Discover the wonders of Peru’s Sacred Valley

23 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

Few places have captured the imagination of travelers like Peru’s Sacred Valley. Steeped in enigmatic charm, and boasting some of South America’s best known historic gems, this peaceful corner of the Andes was once the epicentre of the Inca Empire, and remains one of the most important archeological regions in Peru. 

From the fine stone terraces of the Pisac Ruins, to the mysterious laboratory of Moray, this area brims with ancient treasures. While celebrity sites like Machu Picchu steal the headlines, there are countless other ruins to explore here, many of which you can enjoy in virtual solitude if you time your visit right. 

The valley stretches 100 km from the Pisac ruins in the South East, up to Machu Picchu, in the North West. This meandering crease in the landscape was created by the Urubamba River, whose crystalline waters continue to flow today. Lush fertile hills roll out in front of a backdrop of towering blue peaks. Around every corner a fresh view awaits, often inspiring audible gasps from first time visitors. 

The Inca settled in the Sacred Valley around 1000 to 1400 CE, enticed by the low altitude and warm climate. Initially they made the most of the temperate weather by growing maize, but before long it became an area of royal estates and country homes. Emperors Yawar Waqaq, Viracocha Inca, Huayna Capac, and Pachacuti all had estates here, attracting a host of important religious figures to the region. The remnants of these sprawling royal sites can still be accessed today, and many are still in use by local villagers. 

One of the most unique experiences in the Sacred Valley is the Maras Salt Mines, comprising over 3,000 small salt wells. The mines create a white patchwork of crystal, which rolls out in stark contrast to its green and blue mountain backdrop. 

Nearby is the Moray Archeological site, famed for its vast circular terraces, some of which reach a whopping 98ft high. Historians have long puzzled over the meaning of this mysterious design, the leading theory being that Inca farmers used it to test how different crops responded to varying altitudes. The pattern has an otherworldly feel, with many drawing comparisons to extraterrestrial crop circles. 

Another visitor favorite is the bustling colonial village of Pisac. Set at the foot of a striking Inca fortress, tourists are drawn here for its multiple ruins, artisan market, and surrounding weaving villages.  

A few km along is Ollantaytambo, an intricate ancient citadel constructed in the 1500s. The site is most famous for its impressive terraces, stunning temple complex, and immaculately preserved irrigation system. Visitors are still able to wander the original 13th century street complex, and gain unique insight into Peru before the Spanish arrived. 

Further royal remains can be found at the Palace of Huayna Capac, and the Chincero Archeological Park, both of which showcase the intricate stonework performed by Inca masons. 

For those wanting to experience the Sacred Valley, the Colonial city of Cusco is considered the best place to begin. 

Around 70 km south of Machu Picchu, Cuzco is characterized by its imposing colonial architecture and scattered Inca temples. Ornate cathedrals pepper the ancient streets, carved wooden balconies overlook grand plazas, and sloping tiled roofs create a patchwork of terracotta. 

Cuzco provides fantastic access to many of Southern Peru’s main attractions, including Rainbow Mountain and the Tambopata Nature Reserve. It is also the perfect base for those looking to explore the Sacred Valley, with guided tours heading to the region on a daily basis. 

The most popular option for tourists is a whistlestop day tour, which takes in all the major sites without the need for an overnight stay. 

The Sam Travel Peru Sacred Valley Day Tour is one of the most comprehensive options, and includes a guided tour of the Pisac Inca ruins and market, Urubamba, the Moray Archeological site, the Maras Salt Mines, and Ollantaytambo. The tour lasts 12 hours, and includes pick up and drop off from your hotel. The physical requirements are minimal, but some walking is required. 

If you are looking for a more hands on experience then Inkayni Peru’s full day Sacred Valley tour could be the option for you. This 10 hour door to door tour includes a weaving and dyeing workshop with local artisans, held at the Chinchero market. The tour includes slightly fewer stops, with guided sessions at the Chinchero market, Ollantaytambo fortress, Pisac archeological site and market.

If you’re looking to get a healthy dose of fresh air, consider a guided Sacred Valley hike. The most accessible hikes take you from one attraction to another, with popular options including Moray to Maras, Chinchero to Huayllabamba, and the Pumamarca ruins.

Acari Travel offers a great half day trek from Moray to Maras, which covers around 6 km of flat terrain. The trek concludes with a descent into the gorge of Maras, where you will have time to explore.

Stay Updated With Us
Recommended For You

Lake Humantay: A tranquil, blue pool in the high Andes

A day trip to Humantay Lake, located in the Andes, reveals one of Peru’s greatest treasures. This stunning alpine lake glows a bright turquoise underneath the sun and draws visitors from around the world. The 9 April, 2021 | Reccy Guide

A day trip to Machu Picchu, South America’s most famous and intriguing archeological site

Set high in the Andes mountains, veiled by dense vegetation and rising mist, the most iconic citadel in South America awaits. Machu Picchu has captured the imaginations of travelers for more than a century, and is without a doubt the biggest tour…...

1 April, 2021 | Reccy Guide

Explore Sunnegga: A Family Paradise in the Swiss Alps

The Swiss Alps around Zermatt contain some of the highest, most well-known peaks in Europe. Travelers come from every corner of the world to explore this incredible area and partake in a wide array of outdoor excursions. From hiking and trekking …...

25 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

Adventure to Rothorn Summit from Zermatt by Cable Car

Visitors to the Swiss Alps have endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. The Valais region, home to the Pennine Alps, boasts some of the highest peaks and attractions in Europe. Of course, many excursions require extensive planning, e…...

25 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

Breathtaking 360° Views of the Alps at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

The Alps stretch throughout Europe, arching from France, through Switzerland and Italy, and then heading east toward Germany and Slovenia. Travelers who wish to explore these world-renowned peaks often have to narrow down which country and town t…...

25 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide

Explore the Alps in Style on the Gornergrat Railway

The Pennine Alps, located along the Swiss and Italian border, draw millions of visitors each year. Boasting nearly 30 mountain peaks that reach heights of 4,000 meters or more, this portion of the countryside is magnificent. Skiing, mountaineerin…...

25 June, 2020 | Reccy Guide