How to visit the Sacred Valley

Most Sacred Valley tours follow the same well-rutted route:  Ollantaytambo Ruins, lunch in Urubamba, and a stop at the Pisaq Market/ruins.  Everyone leaves and returns to Cusco at the same time, so you wind up swimming through a lot of tourist groups during your one-day excursion.  It doesn’t mean you should skip the Sacred, but there a few smart ways to explore this gorgeous place.

Stopping for a break while biking in the Sacred Valley
Stopping for a break while biking in the Sacred Valley

1.  Go by Bike:  The Sacred Valley has loads of walking trails without steps or terrible inclines, which means great biking.  You don’t have to be an expert (though you do know how to ride a bike in general) to get in a fun workout and a feel for life in the quiet countryside.

2.  Stay the night:  By spending a little extra time, you’ll get to see a little local life apart from the tourist crowds.  Wandering around laid-back Ollantaytambo feels like a completely different town once the tourist buses have departed.  Small aside:  Ollantay is the only town where people still inhabit the Incan buildings and water flows down canals, just like they did 500 years ago.

3.  See the ruins early (or late):  This is only possible if you plan on staying overnight in the nearby town.  The ruins of Ollantaytambo and Pisaq are right beside their respective towns, so waking up early can get you there before the rush from Cusco.  Or, if you go a bit later, you can miss some of the crowds who have moved on but this is a little trickier to pull-off.

Tunnel in the Pisaq Ruins
Tunnel in the Pisaq Ruins

4.  Get off the Beaten Path:  The Sacred Valley is more than just Ollantaytambo, Pisaq and Urubamba.  While those are all certainly impressive, you can start to get a little “ruined-out.”  There are lots of great ruins, towns, and trails that very few people get to see, just because they don’t allow more than one-day in the Sacred Valley.  Some of our favorites (in or near the Sacred Valley) include:

– Maras Salt Pans

– Moray Ruins

– Huchuy Cusco Hike

– Pumamarca Ruins

– Lares Hotsprings

– Hike around Chinchero

These are great excursions on their own or when combined with some more traditional stops in the Sacred Valley.

P4ai pumamarca Ollantaytambo (4)