A Guide to the Sacred Valley, Peru
Peru's Sacred Valley is a must see destination on nearly every itinerary to Cusco and if it isn't, it should be. Formed by the Urubamba River snaking its way through the stunning Andean mountains, the valley has been a vital resource for the region, dating back to Incan times, with the fertile soil excellent for cultivation. The biggest draw for the Sacred Valley is now tourism although the tapestry of patchwork fields is evidence to the agricultural farming that still continues today.
The majority of people visiting the Sacred Valley are there with the intention of soaking up some Incan Culture and they won't be disappointed. Due to the fertile nature of the soil in the area and also the proximity to Cusco, this area is rich with Incan history, with some excellent preserved ruins and agricultural terracing to visit. The towns within the area are also well worth a visit, with colourful markets and plenty of restaurants. Most Sacred Valley tours start and end in Cusco, with the total day taking around 10 hours. Lunch is nearly always included. A day tour makes for a great activity when acclimatising as exertion levels are not high. The total distance covered is about 170km and the itinerary will take in the following highlights:
The Pisac Ruins are a classic example of the terracing that the Incas are so famous for. Growing their crops in well-irrigated terraces, they perfected the art of cultivating crops in micro-climates, essentially creating the first propagators.
Whilst visiting the terraces at Pisa, most people stop off for a wander around Pisac Market, an enchanting and colourful market offering reams of hand-crafted items.
As well as being the starting off town for the Inca Trail, Ollaytantambo is home to a sacred temple, which was in the process of being built when the Spanish arrived. The ruins are incredibly well preserved and stand as a testament to the stamina and ingenuity of the Incas.
Chincheros is either the first or the last stop of the tour, depending on which way round your guide has taken you. This town is home to some original Incan walls which are worth a look. You will also visit a demonstration of local weaving techniques.
Whilst you can stay in one of the towns in the Sacred Valley, most people visit on a one day tour from Cusco. Trips can either be by bus, in a group of about 30 people, or a private tour with a driver & guide. Whilst the private option is much more expensive than the bus option, we believe that the benefits of having your own guide and being able to explore at your own pace far outweigh the cost savings.