Last Updated on January 17, 2024 by Kelly
The Sacred Valley of the Inca, also known as the Urubamba Valley, is one of the top tourist destinations in Peru. This narrow valley extends nearly 70 miles, beginning in the small town of Pisac and eventually reaching the famous citadel of Machu Picchu.
The Sacred Valley contains numerous Inca ruins, plenty of ancient terraces carved into the hillsides, and several charming towns. The natural beauty of the valley has an almost mystical feel. We loved exploring the Sacred Valley, and we’re excited to share our tips.
The Sacred Valley was a highlight from our trip to Peru. In this guide, we’ll share the best things to see in the Sacred Valley of Peru. We’re also sharing lots of our own from the Sacred Valley. We hope this articles inspires you to visit!
14 Things to See in the Sacred Valley
1. Machu Picchu
Our visit to Machu Picchu is a travel memory that we will treasure forever. We spent two days hiking the Inca Trail, and we even got tickets to climb Huayna Picchu. Just taking the train to the town of Aguas Calientes was an amazing experience. If you’re planning on visiting the Sacred Valley, visiting Machu Picchu should be at the top of your list. It’s definitely not an overrated attraction!
One of our favorite day trips from Cusco was visiting the town of Pisac. This small town is known as the “City of Towers” because there are over 20 towers along the mountainside that were built by the Inca. In addition to seeing the Inca ruins, we really enjoyed walking around the artisan market. We recommend asking your hotel staff when the market occurs and then visiting Pisac on a market day.
The town of Ollantaytambo is located about an hour and a half to the northwest of Cusco. For those who seek to visit Machu Picchu, going to Ollantaytambo is a must because the train to Machu Picchu departs from Ollantaytambo. We recommend that you spend a full day in Ollantaytambo to see the Inca ruins there. The Inca had a sophisticated military fortress that was meant to protect Inca nobility. We only spent a couple of hours in Ollantaytambo, and I regret not spending more time there!
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4. Stay in a Vertical Sky Luxury Suite
For a once in a lifetime experience, check out Vertical Sky Luxury Suites. You’ll be able to stay in a sky capsule or dome for unbeatable views of the Sacred Valley! One of my Instagram friends stayed in one of these sky pods and they loved it!
Moray is an Inca archaeological site located about 28 miles to the northwest of Cusco. The site is famous for its circular terraces which were used for agricultural experiments. The Inca would plant seeds at different levels and see which provided ideal conditions for a variety of crops. The wide temperature differences between the terraces created distinct micro climates. We visited Moray and thought it was a worthwhile visit!
6. Salineras de Maras (Salt Mines of Maras)
We visited the Salineras de Maras the same day we visited Moray. There are over 4,500 salt ponds at Maras! The method that they use to cultivate salt is the same as was used during pre-Inca times. When we visited, we learned a lot about the process of cultivating salt. The view of all the salt ponds was dramatic as well!
7. Huchuy Qosqo
A little north of Cusco is Huchuy Qosqo, which means “Little Cusco.” The site served as a royal estate for the Inca emperor Viracocha in the 15th century. There are several notable ruins at the site, including a great hall (kallanka) that is over 100 feet long.
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8. Catarata PeroIniyoc
If you are up for a hike, you can travel to see the Perolniyoc Waterfall in the Sacred Valley. In addition to seeing the waterfall, there are also Inca ruins along the route. The hike is 4.2 miles long roundtrip, with almost 1,700 feet of elevation gain.
9. Huaypo Lagoon
Huaypo is a pretty lagoon that is a popular place for kayaking and paddle-boarding.
10. Try Some Chicha
Chicha is a local corn beer that is made from maize. While in the Sacred Valley, be sure to try a glass!
11. Aguas Calientes
The town at the base of Machu Picchu is called Aguas Calientes. Most people only pass through Aguas Calientes on their way through to Machu Picchu, but there’s several things you can do in the town itself. If you have time in your itinerary, be sure to visit the hot springs that gave the town its name. (Aguas Calientes means hot waters in Spanish.)
12. Cocalmayo Hot Springs
After visiting Machu Picchu, you can take a separate journey to visit the Cocalmayo Hot Springs. The waters are supposedly more clear than the hot springs in Aguas Calientes.
The town of Urubamba is centrally located to Moray and Maras. It’s a great place to stop for a meal and to explore the small town.
The town of Chinchero is located about halfway between Cusco and Maras. There are Inca ruins at Chinchero that were from the palace of the Emperor Túpac Yupanqui. In addition to seeing the Inca ruins, the town is also the center of weaving. At the Interpretation Center of Andean Textiles, you’ll be able to see live weaving demonstrations.
About the Sacred Valley in Peru
The Sacred Valley is located in the Peruvian Andes. The valley was created slowly over time by the Urubamba River that flows through it. The valley is long and narrow, wedged in between steep mountains and hills. Many indigenous groups have lived in the Sacred Valley over the years.
There’s evidence that the Chanapata people lived in the area starting around 800 BC. The Qotacalla people inhabited the region from 500 to 900 AD. Then, the Killke people lived in the valley from 900 AD until the Inca Empire took over in the 15th century.
The Sacred Valley is known for its rich soil and agriculture. The Inca were drawn to the valley for its lower altitude and warmer temperatures. It was the perfect location to grow maize, which was a major staple in the Inca’s diet.
The most famous site in the Sacred Valley is Machu Picchu, but there are many more places that are also worthy of a visit!
What to Pack for a Visit to the Sacred Valley
- Phone Charger Power Bank: Make sure that your phone battery doesn’t lose its charge while you’re out exploring. We always carry a charged power bank with us, so that we can charge our phone on the go. We use our phones heavily for navigation, communication, and photos, so we don’t want our phone to die while we’re out and about.
- Filtered Water Bottle: You won’t have to worry about water quality when you bring a water bottle with its own filter. (Bring it with you to restaurants or while you’re out hiking.)
- Hiking Shoes: You’ll probably want to do some hiking while you’re in the Sacred Valley. If you’re planning on hiking, be sure to bring your hiking boots. I’ve used the Columbia brand for years, and my boots have held up super well. (I’ve linked them here for women, and here for men.)
- Day Pack: Bring a day backpack with you so that you can pack all of your souvenirs, extra clothing layers, and snacks.
How to Get to the Sacred Valley
If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll first need to fly to the city of Cusco. We recommend staying in Cusco at least for several days. Cusco is a convenient gateway city to exploring the Sacred Valley. Most of the places mentioned in this guide are easily reachable as day trips from Cusco. (Plus there’s lots to see and do in Cusco too!
We traveled around the Sacred Valley by hiring a private driver. Our hotel arranged the car for us and made sure that we had a reputable driver. Our driver was kind and professional, and it wasn’t too expensive.
There are also buses and colectivos (shared taxis) that travel to many of the destinations in this guide. If you’re traveling on a tight budget, the colectivos are even more affordable. It can be a bit more of a bumpy ride (figuratively and literally), and might just add to the adventure!
We stayed in Cusco and then completed all our day trips from there until we were ready to take the train to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.
We stayed at the Apu Huascaran Hostal.
This 3-star hotel is located in the San Blas neighborhood. It’s a quick walk to the Plaza de Armas, but you’ll also be in a more quiet neighborhood filled with artisan shops. Breakfast is included, and all of the rooms face an inner patio. We would recommend this hotel to others.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Sacred Valley known for?
The Sacred Valley is known for its numerous Inca archaeological sites and stunning beauty. The Inca relied on this region or produce their agricultural crops. Because of the valley’s lower altitude, the temperatures were warmer and made for ideal growing conditions.
Why do they call it the Sacred Valley?
The region was named the Sacred Valley because the land was some of the best of the entire Inca empire. The soil was rich and supplied the Inca with their agricultural needs.
What is the history of the Sacred Valley?
Many indigenous groups have lived in the Sacred Valley over the years. There’s evidence that the Chanapata people lived in the area starting around 800 BC. The Qotacalla people inhabited the region from 500 to 900 AD. Then, the Killke people lived in the valley from 900 AD until the Inca Empire took over in the 15th century. The valley supplied the Inca with much of their agricultural crops.
Is the Sacred Valley worth visiting?
The Sacred Valley is definitely worth visiting. If you’re traveling all the way to Peru to see Machu Picchu, be sure to spend a couple of days exploring the Sacred Valley. There are several archaeological sites that rival Machu Picchu, yet are much less crowded. (For example, check out Ollantaytambo on your way to Machu Picchu!) We also really enjoyed seeing Pisac, Moray, and the Salt Mines of Maras.
How much time do you need at the Sacred Valley?
We recommend that you spend at least 4 days in the Sacred Valley. You’ll need two days (at least) to see Pisac, Moray, Maras, and Ollantaytambo. We recommend that you spend at least 2 days at Machu Picchu, even if you’re not hiking the Inca Trail. We personally saw Machu Picchu once in the afternoon, and then returned again the next morning. It was nice being able to see Machu Picchu under different weather conditions and to see everything we wanted to see there. Additionally, we recommend spending a couple of days in Cusco, which is slightly outside the Sacred Valley. Ideally, you’ll have at least a week to explore this region.
Summary: Our Trip to the Sacred Valley in Peru
Visiting the Sacred Valley was one of my favorite travel memories. I enjoyed walking through the lush landscape and learning more about the Inca. I hope this post was helpful as you plan your own trip to the Sacred Valley!
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