Things to do in the Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley is the connection from Cusco to Machu Picchu, traditionally the Valley is used for agriculture because of the perfect climate and its fruitful soil.
Potatoes, quinoa (a local grain) and Choclo the local corn know for it's large grains and excellent quality is what you will see when exploring the Sacred Valley.
There are many small Andean communities in the Valley still living like their ancestors, wearing traditional clothes and adhering to their ancient cultures. Huilloc (also known as Willoc, Chincheros, the Yachacs (several small communities) are some of them to visit and deliver great photo opportunities.

1. Pisac town

Pisac town is set on the side of the Urubamaba river in a beautiful part of the Sacred Valley 18 miles from Cusco. It is a traditional town with a bohemian, laid back atmosphere. As well as being a well-trodden touristy town there is another part with travelers searching for the trance inducing Ayahuasca or San Pedro. There is a good feeling here as locals & expats have formed a close community. It is a nice place to spend the night, especially if you wish to join the Shaman who live here.

Colorful painted chairs and tables at a cafe in Pisac

Pisac Market

The traditional Pisac market is situated in the main square which you will find if you take the first street, straight on after you cross the bridge on arrival from Cusco. It is a colourful place where you will find all sorts of interesting handicrafts as well as typical market produce of fresh fruit & veg, etc. Being situated in the main square you will also have many choices for eating. As well as restaurants you will also find many clay oven bakeries offering some highly rated cheese pies (Empanadas). If you continue to the left of the market and head up-hill, you will come one of the entrances to Pisac Ruins. This entrance requires a hard uphill trek for roughly 2 hours taking you up through the numerous sites as you go.

 

 

 

Traditional dressed women at the market in Pisac

Pisac Ruins

The Archeological site near Pisac can be reached by climbing up the steep valley wall from the market or by road, which will take 30 minutes by taxi and cost approx S/.20 (US $ 8).
There are many Inca sites along this route which were of great importance during their reign:

Intihuatana – or ‘Hitching post for the Sun’ carved from a large rock and a sacred stone for the Incas was said to peg the Sun to its annual course. It casts a shadow from which the Incas made seasonal calculations (during the equinox there is no shadow cast). Shaman also believed that when they touched the stone with their forehead then it opened them to the spiritual world.
Some other brilliant examples of Inca stonework include the Temple of the Sun, the Royal baths, Holy alters, Water fountains and other religious and ceremonial places.

To get the most of the Pisac Ruins we recommend having a professional guide or book a tour with us in private service

Entrance - Boleto Turístico – Circuit 3 or General (full) ticket

A visitor overlooking the ruins of Pisac in the Sacred Valley
Impressive stonework built earthquake proof at Pisac ruins

2. Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo town 37 miles from Cusco was an important place during the reign of Inca Empire being the Royal estate of the Inca Pachacuti. Here you will find many stone buidings with original Inca canchas or blocks. The layout of the town was arranged into a grid system clearly visible today.
During the colonial age, Ollantaytambo served as the stronghold for the resistance leader Manco Inca Yupanqui. After many defeats the Inca fled and the town came into Spanish control and today you can clearly see the blend of Inca-Colonial architecture.
Ollantaytambo archeological sites

The Ollantaytambo site is majestic in its grandness and a beautiful example of Inca architecture. It comprises of layered agro-terraces which climb the valley wall, the grain Storehouses located high up above the terraces and a religious and ceremonial site made from six huge monoliths which have been speculated over for years, especially of how the Incas managed to move them here from the quarry in Kachiqhata 5km away. As with all of the main archeological sites in and around Cusco they are best visited with a professional guide.
Entrance - Boleto Turístico – Circuit 3 or General (full) ticket needed

The giant stones at the Archeological site in Ollantaytambo

3. Moray, Maras and the Salt terraces

Situated at approximately 30 miles from Cusco, on the road from Cusco – Chinchero – Urubamba there is a little adobe town called Maras situated in the beautiful secluded part of the Sacred Valley. Here you can see that even the church has been built from the traditional mud bricks.
Salt terraces
Close by you will find the Salt terraces, which have a long history and are thought to have existed before the Inca Empire. The local Andean villagers have shared and worked this salt harvesting system for centuries. The source of the salt is an underground stream, which the locals have channeled into a complex terracing system, slowing the water down in such a way that crystallization can take place. As well as a functioning farming system it is a stunning & beautiful landscape definitely worth visiting.
Entrance - Free
Moray
A couple of miles away are the magnificent agricultural terraces of Moray. The site is thought to have been an Incan laboratory in order to investigate and improve Andean farming techniques. The site was designed around natural craters or hollows in the landscape from which the ancient farmers manipulated, forming an extensive agricultural terracing system. It is an impressive site and worth passing by for a visit.
These sites can be visited together in a different variety of tours including:

  • Quad Biking
  • Trekking
  • Group bus tour
  • Mountain Biking

Entrance - Boleto Turístico – Circuit 3 or General (full) ticket

The Saltpans at Maras in the Sacred Valley
A small group and their tour-guide are standing in the circular fields of Maras Moray

4. Chinchero

Chinchero is a beautiful Andean village situated just outside the Sacred Valley, 19 miles from Cusco and on the road to Urubamba. It is high up in the green valley plains of Anta (3760m) and offers spectacular views of the Sacred Valley. The mud-brick village contains some interesting sites including an adobe-colonial church, ancient ruins and agro-terracing and the main plaza houses a huge wall built by the Incas, who used the area as a country retreat. The community maintains its traditional lifestyle and Andean dress, which is best experienced at the Sunday market. Chinchero villagers offer family stays where you can learn about their life, weaving skills and at the same time help them maintain their traditional lifestyle.

Entrance - Boleto Turístico – Circuit 3 or General (full) ticket

There are some great hikes in the area:

  • Chinchero – Urquillos
  • Chinchero – Huchoy Qosqo
  • Chinchero – Cusco

 

Women in traditional dresses weaving by hand in Chinchero

5. Hike to the Kachiqhata quarries from Ollantaytambo

Kachiqhata is where the Incas found their six giant monoliths, which make up the Ollantaytambo temple. If you want to get an idea of what a monumental project it was to transport the huge stones, then you might want to hike to the Kachiqhata quarry.
Cross the river at the bridge, upstream from Ollantaytambo and then follow the footpath downstream, which will take you up the valley wall to the quarries. The route is an original Inca trail used by quarry workers. There are huge worked stones lying abandoned en-route named Piedras Cansadas or Weary Stones, which for some reason never made it to Ollantaytambo. As you climb, the route is covered with large pink salmon-like stones. Keep an eye out for the carved wheel-shaped stone mentioned in Richard Nesbit’s book Cusco Tales and the little round stone igloos called chullpas or quarry workers’ graves. You will also get to see abandoned settlements, which overlook the quarries. Once you reach the summit and the views at the top are fantastic.

Roundtrip Trek to Kachiquata 4.5 to 6.5 hours (14.5km)
Entrance - Free

Interested in any of these excursions? Check out our Tour page for tours from 2 to 20 days discovering Peru or contact us to build your own tour.