Home to towering mountains and ancient cities, Peru is both mysterious and charming in equal measures. One place that ought to feature in any itinerary is the charming Rio Urubamba Valley, widely known as the Sacred Valley. With its rolling foothills and formidable mountain peaks, it’s a slice of authentic Andean life. The valley is an ideal precursor to Machu Picchu, boasting charming colonial towns and countless archaeological sites.
If you’re ready to experience some lesser-known Inca gems, here are our top tips for getting the best out of the Sacred Valley...
Sprawled beneath a hilltop Inca fortress, Pisac is a bustling village with plenty of charm. While its popularity has increased in recent years, Pisac maintains its authenticity and makes an ideal stopping point when exploring the valley’s winding roads. The village’s main highlight is the Inca citadel that watches over it. Perched on a mountainside, a dirt road snakes from Pisac’s main square up to the site’s entrance. Taxis are on offer, charging around $10 each way, but walking is an option for the more adventurous. The summit is well worth the effort - the landscape alone is breathtaking and the ruined Sun Temple is a taster of what’s to come at Machu Picchu!
If possible, try and time your visit to Pisac with the Sunday market. This weekly event sees villagers travel from miles around to barter and sell their wares. Boasting everything from handicrafts to homeware, it’s an unforgettable insight into rural Peruvian life.
Quaint and charming, Ollantaytambo is a testament to the passage of time. Its winding streets have been continuously inhabited since the 13th century and, structurally, very little has changed. The village is a popular stop-off en route to the Inca Trail, although many stay for only a few hours. It’s well worth taking some time to explore Ollantaytambo - its stone buildings are charmingly atmospheric and, most importantly, it is home to an incredible example of an Inca fortress. Towering above the town’s maze-like streets, the only way to the top is to climb the ancient stone staircase built into the hillside. At the summit, you can enjoy an incredible view across the Sacred Valley and explore the uncompleted Temple of the Sun. On the surrounding mountainsides, you will see the ruins of ancient storehouses. A close look will reveal a face carved into the rock - that of Viracocha, the Inca deity of creation. Although the climb is steep, it is possible to hike to the site and enjoy a stunning view over Ollantaytambo.
Watched over by the Vilcabamba Mountain range, Chinchero is a rustic town with an illustrious history. It is thought that Inca Tupac Yupanqui chose the area as his countryside escape, ordering the construction of many aqueducts and terraces. A beautiful adobe church now stands among the ruins, supposedly constructed over the ruins of Yupanqui’s palace. The church itself is stunning - boasting elaborately painted ceilings and offering an ideal viewpoint over the sprawling Inca walls below.
Alongside its ruins, Chinchero is also a handicraft hub. The town is home to a thriving weaving industry and local women happily offer demonstrations to passing visitors. They also sell alpaca wool products at a fraction of the price found elsewhere in the country so it’s an ideal place to buy traditional gifts.
Are you ready to experience the Sacred Valley for yourself? Contact our local Peruvian experts or browse our destination pages for more information. Alternatively, you can give us a call in office on 0117 325 7898.
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