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Top Ten Things to Do in the Sacred Valley, Peru

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Kathy at Ollantaytambo Inca site Peru

Ollantaytambo Inca Site

Top Ten Things to do in the Sacred Valley, Peru

Pretty much everybody that goes to Peru will visit Cusco and Machu Picchu. Sandwiched between them is the wonderful fertile Sacred Valley, full of unexpected delights. It would be easy to spend a week here, the climate being warmer than Cusco and the accommodation generally more spacious. Most hotels and guesthouses have gardens full of flowers and humming birds, there are walks on the doorstep, small market towns, Inca ruins aplenty.

Kathy has recently been out exploring the valley and gives some top tips on things to do and places to see.

Inca terraces Sacred valley peru

Inca terraces

PISAC MARKET

1. Pisac is less than an hour from Cusco by taxi or local bus. It is a small town famous for its market. You can stay here or go on a day trip, travel independently or take a tour.

Visit any day of the week and wander through the extensive handicraft market in search of fabulous weavings, art work and souvenirs or all imaginable types, shapes and sizes. The local people in the valleys above Pisac make a living from farming and the herding of llamas and alpaca. Their weaving is particularly well known and their clothing elaborate and colourful.

local-market-Pisac sacred-valley-peru

Pisac market

 

SWIMMING

2. A 5 minute walk from the centre of Pisac is the 50 m swimming pool and outdoor sports area of the Royal Inca Hotel. This is my top spot for a swim in Peru – a fabulous, covered, and usually empty pool plus hot showers.

 

Pisac pool Peru

Pisac 50 metre pool

PISAC RUINS

3. The Inca site of Pisac, high up above the town is even more extensive than Machu Picchu. I like to take a taxi to the top and spend a few hours wandering down through the ruins, with a picnic. This site is one of the best, with intricate constructions, beautiful curved terraces and stunning views.

Pisac ruins Lares lodges trek

Pisac Inca site

 

URUBAMBA

4. Urubamba just down the valley (an hour or so from Cusco) is less pretty and less touristy than Pisac.  Urubamba food market is worth a visit to marvel at the sheer amount and variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. Drink a freshly made fruit juice on the top floor from where you have a superb view over all the comings and goings in the main stall holders area below.

 

stall holders Urubamba Sacred valley peru

Urubamba market

COMMUNITY TOURISM

5. Another highlight of the Sacred Valley is the opportunity to visit a working farm or small holding, locally known as a chacra. The Sacred Valley is very fertile and the bread basket of the Cusco highlands. See how corn is grown and learn about the many varieties of maize and what they are used for, help to make chicha (fermented maize beer) cut alfalfa to feed the rabbits and guinea pigs, and experience life on a chacra.

 

Local farm or chacra in Sacred valley peru

Local farm visit

 eeding guinea pigs local farm Sacred valley Peru

Feeding guinea pigs

DAY WALKS AND TREKS

6. The Sacred Valley offers many opportunities for activity days. As well as the multi day treks such as the Lares treks there are numerous beautiful day walks.

The walk to the Huchuy Qosqo Inca ruins is one of my favourite short treks in the region. There are several routes you can take over one or two days to reach Huchuy Qosqo, an Inca archaeological site perched on a cliff over the Sacred Valley.   There is good homestay accommodation at the site. The views on the trek over are spectacular of the Urubamba mountains and the valley far below.

 

Sheep Day walk Sacred valley Peru

Huchuy Qosqo day walk

OLLANTAYTAMBO

7. The main station now for trains to Machu Picchu Ollantaytambo is one of the oldest towns in Peru.  It boasts fabulous Inca ruins that do get busy so go early morning or late afternoon. The town’s narrow streets are also worth exploring, plus there are dozens of hotels, cafes and shops for souvenirs. This is a town to hang out in, sit by the Plaza and just watch life go by. Look out for some of the books you can pick up here on Inca astronomy and the Inca sites.

 

Ollantaytambo streets Peru

Ollantaytambo Inca streets

PUMAMARCA

8. Pumamarca Inca site is in the valley above Ollantaytambo. I recommend a taxi up to the site with a picnic and then a gentle amble back down, which takes a couple of hours. Take plenty of water and sun protection plus hat.

 

Inca site Pumamarca Sacred valley Peru

Pumamarca Inca site

MARAS AND MORAY

 9. Don’t miss Maras and Moray.  Maras is a collection of individual terraced salt mines that have been used since pre-Inca times to evaporate salt from an underground stream. Moray is a series of concentric circles that make up an Inca agricultural laboratory.

I recommend spending one day visiting the small weaving town of Chinchero then exploring Moray, before walking down through the salt mines to the Sacred Valley below.

 

salt pools Sacred valley peru

Maras salt mines

ADVENTURE and HIGH ADRENALIN

10.  If you are in search of more activity and adventure then there are opportunities for rafting and bike tours, from hard core single track mountain biking to more gentle pedalling along the valley. The Sky Lodge – a pod hung high above the valley is reached by via ferrata, with a zip-line descent.

BIke tour sacred Valley Peru

Setting off on a cycle tour

 

ADVICE AND BOOKING SACRED VALLEY ACTIVITIES

Contact kathy@andeantrails.co.uk for help with planning an itinerary to suit you, as part of a longer tour to Peru or a few days to a week of activity in the Sacred Valley. Homestays, community tourism or 5 star hotels, spa and massage or high adrenalin,  day walks or multi-day treks, biking and rafting.

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