If you’re interested in traveling to Peru, no doubt seeing Machu Picchu features prominently on your list of priorities. I highly recommend combining your visit to Machu Picchu with a Sacred Valley of the Incas tour. While Machu Picchu is undeniably breathtaking, it connects you to the past, not the present. Touring the valley, on the other hand, will immerse you in the living culture of the Andean highlands.
What is the Sacred Valley of the Incas?
Also known as the Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas stretches about 62 miles along the Urubamba River. This river played a key role in the Inca’s religion and their daily life. They considered the river the earthly counterpart of the Milky Way, and its waters supported fertile farmlands and fields that extended up the mountainsides in terraces. Great Inca estates, temples and palaces sprung up here as a result.
Today life continues in the Sacred Valley of the Incas much as it did in the days when the entire area was the personal property of the Inca Emperor.
The valley is dotted with traditional villages where residents speak Quechua and produce crops like grains, avocados, and peaches using traditional tools and methods. A tour of the valley is as much about observing this traditional way of life as it is about enjoying the spectacular scenery and visiting some of the finest Inca ruins in the Americas.
3 Must-Do Activities
Visit Pisac Market: The ancient Inca considered market days an important ritual event, and today villagers continue to celebrate bustling, exciting market days where people from the countryside come to sell their wares.
Visit Pisac Market on Sunday for the full experience and you can shop for top quality llama and alpaca wool textiles as well as fresh produce straight from the fields. If you have time, you can climb the steep hillside behind the town of Pisac and visit some awesome ruins.
See Ruins: You’ll find amazing Inca ruins just about everywhere you look in the Sacred Valley. My favorite is Moray. Here you will find three huge amphitheater-like pits that have been sculpted with concentric rings of terraces all the way down.
Descend to the bottom of one and you may feel the temperature drop by up to 20 degrees. Some experts believe the Incas engineered this temperature drop so they could grow different crops in the bottom fields. Truly a unique sight!
Experience the Via Ferrata: With all this beautify scenery around you, you may feel yourself wanting to get out of town and explore! The Sacred Valley Via Ferrata lets you do this.
Basically you get to climb a 300 meter rock face using iron ladders and rock climbing gear for safety. Then you fly down a zip line for an exhilarating new perspective on the Sacred Valley. Older kids (or adults!) who might be getting tired of archeological sites will love this zip lining in Cuzco activity.
Tips for Travelers
When to Go: The high season for travel in the Sacred Valley runs from June through early September. Expect big crowds and higher prices during this time.
Traveling between November and March exposes you to the rainy season. October just might be the sweet spot for seeing the Sacred Valley in good weather without the crowds.
How to Tour: Tons of companies offer a Sacred Valley of the Incas tour. I don’t recommend doing one of the single day whirlwind bus tours because you won’t have time to really experience everything. Instead, look for multi-day tours, or even put together your own tour using the buses between the different villages in the valley.
You may want to take at least one guided tour of some site in order to get the perspective of a local Quechua guide and hear stories and legends about the area.
Sometimes travelers confuse the Sacred Valley of the Incas with Machu Pichu, they are different. if you want to learn more about the The Lost City of The Incas make sure you read our article on Machu Pichu.