene setting along the Urubamba River to enjoy these unique brews.

13. Mystical Sunset at Skylodge Adventure Suites

Among the myriad hotels in the Sacred Valley, Skylodge Adventure Suites stands out – literally. Suspended from sheer valley sides, these glass rooms offer unparalleled views of the Sacred Valley. Accessible through a via Ferrata, hike, and zipline, this accommodation provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience, culminating in a zipline descent to the valley floor.

14. Relax and Recharge at an Andean Spa

Uncover the therapeutic side of the Sacred Valley by indulging in Andean spa treatments. From local spa parlors to luxurious wellness retreats, the valley offers a range of options. Sol y Luna, a Relais and Chateaux property, situated at high altitudes, provides a luxurious escape with spa treatments rooted in Andean traditions.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Where is the Sacred Valley, and how can you get there?

The Sacred Valley is situated north of Cusco, accessible by road. Travel options include private transport, public buses, or organized tours.

How can you get around the Sacred Valley?

Various transportation options, including taxis, colectivos, and private tours, facilitate exploration within the Sacred Valley.

Where should you stay in the Sacred Valley?

Accommodation options range from quaint guesthouses to luxurious resorts. Key towns for lodging include Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, and Pisac.

Is the Sacred Valley safe?

The Sacred Valley is generally considered safe for travelers. However, usual precautions like safeguarding belongings and staying informed are advisable.

How expensive is the Sacred Valley to visit?

While prices can vary, the Sacred Valley offers a range of budget-friendly to luxury options, accommodating different traveler preferences.

How can you prepare for visiting the Sacred Valley?

Prioritize acclimatization to the altitude, dress in layers, and carry essentials like water, sunscreen, and comfortable footwear for exploration.

Insider Tip

Admissions to some popular places in Peru mentioned are covered by the boleto turistico del Cusco integral para turista extranjero, available for S/130 ($34 USD) for 16 attractions over ten consecutive days.

Embark on a journey beyond the ordinary. The Sacred Valley beckons, promising a tapestry of history, adventure, and cultural richness for those who dare to explore its depths.

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