Things to do in the Sacred Valley Cusco
Visit the ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo
Two of the main sites in the Sacred Valley and also one of the most popular when doing a Sacred Valley tour are the ruins of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Both were initially outposts to protect the Sacred Valley, the main agricultural resource for the Cusco region from intruders. Later on both sites were developed into more important sites, with parts dedicated to worshiping the sun and being places were the important Inca lived. Especially Ollantaytambo, which never got finished, holds signs of being a very important site for religious and other purposes. Both sites are located on impressive sites, located on high mountains and towering above the towns that hold the names of these ruins.
Visit Maras & Moray
Sites less visited during the normal Sacred Valley tour but definitely worth the visit are the site of Maras and Moray. Moray is small farmer’s village located on the plain between Cusco and the Sacred Valley. The town Moray itself, apart from being a good example of a typical highlands farmer village, does not really hold anything special. Nevertheless close to Moray one can find an amazing Inca site. The agricultural circles of Moray; these are three large circles in a geographic depression built to create different levels of altitude. The three circles all hold about five rings, all with about a meter of altitude difference. In this way the Inca created a micro climate with the lower rings providing temperatures of at some times 15° Celsius higher than the highest ring. Apart from the different altitude, the Inca also found out that they can “manipulate” crops by cultivating them one year on the lowest ring and very year rise one ring until the crop would be resistant to the climate on altitude.
Maras is located at about 5Km from Moray and is known for its salt fields. A small river with a very high level of sodium flows through this valley. The Inca dug out some small ponds holding this salt water and drying the ponds gave them large quantities of salt. Up to the day of today these fields are being used and most farmers hold about 4 or 5 ponds all producing around 200Kg of salt a month.
Visit the Pisac Market
Another of the highlights for many people when doing a Sacred Valley tour is visiting the market of Pisac. This market, one of the oldest in the Peruvian highlands, stems from the time of the Inca when people from different regions came to Pisac to trade and exchange products. Besides this mainly agricultural market, Pisac due to the fact that people here posses great weaving skills, became an important artisanal market for clothing, pottery, jewelry and Peruvian souvenirs. The official market days are on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. These are the days that the market receives most campesinos (farmers) selling their products. Nevertheless, nowadays the artisanal market has maybe become even more important than the agricultural market and therefore the market actually takes place every day. Note that when taking a Sacred Valley tour that the shared tour only operates on the market days.
Enjoy the great hotels and Spa’s in the Valley
Being such an important tourist destination in Peru, it is no more than logical that the Sacred Valley also holds its number of great hotels and Spa’s. Hotels like the Aranwa, The Casa Andina Private Collection and the Rio Sagrado easily rank among the best hotels in the country and all of these provide Spa’s and complete luxury. One of the ways to enjoy a stay in one of these hotels is on the way to or from Machu Picchu. As most trains nowadays leave from station in the Sacred Valley (mainly Ollantaytambo Station), it is pleasant to combine the Sacred Valley tour with an overnight stay in one of these hotels and let yourself being pampered in complete luxury and tranquility. The next day we will pick you up from your hotel (you also save some hours of sleep this way) and drive you to the train station to catch your train to Machu Picchu. This can also be done on the way back for people who want to relax for a couple of days in a beautiful environment. Another way to incorporate a stay in one of these hotels in your Cusco stay is to arrive in Cusco and directly continue to the Sacred Valley and spend the rest of the day in the Valley in one of these hotels. Besides giving you the time to start feeling “on holiday” and relax with the facilities of these hotels, this also gives you the chance to acclimatize to the altitude more gradually than staying immediately in Cusco.