Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Cusco and the Sacred Valley are the more beautiful places in Peru. A visit to this city and sacred valley and its nearby ruins tumbles you back into the cosmic realm of ancient Andean culture – knocked down and fused with the colonial imprint of Spanish conquest, only to be repackaged as a thriving tourist center. The capital of Cuzco is only the gateway. Beyond lies the Sacred Valley, Andean countryside dotted with villages, high-altitude hamlets and ruins linked by trail and railway tracks to the continent’s biggest draw – Machu Picchu.
Cusco – the capital of the Inca Empire and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A half-day guided tour of the city and nearby ruins is the best way to orient yourself.
Visits in the city should include: Plaza de Armas, Cathedral, Santo Domingo Church, Coricancha, the San Pedro Market, the San Blas neighborhood, the Cacao and Chocolate Museum.
On the outskirts of Cusco:
- Sacsayhuaman – an Inca citadel located on a hill overlooking Cusco.
- Puka-Pukara – ruins of an Inca military fortress located about 4 miles from Cusco.
- Qenqo – archaeological complex and one of the largest huacas in the region.
- Tambomachay – archaeological site located across the highway from Puka Pukara
Urubamba, the main city in the Sacred Valley, is about 60-90 minutes by car from Cusco.
To avoid problems with the altitude it is a good idea to stay first in Urubamba, around 1,700 feet lower than Cusco. After spending a few nights here, then a night or two lower still in Aguas Calientes/Machu Picchu your body should be ready for Cusco.
From Cusco and Urubamba there is enough to keep you busy for days. Here are just a few of the possibilities:
- Pisac Ruins and Market – located 20 miles from Cuzco. The main colorful market days are Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, although there is a smaller market daily.
- Awana Kancha, an exhibition center of textiles and small camelid farm, is located just off the road between Cusco and Pisac and makes a nice stop. You can visit with all four species here – llama, vicuña, alpaca and guanaco.
- Ollantaytambo – a town and archaeological site located about 12 miles from Urubamba. In the general vicinity you can explore quarries, storehouses and agricultural terraces.
- Chinchero – a small village off the main road between Cusco and Urubamba. Chinchero is Peru’s weaving capital and home to the Interpretation Center of Andean Textiles. There is a colorful Sunday Market and nearby Inca ruins.
- Moray and Maras – rhe salt mines at Maras consists of 3000 small pools and salt water springs that emerge from the hillside and are channelled along canals using the natural gradient. Moray, agricultural terraces in the form of a circular amphitheatre 150 meters in diameter, was a center for agricultural experiments.
- Willoc (or Huilloc) – is a rural Quechua community and home to a group of families rich in human and cultural values. Most men earn their living as porters for the Inca Trail Trek and are known as “Huayruros”. Women, also strong and resourceful, are outstanding weavers known for producing the highest quality textiles in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
- Day hikes – Huchuy Qosqo, Cachicata, Rainbow Mountain, Qeswachaca, Palcoyo, Humantay Lake, Waqrapucara, Maras and Moray
- Mountain biking – Maras and Moray, Tipon to Piquillaqta
- Zipline and Via Ferrata
Here are menus of excursions we offer in Cusco and the Sacred Valley.