Sacred Valley of Peru. From the city of Cuzco you can do many day trips, but perhaps the most famous of them all ends in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, specifically in the town of Ollantaytambo, 68km from the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. Therefore, it is not only a recommendation but almost an obligation to go through these places before visiting what is possibly the star of your trip,Macchu Picchu.
Chinchero - Peru
The Sacred Valley of Peru
We had not even 24 hours in Peru and we had already planned an excursion outside the city of Cuzco, specifically a visit to sacred Valley of the Incas on the banks of the Urubamba River. We manage it with the Peruvian agency Peru Tierra Inka, and it was a success. Professionalism and quality are its reference stamps, although the best of all is its price. With this we get a collaboration to get the best discounts on trips to Peru to all our readers. You just have to go to the Practical Data section and take advantage of it. I am convinced that it will not disappoint you.
The visit ending in the Sacred Valley consisted of 5 different places among which are Moray, Chinchero and Ollantaytambo. 3 zones with Inca past that we should not miss.
The alarm rang very early, it was 6 in the morning, but the strong jetlag we suffered helped it not cost too much. A van picked us up at 07:00 towards our first stop, a Textile Cooperative run by locals in order to show how they make all their clothes by hand.
Just 1h it took us to get to this place and just at its entrance we already saw 2 of those animals that will accompany us on our trip. One of them rather we will see in menu cards, since it eats ... the famous Cuy and the other in people's clothes, the Alpaca and his acclaimed wool. Most of the garments come out of this last animal and depending on the cut of its wool, the garment will have very varied prices.
Textile Craft Cooperative
If the Alpaca is of the first pruning, the fabric is much softer and it is difficult for the cumbersome balls to form, so it is much more expensive. A scarf Baby alpaca (First cut), it will start from 50/60 soles. You can easily find other cuts for 10/15 soles.
From the place we were mainly surprised at the way to get different colors in the tissues through different plants and seeds.
Chinchero and the Tupac Yupanqui Palace (3800m)
Chinchero It was our first big stop. After getting off the minibus and presenting theTourist Ticket, we walk through the cobbled streets of the town, until we reach a large square where on Sundays it houses one of the few traditional markets left in this part of Peru. Barter still works here, unlike the tourist market of Pisac, that although it is true, it is open every day to the hunt of the tourist.
Tupac Yupanqui Palace
In the square we will see something out of the ordinary. A church where its bell tower is completely separated from it. Your name, Church of Our Lady of Montserrat. Inside, where you can not take pictures, we can see numerous images of saints of Spanish origin such as San Isidro himself.
Leaving this and turning right we find the pearl of Chinchero, the Tupac Yupanqui Palace. This palace was destroyed several times in different battles but it clashes that it was built in a place where it could hardly be cultivated. The reason ... to be closer to the gods.
Finally the palace was burned at the news that warned of the arrival of the Spaniards. And why did they burn it? Cunningly the Incas knew that between Cuzco and Ollantaytambo, the Spaniards would stop here to take provisions. Without provisions, the arrival in this last city would be very complicated.
As we can imagine, this delayed the Spaniards but did not stop their eagerness to conquer.
Moray - The experiments performed by the Incas (3500m)
After touring a long dirt track we arrive at Moray. At first we were surprised to see absolutely nothing, just an empty parking lot and a small building where there were some bathrooms. The surprise was behind the fence ... quite a few meters below…
In a deep valley, the Incas had devised one of the strangest constructions he had seen. A succession of continuous circles dug in the earth and separated by deep steps.
Moray - Peru
As was logical, everything has its reason. The Incas used Moray as agricultural laboratory in order to experience different crops. But we weren't at 3500m altitude? What can grow at such a height? These logical questions have their answer. The depression is in a place where the wind barely runs, it feeds on groundwater and curiously never floods, since the land that sustains it is capable of absorbing torrential rains.
But all this is not enough to grow at this altitude. The key to all this is the steps ... Each step that we go down, the temperature rises almost 3 degrees Celsius, so there may be more than 10 degrees difference between the highest and lowest point. With this the Incas grew more than 150 types of corn and potatoes.
Moray - Peru
Of all the greenhouses in Moray, only one is restored and the rest are preserved as in the photograph above.
Las Salinas de Maras - Salt with a gourmet touch (3300m) at the top of the Sacred Valley
Returning from Moray along the same dirt track, we take a detour to the Salinas de Maras reaching these in just 30 minutes. Upon arrival we pay the entrance fee (7 soles) Since it is a private place and does not enter the tourist ticket, going through a series of tourist-oriented shops where its main product is salt extracted a few meters away.
Las Salinas de Maras is made up of more than 3000 cells, each one exploited by a family. The salt they extract can be of three types, normal, pink and used for animals. This salt is iodine free and is highly demanded by quality restaurants that want to give a special touch to their meals.
Salinas de Maras
We can travel it in freedom almost entirely, but the best views are in the viewpoint of the entrance and halfway. If you have time, I recommend that you go through one of the roads that cross the salt flats, as long as we do not disturb the people who are working.And how has all this formed? Well, the answer is not easy since there are many theories about it. One of them says that there is an underground ocean that remained within the mountain when the seas receded millions of years ago. Others say that it is a river of fresh water that crosses a salt mine…. Whether the conclusions are true or not, the reality is that there is a salt water stream that is born from the mountain.
Salinas de Maras
As expected the quintessential souvenir is Salt, with an average cost of 25 soles per kilo... much more expensive than usual. 2 weeks later we met her at a supermarket in Lime for 10 soles less.
We returned in the van, but the most daring you can go down to the sacred Valley in a short 20 minute drive.
Ollantaytambo - Sacred Valley (2800m)
We arrived at our last stop, Ollantaytambo which is also the last train stop before reaching Macchu Picchu. This town gives its name to the pre-Inca ruins that are located in the part of the city whose original name is unknown. Ollantaytambo as a name was chosen following a local legend. He tells that a general fell in love with a daughter of royalty, whose father was not at all happy with this relationship. Both lovers fled and took refuge here in Ollantaytambo. The general was called Ollanta and he was deceived by giving shelter and food to a captain who later betrayed him.
Therefore, with the name of the General ... Ollanta and the mistake he made, "give food and lodging, which in Quechua means"Tambo“, The name of the town was formed.
Despite being lower than the rest of the places we visited, it is the one that requires the most effort to visit. Climbing up its steep steps forces you to stop from time to time to take a breath of air. There are people who directly stay halfway, but if you fail to climb to the top, you will not see the large 6-ton stone blocks that make up the Sun Temple. How did these big stones climb if they didn't know the wheel? Well, with brute force. It is estimated that around 1000 slaves were needed to push these large blocks of rock down a steep slope.
Temple of the Sun - Ollantaytambo
After our visit to the sacred valley, we had two options. One of them is to return to Cuzco, they are only 2 hours away and the other was to take the first train to the destination. Aguas Calientes. In this way we can climb toMacchu Picchu the next day getting on the first buses and enjoy this wonder with many fewer visitors. To think that the first tourists that arrive at 09:00 from Cuzco and Machu Picchu open their doors at 06:00.
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Practical data on the sacred valley of Peru
When to go to the sacred valley?
Any time is good to visit the Sacred Valley of Peru, although the ideal is to do it in the dry season, which covers the months April until October. The rest of the months it may rain, but the landscapes are more beautiful and we will find them much greener.
As an interesting note for the salinas de maras, it is preferable to go in dry season, since the rest of the months the salt is not extracted and the place does not appear so white.
Excursion to the Sacred Valley of the Incas
On whether or not it is cold ..., the average temperature reached throughout the year is around 19 degrees and the lowest 0 degrees in the dry season and 6 degrees In the rainy season.
How to make this route?
The ideal is to hire a Tour, especially when you do not have too much time. The costs are nothing high and you will practically get better than if you do it for free. On your own, a route that you can take in a single day would take days and many of the places you visit are only for a couple of hours.
Where to stay in the sacred valley of Peru?
We have several options in different locations. We can start and finish in the same city of Cuzco or finish in Ollantaytambo or Aguas Calientes. The latter is very frequent to link directly with the pearl of Peru, Machu Picchu. As a general rule, the tours come with Hotel included, but if you decide to stop in this part and go on your own, the ideal is to sleep in Ollantaytambo since the hotels are cheaper than in Aguas Calientes.
Where to eat?
Our case was simple. We had been only 2 days in Peru and we were dying to taste the cuisine of the country. As of this we are not connoisseurs and the names of the dishes we barely knew, except the famous Ceviche, we opted for a buffet Which was the most successful. Its name is Hacienda Puka Punku in the Sacred Valley of Peru and is located at kilometer 72 of the Cuzco - Ollantaytambo road.
What to wear
This part of Peru is at an average altitude of 3300m above sea level. During the tour, we will reach the 3800m from Chinchero and we will go down to 2800m from Ollantaytambo, so if we do not come acclimatized from Cuzco, we will have to drink a lot of water and if possible take some ibuprofen or the famous pills Sorojchi Pills, although locals recommend chewing Coca leaves. These can be found only 1 sun (the bag) in any market.
Sunscreen, a cap and sunglasses is recommended and of course some coat as it can cool a lot, especially when the wind runs.