Between Cusco and Machu Picchu lies the Sacred Valley of the Incas (Urubamba Valley), home to some of Peru’s most interesting pre-Columbian ruins and attractive colonial towns and villages. While many travelers pass through here en route to Machu Picchu, the valley has become a destination in its own right.
With its Quechua village festivals and markets, colonial churches, Inca ruins and other archaeological sites, river rafting, horseback riding, and trekking, there are plenty of reasons to head out into the Sacred Valley of the Incas for a day tour or longer. Day trips from Cusco might involve a guided trek to the Huchuy Qosqo ruins, a tour of the Maras salt mines, cycling on Moray Mountain, shopping the Pisac market, wandering the agricultural terraces at Ollantaytambo, or tucking into a traditional Andean lunch.
It’s also possible to combine a tour of the Sacred Valley with an overnight tour to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Machu Picchu.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a must-see for adventure travelers, history buffs, and first-time visitors.
- A Sacred Valley tour from Cusco can last anywhere from eight to 12 hours.
- Be sure to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
- While lower than Cusco, the Sacred Valley still has a high altitude of 9,514 feet (2,900 meters), so plan accordingly.
How to Get There
While Cusco is the nearest major city to the valley, most travelers arrive by air into Lima before transferring to Cusco City. While it’s possible to rent a private car or ride public transportation, the easiest way to explore the Sacred Valley is on a guided tour.
When to Get There
High season in the Sacred Valley of the Incas falls between June and early September. The winter season brings dry weather, ideal for exploring the area’s many outdoor attractions, but larger crowds as well. Holidays aside, the valley is much quieter during the rainy season between November and March.
Shopping in the Sacred Valley
The local towns and markets of the Sacred Valley are perfect for picking up interesting local souvenirs. Look for pottery in Urubamba, peruse the market in Pisac for silver jewelry and alpaca fleece items, or pick up some local salt, pulled directly from the nearby mines, from the shops in Maras.