Traversing Peru's Sacred Valley

The Pisac Ruins in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

The Pisac Ruins in the Sacred Valley of Peru.

When you hear about the Inca Ruins in Peru there’s one place that comes to most people’s minds: Machu Picchu.

This is one of the 7 wonders of the world now and is one of the most heavily trafficked and popular travel destinations in the entire world.

With a visit to MP and Peru you will have the opportunity to lay witness to one of the most amazing creations from the entire Inca civilization.  However on my recent visit to Peru I found the additional Inca ruins and explorations in the Sacred Valley to be an even more rich and wonderful experience due to the isolation and less “touristy” way to experience them in the Sacred Valley.

The Sacred Valley begins just 60 minutes from Cusco (where all Peru Inca experiences begin after a flight or train ride from Lima.) From here you will be able to begin your Sacred Valley adventures and in this post I want to share five highlights from the Sacred Valley.

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In fact I enjoyed this area so much I would recommend perhaps first going to MP and then setting up shop at a place like this AirBnB I stayed at for a few days to really take in the full Sacred Valley experience.  Don’t get me wrong; MP is something to witness and visit if you have the opportunity.

But if long lines of tour buses, “cattle esque” herding of people, and a quick pass through to say you visited MP isn’t your idea of a good time then I highly suggest more than just a day trip to the Sacred Valley.

You won’t be disappointed!

Five Sacred Valley Highlights:

We had Huchuy Qosqo all to ourselves!

We had Huchuy Qosqo all to ourselves!

  1. Huchuy Qosqo Ruins: You have three choices to reach these remote and desolate Inca Ruins.  The first is an 8 hour trek from Cusco’s Sacsayhuaman Ruins (which I also highly recommend visiting right when opening on a day in Cusco), the second is a 4-6 hour hike from the town of Lamay, or you can ride up the side of a mountain for an hour and then take a 60 minute goat trail hike to the ruins.  Either way you will essentially have these remarkable ruins to yourself due to the difficult nature of reaching them.  You won’t be disappointed; it’s just as fascinating of a place to me as MP was but the fact that it was myself, my friend Matt, our driver Miguel, two llamas, and a few farmers it was an intense and truly unique experience.

Approaching Huchuy Qosqo from the goat trails.

Approaching Huchuy Qosqo from the goat trails.

The Moray Ruins from atop.

The Moray Ruins from atop.

2. Moray to Salineras Salt Mines/Hike back to Urubamba: Another great place people visit but not as many people choose to walk all the way down and through.  Moray is beautiful to see in person and then a walk through the salt flats and all the way back to the town of Urubamba will land you with a truly authentic Peruvian connection one way or the other.  For us we got to spend time in a town on Saturday night during a rodeo, drinking warm Cervezas, being the only “gringos” in town, and listening to great Peruvian music.  The hike is mostly downhill and flat and there are places to stop for water and food along the way. It’s about 1.5-2 hours if you continue without stopping from the Salt Flats back to Urubamba.

The Salineras Salt Mines.

The Salineras Salt Mines.

3. Pisac Ruins: The tour buses come up here but if you get here early you’ll be able to have the place much more to yourself.  It’s an up and down trek through several different old Inca homes and structures with wonderful views of the mountains that will have you grateful you didn’t just do a breeze through MP and check it off your bucket list.

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4. Ollantaytambo: The starting point for the Inca Trail trek is right by here but it also home to ruins that I put on close comparison to MP.  It feels as though you are walking through a castle and you get to see firsthand the beauty of what the Inca’s created and sustained for thousands of years before the imperialists came and took over their ways of life.

Ollantaytambo from the top of the ruins.

Ollantaytambo from the top of the ruins.

5. Explore the towns: We stayed in Urubamba and had the opportunity for quiet dinners, craft beers with new friends at Hop House, and coffee in small Peruvian cafes.  Many Peruvians don’t speak English here and it’s a wonderful way to brush up on your Spanish and connect with the people of Peru.  Stay a few days and pick out your main Inca ruins interests and then get to localizing and connect with the small and beautiful communities of the Sacred Valley.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time at MP.  I climbed to the top of Huayna Picchu Mountain and down through the cavern trails (which is a steep, a bit sketchy, fun hike and only for seasoned adventurers).  The ruins there are magnificent and I’m glad I spent a day there.

However the opportunity you have to explore the Sacred Valley to me is just as much, if not more, of a learning and rewarding experience in your travels as it will be to visit with one of the “Seven Wonders of the World.”

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Many thanks to my friend Teresa for turning me on to the Sacred Valley and make sure if you stay HERE to tell Dee, Efrain, and Miguel hola from me!

Have you been to Peru or to the Sacred Valley?  Share your experiences below.  Thanks for reading always and being a part of our community.

Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,

Mike R and the Hashtag 59 Team