So, you’re on your way to Cusco and Machu Picchu and you’re wondering if there are enough things to do in Sacred Valley to warrant a visit?
Well, what you might not realise is that the Sacred Valley of the Incas is so much more than just the location of its most famous site, Machu Picchu.
In fact, this mystical and beautiful destination really does have everything you could want to complete your once-in-a-lifetime stay in Peru.
It’s got diverse Inca ruins and thrilling hiking, biking and rafting adventures.
There are also an array of luxurious hotels, colourful markets and sumptuous local foods.
And let’s not forget the many cultural activities on offer.
Yes, there is definitely no shortage of things to do in Sacred Valley.
So, if you are wondering how to spend a few days in this exciting destination, here’s our full guide of incredible things to do in Sacred Valley.
- • 8 Incredible things to do in Sacred Valley •
- 1. Visit enchanting towns
- 2. Explore historic ruins
- 3. Learn about the local culture
- 4. Active things to do in Peru’s Sacred Valley – Hiking and biking
- 5. Visit the sites on horseback
- 6. Go kayaking or white water rafting
- 7. Taste traditional local foods
- 8. Stay in a luxury hotel
- How to get to Sacred Valley from Cusco
- Things to do in Sacred Valley – Travel advice:
• 8 Incredible things to do in Sacred Valley •
1. Visit enchanting towns
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is home to some of Peru’s most charming rural villages, including Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
Pisac is famous for its stunning Inca ruins and huge indigenous market.
The market is held in the town’s main square on any day of the week, but is largest on Sundays.
Hence it is the perfect place to peruse local handmade goods and to buy souvenirs or gifts.
Ollantaytambo is slightly busier than Pisac, but equally as picturesque.
Located at the western end of the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo is actually a well preserved Inca village, with many of its streets, houses and canals dating back to the 15th century.
It is known for its narrow, cobblestone streets and also has a number of quality restaurants, markets and striking Inca ruins.
2. Explore historic ruins
Aside from Machu Picchu, there are dozens of other Inca ruins located throughout the Sacred Valley.
So get out there, explore the sites and learn some history.
The town of Pisac is home to some of the most spectacular ruins in the region, set high on a hilltop and offering postcard-pretty views of the Sacred Valley below.
Used for religious, military and agricultural purposes, these ruins feature stunning terraces which are still used today.
It is best to visit in the morning, when this archeological site is quiet.
Interestingly, the Ollantaytambo ruins are the location of one of the only battles in which the Incas successfully held off the Spanish conquistadors.
Therefore, the fortress served as the last Inca stronghold against the Spanish.
Predominantly located between mountains, its grandiose terraces can be seen from afar, making this one of the main features of Ollantaytambo town.
While in Ollantaytambo, you can also hike up to the Pinkuylluna ruins, which are etched into the hillside opposite the Ollantaytambo ruins.
These ruins, built i the 15th century, are known for their distinctive shape and are believed to be a site where the Incas once stored their locally-produced grain.
The Pumamarca ruins are another great option when visiting Ollantaytambo.
An old Inca fortress situated high on a ridgeline with sweeping views of the Sacred Valley, the Pumamarca ruins also serve as a great picnic location.
A 2-3 hour walk from Ollantaytambo through terraced countryside will take you up to this impressive fortress that attracts only a select few visitors.
When visiting the Sacred Valley, be sure not to miss a visit to the renowned crop circles of Moray.
These fascinating circular ruins, near the town of Urubamba, are believed to be the site of an ancient experiment in agriculture.
Because there is a significant temperature difference (25 degrees) between the top and bottom levels, researchers believe the Incas used the site to study which plants grew best at which temperatures.
You can also visit the little-known ruins of Ancasmarca, which are located about 35 minutes from the town of Calca.
These jaw-dropping circular ruins are the remains of ancient Inca storage houses.
Incredibly, you can see hundreds of them dotting the landscape at this remarkable site.
Each of these unique and beautiful ruins give visitors a greater insight into the power and complexity of the Incan Empire.
3. Learn about the local culture
In a region where modernity and tradition exist in equal measure, a wealth of cultural activities abound.
Visit the traditional community of Willoc
About 1.5 hours northeast of Ollantaytambo, you will find the captivating untouched village of Willoc.
Embracing ancient customs and lifestyles that are rarely seen in today’s world, a visit to Willoc is a journey into the past.
Hence, it is here that you can steal a unique glimpse into community life, as well as witness a traditional weaving demonstration.
Weaving is a task vigorously practised by the women of Wolloc, so you will be watching true masters at work as you witness this mesmerising ancient art form come to life.
Weaving demostration in Amaru village
For nearly 10,000 years, communities in Peru have been producing their unique textiles.
Therefore, it is common to see these colourful, distinctive wares in markets across the country.
However, if you’d like to take a closer look at how these quality textiles are made, then a visit to the Amaru village, near Pisac, will give you a rare isight.
In the Amaru village, carefully woven hats and ornate garments are made with skill and precision using centuries-old weaving traditions.
Learn how freshly-sheared wool is spun, dyed and woven using a wooden framework.
When it comes to textiles made in Amaru, production starts and ends within the community, so by buying a piece you are essentially helping to preserve a part of Peruvian history.
Read our personal experience of a weaving demonstration in the Sacred Valley here.
Pottery workshop in Urubamba
Held at the Seminario Ceramicas workshop in Urubamba and run by local couple Pablo and Marilú, these classes are great for anyone with an interest in art.
Also great for those simply seeking a creative outlet.
Pablo Seminario is an internationally-renowned artist known for developing the ‘Seminario Style’ of pottery, a unique fusion of modern and pre-Inca ceramic art unique to the Sacred Valley.
These classes are suitable for all ages and are therefore a great activity for the whole family to enjoy.
Seminario Ceramicas also hosts classes specifically for children.
Be sure to book in advance though, as these workshops are incredibly popular.
Pachamanca – The ultimate in Peruvian cooking
While not many tourists know about it, a pachamanca is one of the greatest cultural experiences one can have in Peru.
This unique culinary adventure involves the ancient Inca ritual of burying and baking locally-grown foods.
Taken from the Quechua words ‘pacha‘ meaning earth and ‘manka‘ meaning pot, it is essentially a Peruvian-style barbecue that takes hours to prepare.
Because they are rare and usually reserved for special occasions, pachamanca ceremonies are a delight to behold.
Click here to read our very own firsthand pachamanca experience.
4. Active things to do in Peru’s Sacred Valley – Hiking and biking
Get those legs working, breathe in the fresh air and admire the stunning surroundings when you head out hiking or biking in the Sacred Valley.
There are countless opportunities for trekking, whether you depart from Pisac, Urubamba or Ollantaytambo, along with trails for all ability levels.
Enjoy a one-day hiking or biking excursion to the fascinating Maras salt mines and the circular Inca terraces of Moray.
Or, if you’d like a more extensive journey, then you can take the three-day Cachicata trek to Ollantaytambo.
Beginning in the small town of Socma, this 30-kilometre (19 mile) adventure takes you past mountain passes, lagoons, Inca canals and ruins.
In conclusion, there are plethora of hiking or biking trips available from Cusco, Urubamba or Ollantaytambo.
Contact us if you would like us to organise one for you.
Still wondering if there are exciting things to do in Sacred Valley?
5. Visit the sites on horseback
A unique and tranquil way to explore the Sacred Valley is on horseback.
Therefore, why not take a full day horseback tour to the must-see sites of Maras and Moray?
Beginning your trail ride from the small community of Pichingoto, you will enjoy riding up to the visually pleasing landscape that is the Maras salt pools.
At the salt mines, you will learn about salt production, including how it is collected by hand once the water in the pools has evaporated.
These tours include bilingual guide and picnic lunch and are available for individuals or groups.
You can also take a horseback ride to the village of Chacan, where you can view corn, potato and barley fields before visiting a cave with a lovely inside and the Temple of Cusilluchayoc.
Horseback riding is also available through a number of Sacred Valley hotels, including Belmond Rio Sagrado and Sol y Luna.
Contact us at Pie Experiences if you would like us to organise a horseback tour for you.
6. Go kayaking or white water rafting
If you’re seeking a relaxing, scenic or romantic activity, then kayaking on Huaypo Lake offers an unforgettable experience.
Surrounded by snowy Andean mountains, this stunning blue lake offers some of the best views in the Sacred Valley.
So, sit back and enjoy the peace and tranqulity of this calm lake, which is also a quality birdwatching location, as it is home to a number of species.
If out on the water is where you want to be, then you might also wish to try a white water rafting tour on the Urubamba River.
An extremely popular rafting destination, the Urubamba River offers novice to class III rapids.
One and two day tours depart from Pisac, Urumbamba and Cusco.
7. Taste traditional local foods
No visit to Peru would be complete without tasting some of the traditional local fare.
And what better place to do this than the fertile landscape of the Sacred Valley wih its fresh, local organic produce?
During your visit, you simply can’t pass up an opportunity to dine on typical dishes like alpaca steak or roasted guinea pig (cuy), lomo saltado, ceviche, quinotto or tequeños.
Restaurants like El Huacatay and Hawa in Urubamba offer fine dining, while El Albergue in Ollantaytambo is the perfect setting for a romantic dinner for two.
If you’re lucky, your culinary journey might even include a Pachamanca – the ultimate Peruvian cooking experience.
Learn about giant corn at Hacienda Sarampampa
The Sacred Valley is also home to Peru’s famous giant white corn, a variety that is not grown anywhere else in the world.
Derived from the Quechua word meaning ‘cornfield’, Sarampampa is a family-owned hacienda that has been producing corn for three generations.
The owners say they have proudly kept the traditions associated with corn farming alive.
As a result, they are keen to share their corn production practices with guests.
The hacienda not only offers corn farming tours, but you can also enjoy a tasty home-cooked lunch, right from farm to plate.
Incredible things to do in Sacred Valley – Continued
8. Stay in a luxury hotel
While there are many incredible things to do in Sacred Valley, you will also discover a number of elegant hotels.
So, if you are seeking a little luxury to complement the nature and splendour of the region, then you will certainly find it in these lavish hotels.
Things to do in Sacred Valley – The best luxury hotels
Tambo del Inka Libertador
Tambo del Inka Libertador boasts fine dining, a spa and fitness centre, a lovely emerald lagoon and riverside gardens.
It is also the only hotel in Urubamba with a private train station to Machu Picchu,
Belmond Rio Sagrado
Belmond Rio Sagrado is an elegant retreat set in lush gardens beside the Urubamba River.
Some of its features include riverside yoga, heated pool, Andean-style spa, rafting and horseback riding.
Sol y Luna
Sol y Luna in Urubamba accommodates guests in cozy ‘casita’ houses made of local stone that have delightful garden and Andean views.
It also features a swimming pool, spa treatments and activities include paragliding, horseback riding, kayaking and cycling.
Aranwa Sacred Valley
Built on the grounds of a 17th century hacienda, Aranwa Sacred Valley is a contemporary hotel featuring 74 deluxe rooms.
Each suite overlooks the gardens, inland lakes or colonial mansion.
Furthermore, the hotel has an onsite museum, art gallery, spa, swimming pool, gourmet restaurant and pisco bar.
Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba
Inkaterra Hacienda is a contemporary hotel featuring 12 rooms and 24 stand-alone luxury casitas with breathtaking views of the Sacred Valley.
Suites have been inspired by the local cultural history and therefore include colonial furniture, authentic Inca masks and handcrafted woodwork.
In addition, a creative ‘earth to table’ concept encourages guests to pick their own produce from the organic plantation.
How to get to Sacred Valley from Cusco
Alright, so now you are aware of all the spectacular things to do in Sacred Valley.
And your next question must be, how do I get there?
First of all, it is very easy to get to Sacred Valley from the city of Cusco, in southern Peru.
You take a taxi from the city centre to Calle Puputi.
From there, you can get a collective minivan to Pisac, which takes about 40 minutes and costs a few dollars.
However, the very best way to experience Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu is through a pre-organised tour.
Visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu? View our range of tours here.
- Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu
- Classic Inca Trail
- Luxury Salkantay Trek
- Inca Jungle Trail
- Luxury Ausangate Trek to Machu Picchu
- Machu Picchu & Sacred Valley Immersion Tour
- Complete Peru Culture Tour
Fancy creating your own dream itinerary? Simply tell us your interests and our experts will do the rest! More details here.
Things to do in Sacred Valley – Travel advice:
Whether you are exploring Cusco, marvelling at Machu Picchu or deciding on what things to do in Sacred Valley, there are a few issues you should first be aware of.
Altitude: Altitude sickness is very real and can be fatal. So, make sure you spend at least a few days acclimatising in Cusco before tackling Machu Picchu.
Passport: Take your passport to Machu Picchu because you will need it to get in.
Boleto turistico: Most of the larger Inca ruins require the purchase of a boleto turistico (tourist ticket) to enter. One ticket allows you to visit several sites and can be bought at the COSITUC office in Cusco or at the ruins themselves.