The Real Sacred Valley: Cultural Peru Hike

During a trip to the Sacred Valley of Peru, I had the chance to participate in an unforgettable day hiking through remote mountains, visiting little-known ruins, and eating lunch with the friendliest community imaginable. The experience gave me insight into the real Sacred Valley, something most tourists long to see but never get the chance to. Aracari offers the experience as a full-day cultural Peru hike, and can be included as a part of a private, tailormade trip to Peru.

A Cultural Peru Hike in the Sacred Valley

cultural hike peru (4)The day started with a morning pick-up from my hotel in the Sacred Valley. My knowledgeable guide Kathy explained the schedule for our day as we drove about an hour in our private vehicle to Chinchero. We would start with a visit to the town and ruins of Chinchero, before walking about 4 hours through the mountins to the rural community of Rachji. In the community we would enjoy lunch, and participate in a farming and weaving demonstration to get a better understanding of the locals’ day to day life before wrapping up with another private car ride to my hotel.

Hiking with Llamas

I was so excited to get started that I practically jumped out of the car when we arrived at our starting point of Chinchero (3,800m/12,500ft). The town is picture-perfectly surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of the Cordillera Vilcabamba, and is buzzing with local women in voluminous colorful skirts selling textiles and produce. We took a tour of the town and ruins and Kathy explained that the area was once home to the great conquering emperor Inca Topa Yupanqui and features incredible history. We walked through the ruins and down some stairs and were greeted by the greatest suprise ever – llamas! During our trek we would be accompanied by friendly llamas and their care-takers who would guide us through the mountains and into their community for the afternoon.

A Morning Hike in the Mountains

cultural hike peru (1)With the llamas and the local by our side, Kathy and I began our hike through the beautiful mountains of the Sacred Valley. The first hour and a half was a gradual ascent through fields of potatoes, flowers, and Andean grain – without a single other person in sight. We stopped at various lookouts for photos, and the locals (with Kathy’s translation) kindly answered all of my questions about the plants and regional culture. At the end of the ascent we reached a gorgeous mountain plateau with sweeping vistas of the mountains and valley, the perfect spot for a water and snack break.

Descending to Machucollpa Ruins

Following our break, we continued on our way descending about an hour to our next stop – the rarely visited ruins of Machucollpa. Along the way the views just kept getting more and more beautiful. I also got to try my hand at walking the llamas during some of the flatter parts of the descent! At Machucollpa we walked around the ruins and Kathy explained their significance as ancient food storage units. As we left the ruins, she also told me that the trail we were on was original royal Inca trail. This was definitely a highlight of the trek – leading the llamas down an original Inca path.

cultural hike peru (3)Rural Community Visit in Rachji

After about 20 more minutes, the locals led me into their rural community called Rachji. The paths in the village were mud, and the homes all appeared humble, but I could immediately tell this place was welcoming and full of joy. I arrived at the home of Susan, who welcomed me at the door with flowers from her garden and a big hug. She had been cooking all morning to prepare for my arrival.

The dining area was set up beautifully – luxury, community style – with colorful woven place mats and stylish silver tea pots. I sat down at the table and was so excited to be joined by the locals who accompanied me on the trek, Susan, her family, and of course my guide Kathy. We feasted on produce from Rachji farms such as potatoes, bean salad, home-made sauces, and corn. The whole time Kathy helped me ask the community questions about their life, what we were eating, their families, and more. The appetizers were followed by a delicious selection of alpaca, beef, and lamb accompanied by fresh strawberry sauce and their typical dish of lupine beans. I was very impressed by the creativity with the menu, which only featured seasonal produce and dishes. We finished up the meal with a desert flan and some tea, after which Susan invited me outside to show me some of their day-to-day life.

Weaving and Farming in Rachji

Just outside the kitchen and dining room, there was a little covered area with textiles, wool, and native plants awaiting us. Susan and her husband explained how weaving is in their blood. From a young age they memorize intricate patterns and know all the ancient techniques to create the beautiful textiles that can be seen all over Peru. The men handle the thicker woven blankets, while women create the finer more delicate fabrics. The area is perfect for when it rains, as they hate to have idle hands and since they can’t be in the field in the rain they spend the time weaving in this covered area. They took me through the whole process of weaving – from spinning the sheered fur of the animal, to dying it with native plants, to counting out the hundreds of strings to create their ideal pattern. I also saw a few of the results of their work, some of which take them months to complete.

Following the hour long weaving demonstration they led me to the field, where I saw another important aspect of their lives. Here they cultivate and produce all their own food, and multiple times a day have to come out and tend to the land. During the season I visited, they were plowing the soil using cattle and a hand-plow. They went through the dirt once to show me how it’s done, and then gave me the chance to try. Let’s just say after one up and back in the dirt, I was exhausted. The locals showed me into their farming shed where they keep their tools and some of their animals, before it was time to say goodbye. On the way back to my hotel I reflected on the incredible people I had just met, and all the wonderful things I got to experience that were so unique to my everyday life.

Enjoy This Cultural Peru Hike on Your Trip

This cultural Peru hike through the mountains near Chinchero and into the rural community of Rachji was the perfect way to see the real Sacred Valley. After Chinchero ruins, during my full-day excursion I didn’t see a single other foreigner. The hike is stunning, and the village visit completely authentic. I would highly recommend this experience to travelers looking to get outdoors and experience Peru the way the locals do.

Travel to the Sacred Valley

The stepping stone between Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley is a must-visit destination on a trip to Peru. Travelers don’t have to compromise on comfort as some of the best luxury hotels in Peru are located in the area. Check out our round up of highlights of the Sacred Valley for more things to do in the region.

Aracari can arrange the hike on a tailormade trip to Peru. Contact us to connect with our locally based expert travel planning team to get started planning your trip. 

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