THINGS TO DO IN THE SACRED VALLEY
A trip to Perú can not be complete without visiting Machu Picchu, and to make it happen, you have to necessarily travel across the sacred Valley of the Incas launching out from Cusco city. Before ultimately arriving in Machu Picchu, other tourist spots are worth a visit and activities to do all along the way. In this list, we have put together nearly all the things to do in the Sacred Valley, and now you decide which one to include in your itinerary for Sacred Valley Peru. Let’s explore together and have a wonderful vacation.
Travel across Maras plateau and get to know the Agricultural terraces of Moray
Moray terraces lie in the Maras plateau, over the Sacred Valley, in Cusco. Moray ruins consist of four concentric terraces built in a natural soil depression as if they were bowls or open-pit mines. These are unique and hard to explain at the same time because the purpose of the use the Incas gave to the circular terraces of moray is still a mystery. However, scholars such as anthropologist John Earls claim it functioned as Agricultural terraces or some sort of research laboratory for the crops and tubers the Inca were working at that time. On the other hand, another interpretation deals with religious ceremonies held by the Inca at this very place. Interestingly still today, the people living nearby gather here once a year to perform an Inca ceremony.
Cross the Maras plateau and get to know the ancient terraces. It will surely fill you with wonder. Get here on guided tours either from Cusco or Sacred Valley hotels.
Ollantaytambo Archeological Park
Ollantaytambo ruins sit in front of the present-day Ollantaytambo town on the right bank of the Patacancha river. Ollantaytambo fortress offers a stroll through ancient terraces, other unusual rooms, water fountains, a walk through steps leading to the monumental sun temple, and viewpoints of the valley. Also, being in this vibrant living Inca town, you get the opportunity of hiking up to the Pinkuylluna site, a set of storage buildings that date back to Inca time. Although this hike is more demanding physically, it is worth seeing the sunset at this spot, and therefore the Ollantaytambo giant steps, also obscuring in shade little by little.
Visit to Ollantaytambo are almost automatic as it is the gateway to Machu Picchu Aguas Calientes’ destination. Before leading up to Machu Picchu, some travelers prefer staying here and do some more strolls in the small and stone cobbled street town.
Catarata Sirenachayoc or Sirenachayoq waterfall is the recently promoted natural attraction in the Sacred Valley Cusco, and it wasn´t well known until 2020. However, this small waterfall has become a good alternative to outdoor adventure activities that demand only a thirty-minute walk from the entry point. It was as if this precious waterfall stayed hidden for so long at the foot of a mountain, and now it has gained popularity and is ready to be visited in Lamay Sacred Valley.
For a non-ordinary day tour in the Sacred Valley, include Catarata Sirenachayoq. It can be combined either with Pisac ruins or Ollantaytambo archeological park as well. But finally at this
Outside of Ollantaytambo town, the Perolniyoc waterfall tumbles down about 80 meters in two drops. And Perolniyoc waterfall hike doesn’t only mean visiting the waterfall, which indeed is really cool to see, and that is all, no!. But also additionally, there is a portion of the Inca trail to walk through and arrive at the Perolniyoq ruins built on a rocky ridge right above the waterfalls. This is gonna get you! Because there you get sprawling views of Pomatales valley and see farmlands, local shepherds in the hillsides so it all will make the experience unforgettable.
Perolniyoq Ollantaytambo can be extended in a three-day trek, then visit the inti punku site following the Quarry Trail. Well, this is also ranged as the alternative multi-day trek to the Inca trail.
Via Ferrata and Skylodge Zipline
This is another additional activity to enjoy in the sacred valley, and especially for adrenaline practitioners. The via Ferrata and zipline consists of climbing up a 400 meters cliff wall strapped to a metal cable through iron rungs. In the mid-climb, the panoramic begins to turn fascinating and even more crazy at the top because it feels high up in the ravine that cars and people look so small down below. To get to start climbing back down, most of the stretch is by ziplining six zip lines ranging from 150 m to the long 700 m to the starting point.
Then there is the Natura Vive sky lodge Peru that provides Sacred valley luxury cabin service, which basically is climbing up the wall and staying a night on a glass cabin that hangs in the sheer cliff face, so this too is definitely a wonderful experience.
Pisac Market and Ruins
The Pisac Inca ruins place is the first Inca site to get to when touring the classic Sacred Valley tour in Cusco. It is also the highest spot to get to during the performance due to its 3 347 m altitude. On its own, Pisac archeological park is extensive, therefore travelers; only visit the most attractive area. There are two ways to get here though: one by joining on guided tours, going by car straight up to the entry point, and on the contrary, independent hikers can start the walk in the Pisac town, through stone ladders the way up, and enter the Pisac ruins. Because it’s hard to do and requires good endurance, it ends up not being filled with many people.
On the other hand, you get the opportunity to stroll the Pisac market and town while shopping for some clothing and gifts. It does not matter if it is after or before the tour.
Huchuy Qosqo the little Cusco
Huchuy Qosqo full-day hike consists of going to a surprising architectural hidden gem over the Sacred Valley in Lamay. Also, the Huchuy Qosqo trek ranges as the alternative trek to the Inca trail, but to complete this small portion of the original ancient path of the Inca, it makes more sense to start hiking from the Tambomachay site above Cusco. The trail itself is long and covers nearly 19 km, though it can be split into a 2-day hike to walk at a slower pace observing the rich and incredible views. Finally, the Huchuy Qosqo trek is doable either from Cusco or anywhere from the Sacred Valley hotels if not going to Machu Picchu.
Most of the time, the final destination when trekking Huchuy Qosqo is Machu Picchu, but it could be a post-Machu Picchu hike too.
Chinchero Ruins and Weaving Houses
Built during the Inca period, Chinchero archeological site lies in what is nowadays Chinchero Town, about 30 km northwest of Cusco. Here, every visitor will see a series of terraces well aligned and carefully worked on a hillside. Also, at the Archeological park of Chinchero is a catholic church built over the foundations in an Inca temple that you can step in, and once inside, look at some nice paintings and canvas.
While there are ancient ruins, local craftsmen and weavers brought the Chinchero weaving demonstration and textiles back and put them into practice to show the visitors and the world the heritage left by the Inca. And consequently, there are various textile centers in which ladies wearing beautiful outfits explain how to make, what items are used for crafting certain types of clothes, and everything they produce. It is a good opportunity to see the results of ancient wisdom and techniques. Usually, those products and more end up at Chinchero market Sunday fair and in Cusco markets.
Overlook the Sacred Valley from above, flying as a paraglider
The Sacred Valley of the Inca isn’t only for cultural activities and tours, but it is the best spot for Paragliding in Cusco. Paragliding here is a totally different experience as it is extremely daring, at least for adrenaline practitioners. But the reward for all paragliders is the incredible bird-eye views, overflying the Chinchero plains, lakes and looking at the surrounding snow-clad mountains and everything.
Sacred Valley paragliding tours usually start in Cusco city and drive to a regular hilltop beyond Chinchero town. Then, after all the safety instructions and recommendations, the desire of being up in the air comes to be real at that very moment. Paragliding service in Cusco usually demands a half-day, but it could be extended by adding some extra activities in Chinchero and Sacred Valley. It all is up to you, and let the company know how you would prefer your itinerary.
If you are journeying through Cusco the Sacred Valley, make a brief stop at Inkariy museum before Continuing to Ollantaytambo train stations. It may not be a big display with large rooms and original artifacts, but it is good enough to get you to understand a little more about the pre-Incan societies and cultures in Perú. For example, there is a recreation of individuals of a pre-Inca culture that worshiped fire, or there is another one in which a chief leader is being carried on a throne chair, so all those replicas and items plus pottery and arts displayed lead the visitors to imagine and travel to the past in time.
The Sacred Valley Inkariy Museum is a fine cultural-focused gallery and is advisable for families traveling with kids since it almost always ends up being an interactive experience.
Chicherias along the Sacred Valley
At any of the villages in the Sacred Valley, you will see red plastic-wrapped sticks placed at the front doors of houses. Well, this is already a long tradition practiced in these regions that indicate whenever you are thirsty, you knock on the door and sit for some Chicha. But what exactly is Chicha? Well, it is a traditional Andean fermented Bebida “Drink” made with corn or quinoa. Historically, women were in charge of preparing Chicha at home, and made the workers drink or drink during ceremonies. It actually tastes good, so all along the Sacred Valley, you will have the chance to make a stop at some friendly Chicha beer bars and try a little bit as a gastronomic experience.
Salt Ponds of Maras
What if I tell you there is a water source running from a mountainside, saltwater to be exact, and it is distributed through complex small channels to fill almost 3000 Maras salt ponds?. Wow, that sounds impressive. So if you are feeling motivated to see these Salt mines in the sacred valley, join on a tour and travel to witness it in real life.
Tours to Maras salt mines are usually offered with Moray ruins and Ollantaytambo, but if you are short on time, skip Ollantaytambo ruins and do the half-day Maras Moray tours.
As in many tourist spots In Cusco, there is a shopping center outside the Salineras where you find all kinds of souvenirs and crafted items, but what is most important is you get the Maras salt in different tastes and variations from chocolates to medicinal treatments. This is a must when visiting Cusco.
Urubamba River Rafting Adventure
The Urubamba is the river that runs through the heart of the Sacred Valley, and it offers a perfect stretch for navigating on inflatable boats downstream with rapids ranging from 2 to 3 in the difficulty scale. As usual, the Day river rafting tour in the Urubamba river begins In Cusco and then across the Chinchero plains and Maras plateau to the action zone in Pachar, just outside of Ollantaytambo.
While most visitors gather at the historical Inca sites, white water rafting is one of the best things to do in the Sacred Valley. There aren’t steep and continuous rapids to navigate through, Instead, the water levels flow gently, making it suitable for all ages. But then you should know the Urubamba river runs so powerfully in the high rainy season in January and April, therefore better to wait for the dry season.
Eat cuy al horno / cuy al palo
This is a little weird, and especially if you are coming from the US, because this Peruvian cuisine delicacy has long been and still is very controversial regarding whether it is insane or not to eat it. Roasted guinea pigs in the Sacred Valley, more accurately in Lamay Village, are on full display on the street in front of the restaurants, and almost all of them serve cuy al horno. The truth is that it is part of the customs and identity of the Peruvian culture and dates back to centuries ago that cuyes “guinea pigs” are served as food, and consequently, you will see Peruvian guinea pigs on a stick or Baked guinea pigs or people Eating them in Cusco, Sacred Valley, and traditional festivities in other parts of Peru.
Sun Gate Of Ollantaytambo
Besides only the Inca trail Inti Punku or Sun Gate near Machu Picchu, there is another Inti Punku beyond Cachicata quarries in Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley, a perfect frame for Mount Veronica´s epic photos.
Inti punku is doable in a day hike; however, it demands more physical endurance as it is steep and a long-distance as 5 miles one way and 10 miles out and back. The altitude is from 9 200 ft at the start and up to 12,700 ft at the summit. From the plaza of Ollantaytambo, head to the Inca bridge over the Vilcanota River and follow the signpost and the well-marked trail bending along the mountainside. The hike is available year-round with no entry tickets at the moment, but of course, the rainy season is not recommended due to changing weather in the mountains.
The hike is tough, and if you have previous experience of hiking on your own, then it sounds doable without a guide, but if you are not sure about it, try to find a reliable tour company and let it be an easy pleasant experience for you. For more intrepid hikers, there is the Inca Quarry multiday trek, and in it, the Inti punku is Included.
Sacred Valley Brewery
Cerveza! For its name in Spanish refers to beer. Not only breathtaking sceneries or delicious food is enough for a more complete joy when traveling overseas. There are places in the Sacred Valley such as cerveceria del Valle or the Sacred Valley brewery. And? what is it about? Well, it essentially is a brewery production center that produces beers out of barley, groundcherry plants, Hierba Luisa, and other local products. So, if you are like to try a glass of artisanal beer, don´t miss it. And where is it? stop right at the split road to Pachar village before heading straight to Ollantaytambo, and there the store will be right in front. From the charming courtyard inside, held up your head and look at the high sheer cliffs of the Pachar area, a very spectacular scenery. Bear in mind that It is advisable to visit in the afternoon hours.
Ñaupa Iglesia translates for the old church, and the question is, is there a Church or anything like that?. Well, not exactly, instead of what the name suggests to us; there is a cave in which the ancient Inca carved a sort of doorway, but this does lead nowhere, and right in front, is a bedrock carved with geometrical features, also a false window. Essentially that is the Ancient church, and in past years even today, there has been a report that this area was energetic; people noticed a strong feeling and even goosebumps all over the body. Indeed, Ñaupa Iglesia is one of the sacred of the sacred places, and people only go there for mystical experiences other than having fun and things like that.
From where the Sacred Valley brewery is located, take the split road to Huarocondo Anta and drive for about 10 minutes to the blue sign and stop. Then walk for 30 minutes up the mountain below the high cliffs across the stone terraces, and you will get to the cave and finally the Ñaupa Iglesia site. Here is the best way you can spend your time in the Pachar area, Visit the cerveria del Valle, go to Ñaupa Iglesia, and finally visit the Perolniyoq waterfalls. Either on foot, public van, or private taxi.