Located between Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is a must-see in Peru. Travelers with limited time tend to skip the valley on their way to the famous Machu Picchu, but it is definitely worth visiting. There is a large range of things to do in Sacred Valley for every travel […]
Located between Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is a must-see in Peru. Travelers with limited time tend to skip the valley on their way to the famous Machu Picchu, but it is definitely worth visiting. There is a large range of things to do in Sacred Valley for every travel interest.
History enthusiasts will love walking in the Incas’ footsteps as they explore ancient ruins. Avid hikers and nature lovers will enjoy the Sacred Valley’s trails and spectacular mountain views. Adventurers will flock to the valley’s many outdoor activities, including rafting and mountain biking. All together, everyone will fall in love with the valley’s quaint towns and friendly locals.
Keep reading to find out more about Sacred Valley weather, how to get there, things to do in Sacred Valley, and where to stay. With a little preparation beforehand, you can make the most of your time in this incredible valley.
Although temperatures are pleasant throughout the whole year, the best time to visit the Sacred Valley is between May and September, during the dry season. During those months, average temperatures can rise to highs of 68°F (20°C) and drop to lows of 35°F (2°C). Chances of rain are low, at an average of about 5%.
Although it doesn’t get quite as cold between October and April, those months include the rainy season. The rainiest months are between December and February, with daily chances of precipitation 35-50%.
With a Tour
If you are looking to make the most of limited time, the best solution would be to take a Sacred Valley Day Tour with a local guide. You will then be able to see the most important attractions in an efficient way.
On Your Own
You can visit the valley by yourself by hiring a taxi to take you from Cusco around the valley. It should cost around 150 Peruvian soles ($45 USD).
Alternatively, you can take public buses, which is a cheap option, but not the quickest way to get to the Sacred Valley. You can take buses from Cusco Bus Terminal (“Pavitos”) to Urubamba or Ollantaytambo, costing S/6 ($1.80 USD) and S/10 ($3 USD), respectively. It will take 1.5 hours to get to Urubamba and 2 hours to reach Ollantaytambo.
Sacred Valley Tickets
You don’t need to pay anything to enter the valley. However, you will need to pay an entrance fee to visit every ruin.
If you’re planning on visiting multiple sites, your best option will be to buy a comprehensive ticket called the “Full Cusco Tourist Ticket.” This ticket will cost you 130 Peruvian soles ($40 USD), and you can buy it in Cusco either in the BTG Ticket Office or in the Official Tourist Information Centre. Please note that you can’t purchase it online. It is valid for ten days and allows you to visit 16 sites, including various museums and ruins within Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
If you only have one day, you can buy a “Partial Cusco Tourist Ticket.” It will cost you 70 Peruvian soles ($21 USD) and it includes the entrance fees to only 4 sites. Please note that the valley is divided into three different circuits, so if you want to visit two sites that are not in the same circuit, you may have to purchase two tickets or buy the ten day pass straight away. These circuits only apply to the partial ticket – there won’t be any restrictions if you purchased the full ticket.
For more information about the 16 sites of the “Full Cusco Tourist Ticket” and the three circuits of the “Partial Cusco Tourist Ticket,” click here.
This traditional Andean village located 1 hour from Cusco is famous for its artisan market and its Inca ruins. The market – that takes place on Sundays – draws hundreds of local vendors to offer local artisan products and an unforgettable experience. You can find jewelry, crafts, and textiles of the best quality.
Pisac is also worth a visit for its large Inca ruins which can be reached with a 2 to 3-hour trek or with a taxi ride. The Pisac ruins are considered to be some of the finest remaining Inca archaeological sites in the country. You will find the largest-known Inca cemetery, ceremonial baths, a temple complex, and an urban area. The ruins are surrounded by vast, sweeping agriculture terraces which create a beautiful environment.
This town is the door to Machu Picchu. Apart from being the most common starting point of the famous Inca Trail, you can also find some of the most stunning remaining Inca ruins.
The Ollantaytambo Inca fortress located at the edge of the town is made up of a series of platforms, terraces, and temples and offers an outstanding view of the surrounding countryside. Some other Inca structures you need to see during your time in Ollantaytambo are the Temple of the Sun and the Baths of the Ñustas – Quechua for queen or princess. The present town was built on the walls of the ancient Inca town.
Also known as the “City of the Rainbow,” this small rustic town offers a large display of Inca architecture and ruins and is famous for its stunning church. Built in a colonial style, the church of Our Lady Of Montserrat skillfully combines Catholic and traditional motifs through its ornate painted ceilings.
Chinchero is also the center of weaving in Peru, resulting in a colorfully-dressed population. Local women perform weaving demonstrations in which you can see how they wash, dye, and spin the wool.
Maras is a small village in the Sacred Valley that is known for the Maras Salt Mines, salt terraces, or salinas. Hanging from the mountains, the bright white salt terraces contrast with the ochre mountains. Locals have harvested salt from the terraces since the time of the Incas.
To reach the site, take a collective taxi – colectivo – at the intersection of the main road (Urubamba-Cusco) and the Maras road. Tell them that you want to go to the salinas. You can ask the taxi to wait for you while you explore the salt quarry. It may take you 45 minutes to walk around the quarry. Expect to pay S/2 ($0.60 USD) for the colectivo from the main road or S/15 ($4.50 USD) for a private taxi. This site is not included in the tourist ticket and the entrance fee of S/10 ($3 USD) will need to be paid separately.
Moray is an Inca ruins site only 4 miles (7 km) from Maras. Its unique ruins are arranged in concentric circles sinking down to a depth of more than 328 feet (100 m), with stone steps facilitating access from one terrace to another. The Incas may have used the site to experiment with different agricultural techniques. To reach Moray, you can take a collective or private taxi, just as described above for Maras.
Classic Inca Trail (4-5 days)
By doing this world-famous trek, you will be able to follow the Incas’ paths on your way to the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu. You can complete the trek in 4 or 5 days, even if you take your time to enjoy the stunning views. This trek is moderate in terms of difficulty.
Please note that you need a permit to do the Inca Trail, which must be purchased in advance. 500 people are allowed to start every day. Permits go on sale every January and usually sell out quickly. The months of June, July, August and September are the busiest, so if you want to avoid crowds and still enjoy a pleasant climate, we recommend going in May or October.
Please note that the trail is closed every year during the month of February for essential maintenance.
Short Inca Trail (2 days)
If you don’t have enough time to do the Classic Inca Trail, another option for would be the short version of it. The Short Inca Trail consists of doing the last day of the Classic Trail up to the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu. 250 people are allowed to join the trek every day. Once you get to Machu Picchu on the second day, you can explore or enjoy a guided tour.
Salkantay Trekking Expedition (5 days)
This is the most popular alternative to the Inca Trail to reach Machu Picchu. Like the Inca Trail, the Salkantay Trek lasts 5 days and is moderate in difficulty. The main difference is that this trek does not take you to as many Inca ruins. However, the rich natural beauty of the trail definitely makes up for the fewer ruins. The Salkantay Trek is a great option for nature lovers!
Choquequirao Trekking Expedition (5 days)
This is the most adventurous and challenging trail! The Choquequirao Trek offers all types of landscapes on the way to Machu Picchu: snow-capped peaks, forest-covered mountains, and deep canyons. The trail starts further to the west of Cusco, but ends in the Sacred Valley. You will be able to admire the beautiful archaeological site of Choquequirao which some say is as impressive as Machu Picchu. We recommend this trek for experienced hikers.
Lares Trek (3 days)
If you’re looking for a memorable cultural experience, this trek is for you! The starting point is the town of Lares, where you can enjoy a bath in the hot springs before starting on your hike. During the trek, you will pass through several traditional villages where locals have maintained the same way of life for centuries. Relative to the other treks, this one is the easiest, but still make sure to prepare for the altitude.
Urubamba River Rafting
The Urubamba River winds through the Sacred Valley and offers nice rafting spots for a fun family adventure. On a whitewater rafting day trip, you’ll pass through Class III rapids surrounded by a picturesque landscape.
Mountain Biking Sacred Valley
Going mountain biking can be an exciting way to explore the valley and visit off-the-beaten-path places. You can either rent a bike and cycle by yourself or take a tour. While bike rental agencies can give you advice about routes to take, nothing beats the company of an experienced guide in terms of safety and specific biking track information.
Bungee Jump Cusco
About 16 miles (25 km) from Cusco is an adventure park which offers the highest bungee jump in Latin America (410 ft/125 m) as well as a slingshot. It’s a great place for those looking for an adrenaline rush!
Piuray Lake Water Sports
Piuray Lake sits to the northeast of Cusco, close to Chinchero. You can enjoy a variety of water sports on the lake such as stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking. Connect with the nature of the Sacred Valley while enjoying your favorite lake activities.
You can go climbing for a day right outside of Ollantaytambo. For S/180 ($54 USD), you will be able to climb a 1,312-foot (400-meter) rock face. An unforgettable experience!
Sleep on the Side of a Cliff
At the Skylodge, you can sleep inside a transparent hanging shelter, allowing you to appreciate the impressive view over the Sacred Valley along with the night sky adorned by the Milky Way. The hanging pods are only accessible via a climb or zipline.
Many travelers to the Sacred Valley tend to use Cusco as a base, but you should consider staying in the valley instead. While Cusco sits at an altitude of 11,155 feet (3,400 m) , the Sacred Valley is actually lower at about 9,419 feet (2871 m), which can make your acclimation easier.
Most Sacred Valley hotels are located near Urubamba or Ollantaytambo, with a smaller number in the Pisac area. You can find many lodging options from hostels to luxury hotels. We recommend the following accommodations:
You’ll never run out of things to do in Sacred Valley, whether you stay for a day, a week, or even a month. The Sacred Valley of the Incas has so much to offer, from unforgettable landscapes to lovely towns and fascinating ruins. If you haven’t already put it on your Peru itinerary, make sure to do so!