The Sacred Valley of Peru is one of those incredible, you can’t really believe it until you see it, kind of places. There is a reason the Inca chose this as the seat of their empire. The lushness of the flora, the incredible diversity in the fauna, the eternal Spring weather. It has been called, not inaccurately, paradise.
If you’re planning a trip through Peru, you must plan to spend some time here – After all, the Sacred Valley is home to Machu Picchu. But, outside of Machu Picchu, there are so many sites to see and cities to visit. It can be overwhelming to keep track of them all. In this blog post, we’ll give you a summary of some of the main sites and cities in the Sacred Valley and tips for how to make the most of your time there.
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Sites in the Sacred Valley
Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire as such, is teeming with history and culture. You can see the incredible stone walls at almost every turn and there is a mixture of both Inca and Spanish sites and museums to visit. For more details on Cusco, check out our blog post: 9 Things you Can’t Miss in Cusco.
Located on the hilltop above Cusco, Sacsayhuaman (pronounced almost like “sexy woman”) is an incredible feat of engineering that will leave you flabbergasted. How did they move and shape those huge rocks, the largest of which is estimated to be between 120 and 200 tons!
#3 Pisac Market
One of the most famous markets in the Sacred Valley, it’s a great place to pick up souvenirs to take home. It’s very large – Stalls wind through many streets and while it is open everyday, Sunday is when the local Quechua communities set up shop so the size of the market grows even more immense. There are also more ruins above the town of Pisac and it’s easy to include a visit to these when you visit the market.
#4 Huchuy Qosco
One of the lesser known and visited sites in the Sacred Valley, Huchuy Qosco (Little Cusco in Quechua) is situated on a hill above the town of Lamay. The theory goes that one of the Inca kings took to this place as he aged and tired of the hustle and bustle of Cusco.
The only way to get to the site is by hiking. You can go from Lamay, but it’s a difficult and not particularly interesting hike. The best way to get to Huchuy Qosco is by hiking not from Lamay, but starting from the Laguna Piura. You’ll pass over 14,760 ft and the views will make it all worth it. The tour company, Go Get Peru, offers a great tour including this hike and a homestay with a local family that overlooks the site. Absolutely incredible!
Urubamba is one of the larger cities in the Sacred Valley (outside of Cusco) and being centrally located in the Valley, it provides a great homebase for touring all the sites of the Sacred Valley. There are many beautiful vacation rentals with gorgeous surroundings and it can be a great place to spend a few relaxing days soaking up the sunshine.
Maras is home to famous salt pools – There are over 3,000 pools, each owned by a member of a community cooperative. The salt comes from a natural spring that is then captured in these pools. They harvest it, package it and sell it – both nationally and internationally. It is renowned because it is full of minerals in addition to sodium. The salt makes a great souvenir or gift to take home with you!
While we don’t know for sure, it is believed that Moray was an agricultural laboratory for the Inca. Here they tested and created new strains of papas, quinoa, corn, etc. Each level had its own micro climate and they would introduce different levels of water to see how the plants reacted and adapt crops for various climates.
Chinchero is known for the various weaving communities that live and work here. You can visit a weaving community and learn about the weaving process from start to finish including the natural dyeing process. It’s a fascinating and beautiful process and a great place to buy high quality handbags, blankets and other woven items.
Ollantaytambo is one of the best preserved Inca towns in the Sacred Valley. The layout of the town and roads is as close to the original design of a traditional Inca town. There are also impressive ruins here that, if you bought a tourist ticket for the Sacred Valley, are included and definitely warrant a visit! It’s also possible to take the train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu so many people stay here the night before and catch the train to Machu Picchu in the morning.
#10 Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu needs little introduction and if you can see nothing else in the Sacred Valley, make sure you visit this majestic site. See our blog post: 10 Steps to Machu Picchu for more details.
There are of course more sites than these (and more sites still being discovered in Peru), but hopefully, this list helps you better plan your trip through the Sacred Valley of Peru!
Who is writing?
Hola! I’m Abigail, writer for ALL ACROSS PERU and lover of all things Peruvian! I live in Lima and you’ll often find me eating lomo saltado and sharing pisco sours with my patas (friends).