Cusco is one of the most visited cities not only in Peru but in all of South America. Apart from the rainbow mountains, the Humantay Lake and the famous Machu Picchu, Cusco’s Sacred Valley is another must-visit destination.
What most of our travelers love about our tour is that you will get to know many different sites in a rather short period of time.
Review by our traveler Hannah Schoen (23.03.2019)
In just one day, you will explore and learn more about a local textile center in Chinchero, Moray, the salt mines of Maras and Ollantaytambo. Apart from that this tour is the perfect fit for you when you have just arrived in Cusco. As it will help you, to get acclimated in order to avoid the altitude sickness.
Why? Because Cusco’s elevation is 11,154 ft. (3400 m) whereas the Sacred Valley is around 1,640 ft (500 m) lower.
In this post, we focus on the different sites of our Sacred Valley day tour and on everything you need to know about it.
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If you’d rather watch a video that contains all the sites you visit in our tour, we recommend our Sacred Valley tour video.
What is the Sacred Valley?
The famous Sacred Valley is a beautiful natural valley that is over 60 km (37,2 miles) long and runs from Pisac (close to Cusco) up to Ollantaytambo. It was not only the center of the ancient Inca civilization, but it was also a special place for the Incas due to its fertile land, the appropriate climate and the diverse natural resources.
Apart from that, the strategic position allowed the Incas to spot enemies from far away.
The ancient terraces in Moray and it’s incredible history behind it.
Nowadays, many of the communities in the Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley in Spanish) still live up to ancient traditions, such as spiritual ceremonies, traditional dresses and the language (Quechua) which is connected to Pacha Mama (Mother earth) in all aspects of everyday life.
It offers a lot of different options to visit ancient ruins, to do short hikes or just to relax for a while in a stress-free environment.
Now that you know the importance of this place, let’s check out what our tour of the Sacred Valley looks like.
What Sites Will You Visit During Our Sacred Valley Tour?
At around 06:45 am, we will pick you up from your hotel in Cusco. Together with 2-8 other travelers (group tour), you will head towards the different sites of the Sacred Valley.
You will be back at your hotel in Cusco at around 06:00 pm or we can also drop you off at the Ollantaytambo train station so you can take the train to Aguas Calientes in the afternoon or at night.
During the day tour, you will visit a local textile center in Chinchero, the archaeological terraces of Moray, the salt mines of Maras and the Ollantaytambo ruins. You need the Cusco tourist ticket (S/ 70 per person) to visit the sites mentioned and also the entrance ticket for the Maras salt mines (S/ 10). Let’s take a closer look at each one.
The first stop of our Sacred Valley tour will be a local textile center in Chinchero. Apart from seeing alpacas and llamas, you will learn more about how the typical clothes are produced and how the colors are made out of natural ingredients.
Our travelers learning more about the traditional clothes from one of the local community members.
The next unique place that we visit is the fantastic agricultural terraces of Moray. The terraces are not just amazing to look at, but the actual usage of the terraces is even more astonishing.
The Incas were highly sophisticated agricultural engineers and they constructed each circle on a different elevation. Therefore, the temperature varies the lower you go (up to 15°C) between the top parts and the bottom parts of the terraces.
This allowed the Incas to plant different crops on each level and to test various plants on each elevation and see what grows best.
The perfectly shaped circles at Moray are astonishing.
As you can see, Moray is more than just an old Incan ruin – it’s a marvel of the ancient science and technology. However, it helped the Incas develop a sustainable food production across the different landscapes and climates in the Andean mountains.
Salt Mines of Maras
Another highlight is the salt mines of Maras, the next stop during our Sacred Valley tour. The salt evaporation ponds in Maras (Maras is the name of the city) have been in use since pre-Inca times by evaporating salt water from a water stream under the earth. This process has been performed over 500 years. At Maras, there are over 4000 salt ponds.
Our traveler at the Maras salt mines.
At the end of the guided tour you can buy different kinds of salts, which are great for cooking. As mentioned above, the entrance fee to visit the Maras salt mines is S/ 10 ($3).
Lunch at Tunupa
Of course you have to fuel up your batteries during a day full of amazing sites. That’s why we will stop for a delicious lunch buffet at Tunupa, a colonial styled hacienda with a beautiful garden in the heart of the Sacred Valley. Once we’re done, we will continue our journey to the last destination of your day – Ollantaytambo.
The lunch buffet at Tunupa includes a large variety of appetizers, main dishes and deserts.
The last place to be visited during the Sacred Valley day tour are the Ollantaytambo ruins. The famous Inca emperor Pachacutec conquered Ollantaytambo around the mid-15th century.
The town Ollantaytambo as well as the nearby region were his personal estate. After his conquest, the emperor rebuilt the town and undertook extensive works of terracing and irrigation in the Urubamba Valley. Therefore, the terraces were farmed.
Ollantaytambo is one of the best preserved Inca towns in Peru. Many of the sites you will see there were built in the Inca time and are a combination out of stone and adobe (a kind of mud with straw bricks).
View of the Ollantaytambo ruins
Be prepared for more Inca terraces which are wrapped around the hillsides. Also, you will learn more about the hydro-engineering that distributes the water from one river across different paths. This method provides the locals with clean drinking water.
Ollantaytambo is the last city before heading to Aguas Calientes in order to see the famous Machu Picchu. With our Sacred Valley tour, you can decide whether you want to stay in Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Aguas Calientes in the afternoon/at night or whether you want to return to Cusco with your guide.
Recommendations for the Sacred Valley Tour:
- Bring the following things with you: a large bottle of water, sunscreen and sunglasses, some snacks, a rain cape and adequate clothes according to the weather.
- Do not forget your camera for taking memorable pictures.
- Make sure to take cash with you, so you can pay the entrance to Maras (S/ 10) and the Cusco tourist ticket (S/ 70).
- Apart from the entrance tickets, it’s also useful in case you would like to buy souvenirs at one of the sites.
Peruvians have been living in Ollantaytambo since the 13th century.
What Is the Best Time to Visit Cusco’s Sacred Valley?
Generally, you can visit the Sacred Valley the entire year as all of the sites are open to the public year round.
However, consider that the rain season in Cusco lasts from November to March.
Therefore, the best time to visit these amazing places is from April – October.
What Differentiates Our Sacred Valley Tour?
- No large groups! If you choose our group tour there will be just 2-8 other travelers (group tour). If you prefer a more private option, you can also choose our private tour (just for you and the people traveling with you).
- You will visit traditional textile center, Moray, Maras and Ollantaytambo, whereas many others only include 3 sites.
- You will spend around 1 hour at each site, without having a guide that rushes you from one site to the next one. Many other companies stay only 30 minutes at the sites and move on pretty quickly.
- We offer you the option to take the train to Aguas Calientes at the end of the tour instead of having to drive back to Cusco. This way you can spend the night in Aguas Calientes and be one of the first ones visiting Machu Picchu on the next day.
The salt mines of Maras captured with the drone.
Get To Know the Sacred Valley!
The Sacred Valley tour in Cusco is one of the most interesting and diverse tours you can do in Peru.
Visiting the traditional textile center, Moray, the salt mines of Maras and Ollantaytambo is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the history of the ancient Incas and to discover the beautiful Andean landscape close to Cusco.