When visiting Peru to see Machu Picchu, you can’t miss out to explore the highlights of the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley of Peru is the center of the ancient Inca Civilization and rich in culture. While the city of Cusco and the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu are thronged by travelers, there are several other attractions in the Sacred Valley that offer unique insights into these Andean Highlands.
Nowadays, the incredible Sacred Valley of the Incas is truly a destination in its own right. Chock-full of activities for all types of travelers, due to its plenty of ancient well-preserved archaeological sites, charming colonial towns, yoga studios, retreat centers, isolated weaving communities, indigenous local culture, hundreds of hiking trails to explore, and photograph breathtaking landscapes, all these activities will absolutely take your breath away, before returning to your comfortable luxury hotel in either Cusco or Sacred Valley.
At Peru Spirit Adventure, we have designed several private tours to the Sacred Valley that tours could be customized according to your interest, which lets you discover the unusual topographical features of these regions.
The top-rated tourist attractions in the Sacred Valley can be seen on a day trip from Cusco, or you can stay in the Sacred Valley itself. If you have a day off in Cusco we highly recommend taking one of our Sacred Valley tours, it doesn’t matter if you are in Cusco, Urubamba, or the town of Ollantaytambo, we will pick you up from wherever you are. But to appreciate the grandeur and sophistication of the Inca civilization, you should plan at least two days. See below the Cultural Highlights of the Sacred Valley.
TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN SACRED VALLEY
Peru’s Sacred Valley has a whole selection of great activities and things to do and see. Bear in mind that some of these activities are located in the Sacred Valley/Urubamba itself while others are located in the surrounding region. To enhance your Sacred Valley experience, here are some of our favorite things to do in Urubamba & the Sacred Valley.
Visit the Inca ruins of Pisac & Market
Pisac Inca site is famous for its agricultural terraces, which span far and wide, which are located just 20 minutes drive from the town itself, are of fantastic quality and well worth the visit. You’ll see military, agricultural and religious buildings, all of which are spread over one large complex! The Pisac Market is packed with local produce and a wide array of locally produced arts and crafts, Pisac Market is the perfect place for a little shopping. Also, on Sundays Pisac hosts the largest market in the area.
Explore the Incan ruins at Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo is one of the well-preserved Inca archaeological sites and nestled in the Urubamba Valley, must-visit from Cusco, and it was the royal land of the Inca Emperor Pachacutec, who conquered the region and built the town. The remains of the Inca Fortress complex, the temples, and baths are worth a visit for history-lovers. Ollantaytambo is also an encharming village, nicknamed Ollanta by locals; and Ollantaytambo is the only Inca city in the Sacred Valley which is still populated today. Ollantaytambo village is also the best surviving example of Inca city planning. Indeed, Ollanta’s organizational grid system can be seen from vantage points high above, especially from the hill opposite the fortress. The valley is surrounded by mountains, three valleys at a height as a defense, and it is natural for the community to be hiking enthusiasts.
Visit Moray in the Sacred Valley
The archaeological site of Moray, is just outside the town of Maras. We highly recommend getting there with a tour including the transport because it is quite hard to get there independently. Moray Inca site is a visual delight to behold. Often termed as the Inca Greenhouse, this region is full of circular step farms in the mountains. The ingenious farming technique of ‘Andenes’ (terrace farming using steps cut into the mountains) helped the Incas to grow crops on the slopey hills of Moray. It is also believed that they used these circular terraces to conduct agricultural experiments. An example of extreme Inca landscaping, these historic terraces have their own micro weather, suitable for the observation of astronomical and weather-related changes.
Maras Salt Ponds (Taste ancient salt water in Maras)
Maras is also the name of the town in the area as well. Salt has been harvested at the Maras salt ponds since pre-Inca times with local families managing the ponds and their intricate watering system that trickles down from an underground stream. This is a fascinating place to visit with the white ponds tucked away into the side of a mountain in stark contrast to the deep blue sky. There are over 3000 salt pools in this historic location, famous for the expensive and nutritious pink salt which is harvested here, and their pink salt is much in demand even in our times. You can also buy natural pink salt from the locals. The ponds are owned by individuals and you can buy the salt for different purposes as healing or for cooking.
Explore Chinchero ruins and Visit the textile makers
Chinchero is over 12,000 feet, Chinchero is the highest altitude of all the cities you will visit in the Sacred Valley. It is a charming town, with a Spanish church built on ancient Inca ruins. The contrast is evident and speaks to the history of the country. There is also a Sunday market here, better known for textiles, which usually ends at midday. In certain places, you can even receive a crash course in how to clean, spin, and dye wool with natural products such as flowers, seeds, dried leaves, cactus, and salt. Then, they will explain the intricate patterns and why they choose to work with certain colors.
Visit Awana Kancha
Awana Kancha is a place dedicated exclusively to textile art. It is also possible to observe the South American camelids (Llamas, Guanaco, vicuñas, and alpacas). See how locals use hair from these animals to create everything from mittens to blankets, and learn about traditional weaving and dyeing methods. A family-friendly destination, this “Palace of Weaving” remains one of the best places to shop for quality products that make great souvenirs and gifts. Visitors can learn the techniques to shear, collect wool, wash it, clean it, and give it the proper treatment before continuing with the dying process.
Visit Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary
The Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary is located on the route to the Sacred Valley, halfway between Cusco and Pisac, and is a private family organization that rescues and rehabilitates abused and endangered animals. Many of the sanctuary’s animals were illegally owned or were hunted and injured. Whenever possible, they try to rehabilitate and release the animals, but some will never be able to return to the wild and will have a permanent home in the sanctuary. Likewise, the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary is home to many species, such as black bears, pumas, llamas, alpacas, Guanaco, and Vicuña. There are some free roaming animals you will see at the sanctuary as well, including the Peruvian hairless dog, a breed that dates back to pre-Incan times, and the sweetest kitty you’ll ever meet.