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A Guide to Sacred Valley: Best Things to Do and See

The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a breathtaking tapestry of history, culture, and natural beauty that has captivated travelers from around the globe for centuries. Home to some of the most iconic sites of the Inca civilization, this enchanting valley is an absolute must-visit for those who wish to truly experience the magic of Peru. 

In this comprehensive guide to the Sacred Valley, we will take you on a captivating journey through its most remarkable attractions, hidden gems, and unforgettable experiences. From the awe-inspiring ruins of Machu Picchu to the colorful markets of Pisac, prepare to be enchanted by the myriad wonders that this extraordinary destination has to offer. So lace up your hiking boots and grab your camera, as we embark on an unforgettable adventure through the heart of the Andean world.

Unearthing history: Exploring the majestic Inca ruins

The Sacred Valley is a treasure trove of Inca history, dotted with remarkable ruins. One cannot miss the world-renowned Machu Picchu, the citadel perched atop a mountain ridge. This ancient site, rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham, never fails to astonish visitors.

Another must-see is Ollantaytambo, an impressive Inca fortress and town. The terraced slopes here offer a glimpse into the architectural prowess of the Incas. Climbing to the top rewards you with panoramic views of the valley. Ollantaytambo is often visited together with Pisac. Pisac is a picturesque village which boasts another set of fascinating ruins. The site is divided into four main areas: Pisaqa, Intihuatana, Q’allaqasa, and Kinchiracay. Each section has its unique charm and showcases the Inca’s incredible engineering skills.

Additionally, Moray, an archaeological marvel, features circular terraces descending into the earth. Believed to be an Inca agricultural laboratory, it’s a testament to their innovative agricultural practices. The temperature difference between the top and bottom can be up to 15°C. Tours to Moray often include a visit to the Maras Salt Mines. These mines, although not ruins, are an essential part of Inca history. Thousands of salt ponds cascade down the mountainside. Harvesting salt here dates back to pre-Inca times, and it continues today.

Chinchero, a quaint town in the Sacred Valley, is home to Inca terraces and a colonial-era church. The fusion of Inca and Spanish architecture makes it a captivating destination. The vibrant weekly market is an added attraction to this lovely town.

Each of these historical sites offers a chance to delve into the fascinating world of the Inca civilization. Exploring these majestic ruins will undoubtedly enrich your journey through the Sacred Valley. However, remember to respect and preserve these valuable remnants of history for future generations.

Embracing the local culture of the Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley is a cultural haven, with vibrant markets, art, and traditions. These aspects provide a window into the lives of local communities. Visiting these places enriches your travel experience.

Pisac Market is a must-visit. Local artisans showcase their crafts, from colorful textiles to intricate silver jewelry. It’s a perfect place to pick up souvenirs. Even though this market is held every day, the best day to visit it is on Sunday, when local artisans showcase their best works.

Another popular spot is the Chinchero Market, held on Sundays. It’s smaller than Pisac but offers a more authentic experience. You’ll find locals trading produce, handicrafts, and traditional clothing. Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to learn about traditional Andean weaving. Several weaving cooperatives, like the CTTC (Center of Traditional Textiles of Cusco) in Chinchero, showcase time-honored techniques. By visiting these places, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the intricate Andean textiles.

Urubamba, the valley’s largest town, hosts a market every day. It’s a bustling affair, with stalls selling produce, street food, and textiles. The energetic atmosphere is captivating. Additionally, pottery is another ancient art form thriving in the Sacred Valley. While exploring Urubamba, you can find workshops where artisans create beautiful ceramic pieces. Watching them work is a fascinating experience.

In addition to arts and markets, local festivals provide insight into the region’s rich traditions. The Inti Raymi, or Festival of the Sun, takes place in June. It’s a colorful celebration of Inca heritage, with music, dance, and elaborate costumes. Also, June holds a special place in the Peruvian calendar. This month is dedicated to the “Fiestas Jubilares del Cusco”, which celebrates the rich history and traditions of Cusco city.

Nature’s splendor: Scenic treks and outdoor adventures

The Sacred Valley’s stunning landscapes offer countless opportunities for outdoor adventures. Hiking and trekking are among the most popular activities, revealing the region’s breathtaking beauty.

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the most famous trek. Spanning four days, it combines history, culture, and nature. You’ll pass through cloud forests, Inca ruins, and Andean mountain passes. This trail also has a 2 days version called the Short Inca Trail. This shorter path is perfect for those who don’t have enough time to trek the whole route to Machu Picchu. 

Another popular trekking option is the Salkantay Trek. This five-day journey takes you through diverse landscapes, from snowy peaks to lush rainforests. The dramatic scenery is truly awe-inspiring. For a less crowded alternative, consider the Lares Trek. This three- to four-day hike passes through traditional Andean villages. It offers a unique glimpse into local life and remote landscapes.

The Ancascocha Trek is perfect for those seeking solitude. This four- to five-day journey traverses remote valleys and high mountain passes. The views of snow-capped peaks are unforgettable. If you prefer shorter hikes, the Pisac ruins offer a half-day trek. The path leads to the archaeological site and provides stunning vistas of the valley below. It’s an excellent choice for a day trip.

For outdoor enthusiasts, mountain biking is another exhilarating option. The Maras-Moray route offers a thrilling downhill ride. You’ll pass through picturesque farmland and visit the Maras Salt Mines. Additionally, for adrenaline seekers, rafting on the Urubamba River is a must. The river’s rapids range from class II to IV. Rafting is a great way to experience the valley’s stunning scenery.

No matter your adventure preference, the Sacred Valley has something for everyone. Its unparalleled beauty and varied landscapes make it an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. 

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