Only a few kilometres away from Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the incas is the true cultural cradle of the Incas, as we can see with its abundant archaeological sites. In addition to its rich historical past, the region offers many opportunities for trekking and outdoor activities in an absolutely magnificent environment.
Missing it and heading straight to Machu Picchu would be a big mistake!
About 15 kilometres (10 miles) from the Inca capital Cusco is the Sacred Valley. Its pleasant climate and fertile land made the Urubamba Valley the centre of the Inca empire. It was also a strategic site as it guarded the entrance to the jungle.
It represented a high religious place since the Inca priests and astrologers considered it as the terrestrial projection of the Milky Way, the galaxy where the main Inca constellations are found: the lama, the condor, the tree…
It emerges from this place a particular energy, an astonishing conjugation between a grand and imposing past and a rural and colorful present.
Budget: Casa de Mama Cusco Valle – Lovely and friendly hotel located in Ollantaytambo close to the ruins of the fortress.
Mid-range: Sol Natura Hotel – Comfortable hotel in Ollantaytambo featuring spacious bedrooms with a stunning view over the mountains.
Splurge: Sonesta Posadas del Inca Yucay – Quality and beautiful hotel in Urubamba built in an old colonial monastery.
The best time to visit the Sacred Valley would be from May to October. Please be aware that June, July, August and September are generally the busiest months.
Apart from the numerous trekking options, the valley offers many points of interest for travelers:
The religious centre of Pisac: This archaeological site is considered to be one of the most important in Peru. Písac is a modern village of colonial origin. Its Sunday market attracts thousands of visitors as well as residents from remote villages dressed in traditional clothes.
The Maras Salt Mines: Also known as Salinas de Maras, these old salt mines are a must-visit in the Sacred Valley. Salt water from the ground – from a well called “Qoripujio” – is channelled into basins where it evaporates with the effect of the sun, leaving the salt on its surface. The view of the whole of about three thousand basins is spectacular.
The archaeological complex of Moray: The site is known for its sunken amphitheatre, formed by four terraces or circular andenes that seem to disappear inside the highlands, like an artificial crater. It seems like that this place was an Inca agricultural research centre dedicated to the experimentation of crops in the different levels of height of its plots.
Chinchero: Located at an altitude of 3,772 metres (12,375 ft), this village has a church built during colonial time, in which you can admire beautiful canvases from the Cusco school. On Sundays there is a fair where traders and farmers exchange their products, sometimes even bartering.
Ollantaytambo: 97 km (60 miles) from Cusco, is an impressive fortress that watched over the path of Machu Picchu. It overlooks the Urubamba river, at the bottom of the Sacred Valley. From the top of the ruins, you will be amazed by the view. After visiting the stunning fortress, it is also worth spending some time time in the village that followed the Incas’ traditions.
Keteka grants access to authentic activities run by local tour operators and guides. You can book and secure your place in advance, and we will take care of everything else. We’ll let you know where to go or where you will be picked up and at what time.
Land – By bus: there are several departures every day from Cusco to Pisac and Urubamba. The ticket costs about S/4 ($1.2). This is a cheap option, but quite a long one (the buses only leaves when there are enough passengers onboard). Then you can take other buses to reach other cities such as Ollantaytambo.
Colectivo: These are shared cars or vans that leave from Puputi or Pavitos Street in Cusco. You have to wait for the car to fill up but it is never very long. The price remains very affordable and the vehicles are in good condition.
Taxi: You can hire a taxi that can take you around the valley and wait for you when visiting the sites. This is a convenient option, but you should ask your hotel or hostel to contact a trustworthy person for you to avoid scams. It should cost around S/150 ($45) for a day.
By train: one of the only ways to reach Machu Picchu is to take a train, so there are many trains crossing the valley. You can take one of them and stop in Urubamba or Ollantaytambo.
Air – The closest airport is located in Cusco, you can land there and then take a land transportation to reach the Sacred Valley.