Tours in Cusco
Cusco is one of the most visited cities in Peru and South America. Apart from the Rainbow Mountains Tour, the Humantay Lake, Cusco Tours and the famous Machu Picchu Trip, another very popular place is the Sacred Valley travel
What most of our visitors love is that you will get to know many different places in a rather short period of time.
Exploring Sacred Valley
Another Cusco tours only in one day, you will explore and learn more about Chinchero, Moray, the salt mines of Maras and Ollantaytambo. Apart from that, this tour is the perfect fit for you when you have just arrived in Cuzco and you need to get acclimated in order to avoid the altitude sickness. Why? Because Cusco’s elevation is 3400 m whereas the Sacred Valley is around 500 m lower.
In this article, we focus on the different sites of our Sacred Valley day trip and on everything you need to know about Valle Sagrado de los Incas.
What is the Sacred Valley in Peru?
The famous Sacred Valley is a amazing natural valley that is over 60 km – 37,2 miles long and runs from La Raya (Between Cusco and Puno) Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes up to Quillabamba. It was not only the center of the ancient Inka civilization, but it was also a special spot for the Incas due to its fertile land, the appropriate climate and the diverse natural resources. Apart from that, the strategic position allowed the Incas to spot enemies from far away.
Pisac Agricultural Terraces
Nowadays, many of the communities in the Valle Sagrado or Sacred Valley in still live up to ancient traditions, such as spiritual ceremonies, traditional dresses and the language Quechua which is connected to Pacha Mama The “Mother earth” in all aspects of everyday life. It offers a lot of different chances to visit ancient sites, to do short hikes or just to relax for a while in a stress-free environment.
Now that you know the importance of this place, let’s explore what our tour of the Sacred Valley looks like.
What places are visited during Sacred Valley Tour?
At around 7:30 am, we will pick you up from your hotel in Cusco. Together with two to sixteen other travelers (group tour), you will head towards the different sites of the Sacred Valley in Peru
You will be back at your hotel in Cusco at around 6:00 pm or we can also drop you off at the Ollantaytambo train station so you can connect the train to Aguas Calientes in the afternoon or at night.
During the day tour, you will explore the Chinchero ruins, the archaeological terraces of Moray, the salt mines of Maras and the Ollantaytambo ruins. You need the Cusco tourist ticket that costs 70 soles per person to visit the sites mentioned and also the entrance ticket for the Maras salt mines 10 soles. Let’s get closer look at each one.
This is a town strategically located where 3 roads meet. These are the roads from Cusco, Yucay, and Pumamarca. The trail from Cusco begins in the Santa Ana neighborhood which was called Carmenqa during the epoch of the Tahuantinsuyo.
You have to pass this way when you are going to Machu Picchu. From generation to generation the ancient traditions have been passed down, so the spirit of the Incas survives here in Chincheros to this day. The people of Chincheros are proud of their traditions. You can witness this in way that they work together, in their colorful clothes, in their devotion to their deities, and in the way they love their neighbors.
The Chinchero Andean Market
On the last day of every week, Chincheros holds its traditional crafts market. It is one of the most typical and authentic in the Cusco city. It is characterized by the barter system that is still in use, as it was during Inca times. During the Incanato, goods from the low country of the jungle were traded for products of the high mountains. In the same way today, the people offer their hand-made textiles. But in Chincheros the local people actually make the weavings and are dressed up in the same colorful clothes that they have for sale or for trade. It is a scene of incredible beauty and you see doing the sacred valley.
The Colonial Church
After the Spanish invasion of Cuzco, Chincheros was burned by Manco Inca as he fled to Vilcabamba. His objective was to leave nothing for the Spanish. When the Spanish arrived in Chincheros, they destroyed what little remained of the Inca’s palace. Around 1572, the viceroy Toledo ordered a church built on the foundation of the Inca’s palace. It was called the “Doctrina de Nuestra Señora de Monserrat de Chinchero”. It was built to implant the Catholic religion in the people here.
The Magnificent Plaza
The magnificent Plaza is located to the east of the colonial church. It actually fulfills the role of the principle plaza of the town of Chincheros. Site is bordered by a giant Inca wall decorated with 10 big niches and trapezoidal cavity. It is still in a perfect state of conservation. To the south there 3 edifices made of finely worked stones which give it a ritual image. It consists of 2 levels. The main level corresponds to the atrium of the church. The other is a patio to the plaza. These structures maintain their extraordinary beauty even as the centuries pass.
In Chinchero we find also terraces that were designed by the Incas. These terraces are in the form of a trapezoid. This distinguishes them from the more linear terraces that are more generally encountered. On these terraces they cultivated very nutritious crops such as Quinoa, Kwicha, and seeds that provided lots of energy. The terraces are set up so that extra rain water flows off in such an efficient manner that it is difficult to imitate today. These terraces continue to supply food to the favorite sons of Chinchero.
The next unique place that we visit is the fantastic agricultural terraces of Moray. Inka terraces are not just amazing to look at (they look like a Roman amphitheater), but the actual usage of the terraces is even more astonishing. The Incas were highly sophisticated agricultural engineers and they constructed each circle on a different elevation. Therefore, the temperature varies the lower you go (up to 15°C) between the top parts and the bottom parts of the terraces. This allowed the Incas to plant different crops on each level and to test various plants on each elevation and see what grows best.
As you can see, Moray is more than just an old Incan ruin – it’s a marvel of the ancient science and technology which helped the Incas develop a sustainable food production across the different landscapes and climates in the Andes mountains.
Salt Mines of Maras
Another highlight is the salt mines of Maras, the next stop during our Sacred Valley tour. The salt evaporation ponds in Maras (Maras is the name of the city) have been in use since pre-Inca times by evaporating salt water from a water stream under the earth. This process has been performed over 500 years.
From the 15th of June onwards, the entrance to the salt mines of Maras will be prohibited. It will not be possible anymore to enter this part of the salt mines and walk between them.
At the end of the guided tour you can buy different kinds of salts, which are great for cooking. As mentioned above, the entrance fee to visit the Maras salt mines is S/ 10 ($3).
Lunch in Urubamba Province (The Capital of the Sacred Valley of the Incas)
Of course you have to fuel up your batteries during a day full of amazing sites. That’s why we will stop in Urubamba to enjoy a delicious buffet with different Peruvian dishes. Once we’re done, we will continue driving along the Urubamba river until reaching Ollantaytambo.
→ Lunch Urubamba in Urubamba includes a large variety of appetisers, main dishes and deserts.
▬ After the lunch we will head on to a local Chicheria where you can try Chicha, the beer of the Incas. It’s definitely a very interesting taste that you should try out.
Optional: Trying some delicious Chicha in the Sacred Valley of the Incas
→ Ollantaytambo Ruins
The last place to be visited during the Sacred Valley day tour are the Ollantaytambo ruins.
Famous Inca emperor Pachacuti conquered Ollantaytambo around the mid-15th century.
The town Ollantaytambo as well as the nearby region were his personal estate. After his conquest, the emperor rebuilt the town and undertook extensive works of terracing and irrigation in the Urubamba Valley. Therefore, the terraces were farmed.
Ollantaytambo is one of the best preserved Inca towns in Peru. Many of the sites you will see there were built in the Inca time and are a combination out of stone and adobe (a kind of mud with straw bricks).
Be prepared for more Inca terraces which are wrapped around the hillsides. Also, you will learn more about the hydro-engineering that distributes the water from one river across different paths and provides the locals with clean drinking water.
▬ Ollantaytambo is the last city before heading to Aguas Calientes in order to see the famous Machu Picchu. With the Sacred Valley tour, you can decide whether you want to stay in Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo in the afternoon or at night; whether you want to return to Cusco following the traditional itinerary.
The classic stop of our Sacred Valley tour will be Pisac. It’s famous for its artisanal market on Sunday, but there will be smaller markets on Tuesday or Thursday. You can buy some souvenirs, ponchos or other textiles here. Then, we will go hiking to the Inca citadel
Apart from the market, you will visit the Pisac terraces and the ancient ruins, which are on top of the mountain. From here, you have an amazing view over the entire valley. The Incas used this strategic position in order to spot their attacking enemies from far away and to prepare for the fight accordingly.
When to Visit Cusco
► The best time to visit Cusco is from June to mid-September. Though temperatures hover in the mid- to upper 60s throughout the year, the city sees fewer rain showers during its winter months. Still, this is peak tourist season, so expect plenty of fellow trekkers beside you as marvel at iconic sites. To escape swells of tourists and high room rates, visit during May or between late September and early November. Avoid visiting between late November and April, when heavy downpours delay and dampen exploration. Whenever you decide to plan your trip, bring warm clothing to arm yourself from the chilly nighttime temperatures, which dip into the low 30s and 40s.