What to See and Do in Peru’s Sacred Valley

by Katie Kelly Bell

What to See and Do in Peru’s Sacred Valley

by Katie Kelly Bell

Peru’s Sacred Valley is a vital stretch of alpine countryside that connects the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu to the bustling city of Cusco. Here, visitors can explore a range of archaeological ruins, including the largest known Incan cemetery and a historic sundial, as well as local markets and ancient salt pools. Here are eight must-see experiences to add to your Peru bucket list. Note: Before you go, consider booking a private guide or tour company such as Kuoda Travel (a locally owned tour operator), as many sites require a guide to gain access.

Peru’s Sacred Valley is a vital stretch of alpine countryside that connects the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu to the bustling city of Cusco. Here, visitors can explore a range of archaeological ruins, including the largest known Incan cemetery and a historic sundial, as well as local markets and ancient salt pools. Here are eight must-see experiences to add to your Peru bucket list. Note: Before you go, consider booking a private guide or tour company such as Kuoda Travel (a locally owned tour operator), as many sites require a guide to gain access.

8
Ollantaytambo village / DC_Colombia/iStock
Textile workers in Chinchero
1 of 8
Chinchero

This quaint town is best known for its traditional weavers. Textile dyeing and weaving demonstrations are offered daily and locals will guide you through their techniques and explain how they achieve their signature vivid colors. Other local attractions include a 17th-century era church, as well as a lively Sunday market. 

Read More: Hiking the Inca Trail on a Budget

This quaint town is best known for its traditional weavers. Textile dyeing and weaving demonstrations are offered daily and locals will guide you through their techniques and explain how they achieve their signature vivid colors. Other local attractions include a 17th-century era church, as well as a lively Sunday market. 

Read More: Hiking the Inca Trail on a Budget

Pisac Ruins
2 of 8
Pisac

Don't leave Pisac without visiting the nearby ruins, which serve as a vivid reminder of Incan architectural splendor. The Pisac Ruins contain the largest known Incan cemetery as well as crop terraces, ceremonial baths, and an ancient sundial. Although the ruins are just as impressive as Machu Picchu, they're far less frequented. Additionally, the town's lively Sunday market takes place at the Plaza de Armas and features ample crafts and souvenirs. (Tip: To avoid the crowds, consider visiting on a Tuesday or Thursday, when the market also takes place.) 

Don't leave Pisac without visiting the nearby ruins, which serve as a vivid reminder of Incan architectural splendor. The Pisac Ruins contain the largest known Incan cemetery as well as crop terraces, ceremonial baths, and an ancient sundial. Although the ruins are just as impressive as Machu Picchu, they're far less frequented. Additionally, the town's lively Sunday market takes place at the Plaza de Armas and features ample crafts and souvenirs. (Tip: To avoid the crowds, consider visiting on a Tuesday or Thursday, when the market also takes place.) 

Ruins in Ollantaytambo
3 of 8
Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is where the bus meets the train for Machu Picchu, so, while most tourists stop here, they don’t stay for long. However, this sleepy Andean village — where the Spaniards were defeated centuries ago — merits much more than a 15-minute glance. A visit here offers the opportunity to step back in time as you wander the ancient streets, which are lined with original Incan homes and irrigation canals. The town also features its own terraced fortress, and, at the base, you’ll find a lovely open-air market. 

 

Ollantaytambo is where the bus meets the train for Machu Picchu, so, while most tourists stop here, they don’t stay for long. However, this sleepy Andean village — where the Spaniards were defeated centuries ago — merits much more than a 15-minute glance. A visit here offers the opportunity to step back in time as you wander the ancient streets, which are lined with original Incan homes and irrigation canals. The town also features its own terraced fortress, and, at the base, you’ll find a lovely open-air market.  

Maras Salt Flats
4 of 8
Maras Salt Flats

These shimmering salt ponds are tucked into the lush Andean mountain greenery and offer incredible scenery. For centuries, locals have harvested salt here by creating small pools that fill with spring water. The water is left to evaporate and the salt is then harvested by hand. We recommend hiring a private guide, as some of the access has recently been restricted. 

These shimmering salt ponds are tucked into the lush Andean mountain greenery and offer incredible scenery. For centuries, locals have harvested salt here by creating small pools that fill with spring water. The water is left to evaporate and the salt is then harvested by hand. We recommend hiring a private guide, as some of the access has recently been restricted. 

Ruins of Moray
5 of 8
Ruins of Moray

Most archeologists believe these ruins once served as an Incan research site, which was used to determine the effect of altitude on certain crops. After wandering the terraces, make the short walk over to Mil Centro. The restaurant, which offers stunning views of the Moray Ruins, is the brainchild of chef Virgilio Martinez (whose Lima restaurant is considered one of the world's best). The menu here highlights locally sourced ingredients, and all dishes are prepared using ancient techniques.

Most archeologists believe these ruins once served as an Incan research site, which was used to determine the effect of altitude on certain crops. After wandering the terraces, make the short walk over to Mil Centro. The restaurant, which offers stunning views of the Moray Ruins, is the brainchild of chef Virgilio Martinez (whose Lima restaurant is considered one of the world's best). The menu here highlights locally sourced ingredients, and all dishes are prepared using ancient techniques.

Wiñay Wayna
6 of 8
Wiñay Wayna

Often referred to as Machu Picchu’s sister site, Wiñay Wayna is filled with its own collection of hidden treasures — sans the crowds. Here, amidst waterfalls and orchids, you’ll find the terraced remains of ancient baths. The best way to get here is to take the train to the zone of Chachabamba or the Km 104 stop. Note that you will need a licensed guide to access the area. 

Read More: A Value-Packed Machu Picchu Itinerary

Often referred to as Machu Picchu’s sister site, Wiñay Wayna is filled with its own collection of hidden treasures — sans the crowds. Here, amidst waterfalls and orchids, you’ll find the terraced remains of ancient baths. The best way to get here is to take the train to the zone of Chachabamba or the Km 104 stop. Note that you will need a licensed guide to access the area. 

Read More: A Value-Packed Machu Picchu Itinerary

Hiking trail in Cusco
7 of 8
Huchuy Qosqo

Huchuy Qosqo is believed to be an ancient Incan retreat. To get here, you need to hike from Chincero (about six hours). Alternatively, there is a two-day version of the hike, which departs from Cusco. The two hikes offer incredible views, stunning scenery, and few crowds. Kuoda Travel offers guides for both options. Learn more here.

Huchuy Qosqo is believed to be an ancient Incan retreat. To get here, you need to hike from Chincero (about six hours). Alternatively, there is a two-day version of the hike, which departs from Cusco. The two hikes offer incredible views, stunning scenery, and few crowds. Kuoda Travel offers guides for both options. Learn more here.

Sacsayhuaman
8 of 8
Sacsayhuaman

These ruins are located just outside of Cusco and are a stunning example of Incan engineering — complete with massive stone walls so tightly fitted (without the use of any mortar, nonetheless) that even a piece of paper cannot get between them. The site once served as a fortress, which was used to store munitions and house warriors. It was also home to sacred temples, and many ritual ceremonies took place here. 

These ruins are located just outside of Cusco and are a stunning example of Incan engineering — complete with massive stone walls so tightly fitted (without the use of any mortar, nonetheless) that even a piece of paper cannot get between them. The site once served as a fortress, which was used to store munitions and house warriors. It was also home to sacred temples, and many ritual ceremonies took place here. 

Up next...

How to Experience Paris Like a Local

Montmartre, Paris
Go Back
Find The Best Cruises
Find a cruise

Find the best deals!

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices

Click on multiple sites to get the lowest prices