The Sacred Valley of Cusco or Sacred Valley of the Incas extends along the Urubamba River valley, 15 km north of Cusco, the «Imperial City». Many travelers wonder what the main attractions of the Sacred Valley are. We would mainly highlight 3:
- The ruins of Pisac
But the Sacred Valley is also an ideal place to enjoy nature, rafting or climbing.
The trip to the Sacred Valley of Cusco is the most demanded in Peru as Ollantaytambo is the entrance to one of the Wonders of the Modern World and Historical and Cultural Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO in 1981. We’re talking about Machu Picchu.
Remember that to enter the ruins of the Sacred Valley you need the Cusco Tourist Ticket.
What to do in the Sacred Valley of the Incas?
We can say that Pisac (33 km northwest of Cusco) is the entrance to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. In addition to its colonial town we can visit its essential market and the ruins of the Inca fortress that rises on the side of a mountain.
The market of Pisac is the largest and most touristic market in the whole region of Cusco. The official market days are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, although it is recommended to visit it on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays to avoid crowds.
In the Castilian Marshal you can see castles where the guinea pigs live and several clay ovens where they prepare empanadas and breads.
The National Geographic assures that the ruins of Pisac are one of the Inca constructions that cannot be lost after Machu Picchu.
In Pisac we can find all the richness of Inca architecture, with residences, astronomical observatories, temples, its famous green terraces on the south and east flanks, and even the largest ancient cemetery in South America.
From the bridge in the center of Pisac, buses leave for Urubamba by S/ 2 with a journey of little more than 30 minutes. On the way we will pass through towns like Yucay and Huarán, which have restaurants and luxury accommodations. A highly recommended point to connect with nature.
Urubamba is considered as an intermediate point before continuing to Ollantaytambo, from where we can organize activities such as mountain biking, paragliding, hot-air balloon flights, hiking or a rock climbing circuit such as the well-known via ferrata. From there you can go down to the valley on foot or in Tyrolese.
From Urubamba we depart in addition to two other excursions that we must take if we are visiting the Sacred Valley: Moray and the Salineras de Maras.
Chinchero is a small village located at 3.762 meters above sea level. It is in this place where the Incas believed that the rainbow was born, hence the nickname of the city of Rainbow. The surroundings of Chinchero have unique views, flanked by the snow-capped peaks of Salkantay, Veronica and Soray.
In the village you can visit the church of Nuestra Señora de Monserrat, built on the ruins of the Tupac Yupanqui Palace in 1607. Highlights the main altar carved in gold leaf dedicated to the Virgin of the Nativity. Diego Quispe Tito, the maximum representative of the Cusco school, hangs from its walls.
From the main square you can access the Inca ruins of Chinchero. Although it is not as «impressive» as those of Pisac or Ollantaytambo, it is worth walking through the green surroundings, surrounded by snow-capped peaks nearby under the imposing blue sky.
The charming city of Ollantaytambo (usually called Ollanta, both local and tourist) is the largest expression of Inca architecture, almost intact since the 13th century. Its innumerable crooked alleys, the water canals that cross it, the low houses and the quiet and shy walk of its inhabitants, give Ollantaytambo a mysticism worthy of being the final point of the trip before taking the train to Aguas Calientes to get on the Macchu Picchu.
The Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo are at 3,792 meters above sea level and rise on two mountains that had a strategic sense to dominate the valley of Sangrado; it was, besides a military complex, a religious, administrative and agricultural center.
We can reach the upper part of the archaeological complex of Ollantaytambo after climbing 150 stone steps. The view from the highest part of the complex is incredible and shows us some beautiful images of the city and the lower part of the complex.
Next to the archaeological complex we can visit the Ollantaytambo Market, which is focused on tourists and where we can buy -if we haven’t already done so in Pisac, Urubamba or Chinchero- a souvenir for our family or friends.