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Everything you need to know about visiting Sacred Valley in Peru

Visiting the Sacred Valley Peru is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen and done in my 6 months of exploration of Peru. This is probably the best part of my trip here so I hope you won’t skip it!

📬 Reader Mail: Hi Trisha! A friend of mine whom you met backpacking in Bolivia recommended your blog! My name is Sara and I am from Melbourne. I am doing my South America backpacking trip soon and your blog has been a big help. Thank you!

I am going to travel Peru solo and it’s always been challenging to find tours by myself. Can you give me some tips about visiting Sacred Valley Peru? Can I possibly do it on my own?

Thank you again for all your tips and insights. As a solo female traveler, I look up to you and your experiences in Peru! Good luck in everything that you do!

-Sara O’Mahony, Australia

Hi Sara!

Glad you decided to visit Sacred Valley. I also wonder who that friend of yours is! I would like to personally thank him/her for the recommendation!

I visited Sacred Valley twice and it’s one of my most favorite places to visit in Peru. There’s no problem if you are by yourself since you can always join tour groups.

As a solo traveler, I am sure you are going to stay in a hostel and you’ll meet a lot of people there who will do the tour with you. This is how I always got by as a solo traveler!

Peru is filled with action-packed activities and Sacred Valley is definitely worth visiting. I will tell you everything I know and share with you my experiences in this post.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to e-mail me or send a message on Instagram. Good luck and safe travels to Peru!

Xx,
Trisha

What is Sacred Valley Peru known for?

The Sacred Valley Peru is known for its Inca ruins. The Inca ruins are the former capital of the Inca Empire and is a UNESCO World Heritage site – more reasons why you shouldn’t skip it!

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Although Machu Picchu is the most popular, there are over 10 archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley, all of which played a role in the rise of the Incan empire.

Is Sacred Valley worth visiting?

Definitely! Many tourists actually skip the Sacred Valley because their main focus is Machu Picchu. The Sacred Valley is a different kind of adventure and the sites here are one of a kind – something that you wouldn’t see in other parts of the world.

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The Sacred Valley is also not very hard to visit since you will combine most sites in 1-2 days. There aren’t a lot of crazy hikes like Machu Picchu or Rainbow Mountain. It’s definitely for everyone!



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The Sacred Valley Peru guide: where to go, what to do, and everything you need to know

How to get to Sacred Valley Peru

To get to Sacred Valley, you need to sign up for a tour which normally costs around $35 – $100 USD, depending on what you want to visit. All Sacred Valley tours start in Cusco.

Please note that you can’t do these all in one day but I will suggest a realistic itinerary where you can visit at least 4 places in one day. Ideally, I suggest to people reading this blog to do it for at least 3 days.

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I have to be honest, it’s kind of tight to put everything in one day. I actually did it once with my friends (5 places in one day!) and it was so exhausting! If you have a few days in Cusco, you should definitely do them all.

During my second visit, a few friends and I thought to rent a car and do it on our own (which is possible) but the roads of Sacred Valley are not easy to navigate. Google maps weren’t so reliable because of the terrain.

Places to visit and things to do in Sacred Valley Peru

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is a small town that used to be the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti during the Inca period. This town is small and you can definitely stay here for a day or two if you like.

I loved strolling the streets of Ollantaytambo as you can see the local Peruvian life. There are many markets and restaurants here but the tour operators will only take you to hike the Ollantaytambo ruins where you can see the whole town from above.

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It’s not a hard hike as there are stairs and the tour operators will usually give you 45 minutes to wander around. The walled compound of Ollantaytambo is one of the best things I’ve seen and it’s my favorite on this trip!

Ollantaytambo is also a major stop if you decide to do the 3-night Inca trail to Machu Picchu. If you decide to stay for a night, there are many nice hotels in Ollantaytambo that start from $25 USD per night.

Pisac terraces

Pisac is a large town complex that has suspension bridges, agricultural terraces, guard posts, and watchtowers. Pisac is big and has many different areas to explore. When I went here, the tour guide allowed us for at least one hour. I’d recommend you to hike the watchtowers!

The Coriwayrachina (means gold sifter) is an area on the south ridge is where the different towers are located. These towers were used as a way to communicate and observe. The steep terraces to get here are also used for defense.

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sacred valley peru

Just below Coriwayrachina is Hospitalniyoc which are six storehouses where they’d store supplies and food. They are strategically placed in the shade to avoid the decay of perishable goods.

The famous Intiwatana area is on a small ridge that has great views on both sides. This is where they held ceremonial and religious rituals. Intiwana means inti (sun) and watana (fastener).

Pisac market

Pisac Market is the best place to go shopping in Peru. Everything you see in the Cusco markets probably come here and they are way cheaper than those sold in the city.

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Here, you can find different Peruvian-made products like ponchos, hats, clothes, and even carpets! I bought carpets here for $25 USD and shipped them home. It’s my favorite shopping center in Peru!

Apart from the souvenirs, you can also get the best Peruvian food in Pisac Market. Our tour stopped here for breakfast and there was a lot of affordable, tasty, and healthy food sold in these markets.

Huchuy Qosqo

In the mountain provinces of Peru, I found it really surprising they don’t speak Spanish and at the same time very happy they are still preserving the Quechua language!

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Huchuy Qosqo means “Little Cusco” in Quechua and is located in the town of Lamay. You need a full day to hike Huchuy Qosqo and this is really a great day trip from Cusco.

A hike starts at $100 USD per person and usually lasts for 8 hours since you have to drive out of Cusco. This is definitely a great activity for hikers who want to see a different kind of Peru.

Cocalmayo hot springs

Cusco is always cold so a trip to the hot springs is always a good idea! Cocalmayo hot springs is a natural hot spring located in between the mountains and Urubamba River.

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Urubamba is always a stop for lunch in Sacred Valley tours so you can definitely customize your tour for a quick visit to the Cocalmayo hot springs after lunch.

There are three pools here with different sizes and depths. Unlike most hot springs, Cocalmayo has clear waters and have temperatures from 100°F – 110°F.

Maras Salt mines

Also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Maras Salt Mines is one of my favorites in Sacred Valley! These salt mines are 500 years old and predate the Inca Empire.

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Salt was important for the Incan empire although there isn’t clear evidence of when the salt mines were built. Evidence shows it was built between 500 to 1100 AD.

There are over 3,000 ponds in Maras and these are locally owned by 600 families. Pre-COVID, I wasn’t allowed to go walk to the salt mines but during my second visit, my tour manager allowed me to walk through the salt mines for pictures.

Moray

Close to Maras is the Moray ruin, an ancestral agricultural research center. Moray has a circular shape and it was presumed they were amphitheaters during the Incan period, with depths of 45 meters.

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Through time, researchers concluded it was rather an agricultural experimentation center as each of the levels has different climatic environments that are suitable for the cultivation of different plants and grains.

Try cuy

During my visit to the Sacred Valley, our private driver took us to one of the most local places to try cuy. I’ve tried a lot of crazy food in this lifetime but it took me a while after I had the courage to try cuy, the Peruvian guinea pig.

I was already living in Peru for 6 months when I first had it. It’s not that I was disgusted by it but I needed to know how deeply rooted this exotic food is in the Peruvian culture of food (which btw, is the best cuisine in Latin America).

For 5,000 years, cuy has been part of the Andean cuisine. It was used for sacrifice and telling fortunes. Nowadays in Peru, you can still see the traditional Pachamanca, a traditional cooking method using earthen ovens.

Cuy is not only popular in Peru but is also a big part of the Bolivian and Ecuadorian cultures. Many people can’t get past the culture shock and often avoid this cuisine when in South America.

If you want to try it, the best place is the Sacred Valley – local families raise their own cuys for food so, in this area, you will always come across people who will invite you to their homes

Sacred Valley Peru tours and costs

I’ve been a Peru travel expert since 2014 and with my time in Peru, I have cultivated good relationships with locals who do the Sacred Valley Peru tours.

In this section, I will recommend all the tours I know of and you can also book it on my site. Feel free to use the code PSIMONMYWAY10 to get a 10% discount!

sacred valley peru

For private tours, I can make a custom-made itinerary for your group. We can talk about what are the points of interest you want to visit since you really need to be educated on how to mix and match these places.

They are not close to each other and I can give you insights on what’s the best and realistic itinerary. Below are some of the Sacred Valley Peru tours I recommend:

Sacred Valley Peru tour: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero

The tour bus will pick you up at your hotel from 6:45 – 7:00. You will start the day visiting Mirador Taray, a viewpoint where you can see the whole of Sacred Valley.

From this view, you will see the Vilcanota River bed, mountains, small towns, and fields that comprise the Sacred Valley.

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Then you will head for a tour of the town of Pisac, visit the Pisac Market where you can do shopping and finally the Pisac Archaeological site where you can spend an hour.

A lunch buffet (included in this price) will be waiting for you in the small town of Urubamba. After that, you will head to Ollantaytambo and have time to hike the ruins. The last stop is the town of Chinchero.

👉🏽 Check prices and availability for Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero combo tour

Sacred Valley Peru: Pisac, Maras, Moray, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero

The tour bus will pick you up at your hotel from 6:00 – 6:30. From there, you will start the tour at Chinchero in the Urubamba province in Peru.

You will get to see the best views of the Sacred Valley and afterward, visit the textile community of Chinchero. You can also do your shopping here!

sacred valley peru

After this, you will visit the Moray ruins and the Maras salt mines: two of the most important archaeological sites in Sacred Valley. Then you will head to Urubamba where you will have a buffet lunch which is included in this tour.

After lunch, you will head to Ollantaytambo and spend an hour there. Feel free to hike the Ollantaytambo ruins to see a great view of the town!

On the way back to Cusco, you will stop at the Pisac ruins and spend an hour there. Lastly, you can do your second batch of shopping at the famous Pisac Market.

👉🏽 Check prices and availability for Pisac, Maras, Moray, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero combo

Sacred Valley Peru hotels and accommodations

If it’s your first time visiting Sacred Valley, you’ll think that you have to stay in each point of interest (individually) but to be honest, I always just tell readers of this blog to stay in Cusco. This is where all tours depart anyway.

sacred valley peru

There are many hotels in Cusco and the tour companies will gladly pick you up and drop you off on each tour. Note that Sacred Valley is an area and there are many places within the valley that are not close to each other.

For those who want to do extra, the most popular accommodation in Sacred Valley is the Skylodge Adventure Suites, a capsule hotel that is located on the cliffside.

Best time to visit Sacred Valley

I visited Sacred Valley in different months (one in August and another in December). In both cases, I’ve seen very little difference with the weather. Cusco is always cold but December is actually the rainy season.

I would say that June to September are good months in Sacred Valley where they experience great weather. It’s not that cold in Cusco at this time of the year but expect it to be crowded.

Sacred Valley Peru guide on Pinterest: save it for your trip!

sacred valley peru