It is often thought that the only thing you can do in Cusco is to visit Machu Picchu. However, there are a huge number of places you can visit in this beautiful destination. The spectacular scenery of snow-capped mountains, flowering meadows, turquoise lagoons and varied flora and fauna make the Sacred Valley of the Incas the perfect place for adventure and leisure tourism in Peru.
If you have in mind to spend a quiet vacation, we recommend you to enjoy a relaxing paddle in the Piuray lagoon. If you like history and anthropological information: head to the Inkari museum. To interact with the locals and learn about their lifestyles and traditions, we suggest you visit the various communities of Lamay. Here is everything you need to know about the Sacred Valley to make your trip fantastic.
1. How to get there?
Most flights to the Sacred Valley depart and arrive from Lima. The Peruvian capital offers visitors many things to see and do, being the gateway to the rest of the country, with domestic flights to major cities, including Cusco. Keep an eye on the websites of the various airlines, as from time to time they offer discounts and promotions for travel to the Imperial City, with prices as low as $70. If you can, look for a window seat, as the view of the Andes on the way is breathtaking.
You can also travel to Cusco by car or bus. The trip takes about 22 hours. The road stretches 1100 km through increasingly rugged and isolated terrain. If you are planning to do this adventure, we recommend planning a few stops so that you can better cope with the road.
Once in Cusco, to get to the Sacred Valley you can take a bus to Ollataytambo -they leave every 15 minutes-. You can also rent a cab or share a car with other travelers going to the same destination.
2. When to travel?
The climate in the Sacred Valley does not usually vary much throughout the year. During the day, temperatures range between 20 and 25 °C, while at night they drop to approximately 5 °C, and some people feel a cold that can be intense. We recommend traveling in the dry season, between April and November. If you do not mind the rains, you can travel between December and March.
Remember to acclimatize before doing any activity that requires a high physical demand in the Sacred Valley, such as hiking or climbing. The average altitude in this site is 2850 meters above sea level and the lack of oxygen could cause you some kind of inconvenience. Bring your sunscreen, umbrella, plenty of liquid (accompanied by coca leaves) and warm clothes in case you stay in one of the villages for the night.
3. Choose your lodging wisely
From backpackers to five-star hotels, the options in the Sacred Valley are numerous and varied. In the rural areas of the Valley, there are hotels and haciendas that offer stays with attractive complementary services, such as relaxation therapies, spiritual retreats, healthy food, yoga classes, etc.
4. Plan your travel itinerary and distribute your time
The Sacred Valley has thousands of places for all tastes, such as Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, Chinchero, Yucay, Maras, Moray, Aguas Calientes, among others. Most tours offer trips by bus and train, with stops at the main archaeological complexes, visits to markets and adventure sports.
If you are going to hire a tour, make sure you have time to enjoy it all and that it combines different means of transportation such as biking and hiking with train and bus, so you can have all kinds of experiences.
5. Enjoy the exquisite local gastronomy
The gastronomic options in the Sacred Valley have grown. There are a large number of restaurants in Ollantaytambo, Urubamba and Pisac that offer all kinds of Andean dishes based on fresh, native ingredients. Dare to try the Chiri Uchu, a fried trout, a baked guinea pig, a succulent Inchicapi or a regional tuber stew called Kapchi; as you can see, the alternatives are very varied and original.
Also, be sure to visit the breweries of the Valley. These are places where you will discover the production process of the beers that are made in this place accompanied with a delicious Andean snack.