Once overlooked by tourists as just a stepping stone between Cusco and Machu Picchu, nowadays the Sacred Valley Peru is truly a destination in its own right. Chock-full of activities for all types of travelers, you can hike to little-visited Incan ruins, make friends with the locals in traditional weaving villages, and photograph sweeping, imposing landscapes – all before kicking back in style at the best luxury hotels. The Sacred Valley is only a one and a half hour drive from Cusco and at a lower altitude than Cusco, making it the ideal base to explore the best of the region.
The Highlights of the Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley Peru is scattered with Inca ruins and historic sites. Their impressive natural backdrops means they’ll easily appeal to avid explorers and history buffs alike. Not-to-miss highlights include Ollantaytambo, one of the most well-preserved Incan towns in Peru built into the hillside affording privileged views, and the Incan agricultural terraces of Moray, which are extraordinary rings of stone terraces built into natural depressions of the earth. The other most-visited Incan sites of the Sacred Valley are Pisac and Chinchero.
The Salt Pans of Maras
Another highlight of the Sacred Valley are the salt pans of Maras, often visited in combination with Moray. Maras is a stunning array of watered terraces that collect salt and have been in use since pre-Columbian times. These days it’s a local cooperative, with a number of families all producing top-quality salt you’ll see featured in Lima’s top gourmet restaurants.
Avoiding the Crowds
One of the perks of traveling with Aracari to the area is that having planned tailormade tours for two decades we can ensure you follow the best crowd avoidance routes. Visit the likes of Pumamarca ruins where, despite being only a short drive from bustling Ollantaytambo by road, you can often have these Incan ruins to yourself.
A lush paradise of rolling hills and natural wonders, the Sacred Valley hosts plenty of adventure activities for travelers. A few of our favorites are stand up paddle boarding on a high altitude lake, biking to some of the many Inca ruins previously mentioned, and horseback riding through the valley. Aracari offers all of our Peru adventure travel activities in private with the best equipment and expert, safety trained guides.
Hiking in the Sacred Valley
One of the best ways to avoid the crowds is to head out to lesser-visited sites and the Sacred Valley offers a range of alternative treks to the Inca trail. We suggest excursions to visit the likes of Andean-baroque church Andahuaylillas or archaeological site Pikillacta, or longer camping hikes such as the Patakancha to Lares trek done over two or three days. Along this trek you get to visit communities of traditional weavers and farmers. Check out more of our suggested Peru treks.
Meet the Locals
Nestled into the valley are small villages whose inhabitants practice traditional regional customs, dress in vibrant clothing, and welcome visitors who are keen to learn about their lifestyles. As a part of our commitment to responsible travel Peru, Aracari partners with community-based tourism initiatives such as Tierra de los Yachaqs to provide our guests with insight into rural village life, agriculture, textile weaving, and traditions. These unique, hands-on experiences offer visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of the region, authentically learning about the area and its people.
Explore the Sacred Valley with Aracari on our Classic Luxury Peru itinerary!
One of a Kind Sacred Valley Experiences
Whether it’s riding a traditional Paso horse, being blessed by a Shaman, or braving the heights of a via ferrata to sleep *literally* hanging off a cliff, the Sacred Valley is packed with unique experiences.
Sleep Hanging Off a Cliff (yes, really)
Ever imagined spending the night in a pod hanging off the side of a cliff? In the Sacred Valley, you can enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience and sleep beneath the stars at 400m. To get there, you just first have to climb Peru’s first ever via ferrata (iron mountain ladder), or whizz across a network of ziplines to reach Skylodge Adventure Suites.
Take a Weaving Workshop With an Expert
Spend the day with extraordinarily skilled traditional weavers from the Center of Traditional Textiles, and chat with founder of the project and traditional weaver Nilda Callañaupa Alvarez. Nilda is an award winning writer, international speaker, and expert on Cusqueñan textiles who can provide Aracari guests exclusive insider insight into the weaving traditions of the region and the chance to learn directly from the experts.
Enjoy a Pachamanca Lunch on a Rural Farm
The picturesque Sacred Valley is the perfect spot for destination dining. Some of our favorite foodie experiences in special locations include: a traditional pachamanca lunch on an organic farm, where locals will teach you the techniques and ingredients for cooking a meal beneath the earth as the Incas did; a remote private pop-up picnic lunch with a shaman ritual ceremony; and a private lunch on a traditional Hacienda where you’ll be invited to see the owner’s private art collection and see a paso horse demonstration.
Planning a Trip to the Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley is at lower altitude than Cusco the nearest airport to Machu Picchu, making it the perfect place to acclimatize to the mountains of Peru. On arrival in Cusco, we highly recommend you head straight to the Sacred Valley (a one and a half hour drive) to take advantage of the lower altitude and acclimatize, before visiting Machu Picchu (at even lower altitude) and then returning to Cusco to see the city once you’ve adjusted to the thinner air.
Sitting between 3,000m (9,800ft) and 2,050m (6,730ft), the valley’s reduced elevation means warmer weather and an ideal climate for farming. As the most important production site of maize (or corn) for the Incas, this heartland still wears its history in the terraced land of the valley.
Getting There and Away
There are regular daily flights to Cusco from Peru’s capital Lima on LATAM, taking about an hour and twenty minutes. From Cusco, it’s a one and a half hour drive to the Sacred Valley – with panoramic lookout points en route where you won’t be able to resist stopping!
Luxury Hotels in the Sacred Valley Peru
Another perk of the Sacred Valley is that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to spend time in the natural surrounds. The array of luxury hotels and charming private villas make it an exceptional base for exploration of the region. Our top picks include Sol y Luna, Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado, Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, Luxury Collection Tambo del Inka, and Explora Valle Sagrado.
When to Visit
The Sacred Valley is a year-round destination but weather in the mountains and highlands where the valley is located are subject to a rainy season from December to March. With the rain comes life and lush green landscapes, but if you have flexible travel plans we suggest a visit during dry season from April to November.
Interested in exploring the Sacred Valley with Aracari? Contact us for expert travel planning advice and a tailormade quote.