How many days do I need to see the Sacred Valley? What should I do or see in the Sacred Valley?
These are all great questions! A common mistake people make when traveling to Machu Picchu is cutting their trip too short, and rushing through the Sacred Valley on their way to Machu Picchu. Although not as well known as Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley has incredible hidden gems of its own, and often times ends up being our travelers’ most memorable and authentic part of their trip.
Your time in the Sacred Valley is what can really differentiate your trip and leave you with a sense of having truly connected with the Peruvian people and culture, so it is important to not rush through it! To us, it is what differentiates Knowmad travelers, really seeing and experiencing their surroundings, from tourists, stopping in and never really connecting to the country’s culture or people.
Here are just a few gems of the Sacred Valley in Peru that we recommend travelers see, and why we think it is not a destination to speed through on the rush to Machu Picchu.
Pisac ruins and market
Pisac is a traditional Peruvian town located along the Urubamba River. Nestled in the mountains above town lie the Pisac ruins. Hike along the high-mountain terraces and through the ruins before making your way down to Pisac to visit the vibrant, colorful Pisac market. One of the largest in Peru, this market is a shopper’s paradise full of hundreds of vendors selling their handcrafted clothing, jewelry, ceramics and much more.
Photos via Michael Stewart
Paired perfectly with the Pisac ruins and market, visiting an indigenous community is high on our list of must-dos in Peru. Not only do Knowmad visits to the Amaru Community help them improve their community’s education and healthcare system, but also they provide travelers with an authentic, off-the-beaten path experience. One of our favorite parts of travel is taking a step back and looking at our own way of life from a different perspective. Seeing the sustainable and ancient ways of life of the Amaru is really an eye opening and life-changing experience that we think every traveler should have.
Maras & Moray
The ancient, little known Moray Inca agricultural terraces and Maras salt mines are another great destination in the Sacred Valley. The Maras salt mines are where villages still harvest the pre-Colombian terrace saltpans in the traditional way and Moray is thought to be an ancient Incan agricultural laboratory. Hike, bike or horseback ride from Moray to Maras, going through the altiplano landscape with sweeping vistas to snowcapped peaks over 16,000 feet high, and a traditional colonial village.
Bonus destination: What about whitewater rafting through the Sacred Valley?
That is a great, and common request. However, it is actually best to raft the Urubamba on the southern and upper parts of the river, which are actually outside of the Sacred Valley. The water is cleaner here and the rapids are abundant, exciting and safe!
What is your favorite destination in the Sacred Valley? Is it on this list? If not, why do you think it should be? Let us know in the comments below!
Renee is a Trip Specialist at Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. She lived in Mexico for over 3 years and is excited to help Knowmad travelers discover the wonderful impact not just travel, but really experiencing a different country and culture can have on your life. Read Renee’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.