Sacred Valley, Peru Adventure Log:
After Cusco, many travelers go straight to Machu Picchu without exploring the Sacred Valley in Peru. This is unfortunate as we think it is definitely worthwhile to spend some time in the Sacred Valley as well. After some research, we decided to hire a car to take us from Cusco through the Sacred Valley to Ollantaytambo. We spent the night in Ollantaytambo, then took PeruRail to Aguas Calientes, the base of Machu Picchu.
In the Sacred Valley, we toured four sites: Pisac Ruin, Pisac Market, Salinas, and Moray. We hired the car for nine hours to take us from Cusco to Ollantaytambo including the four stops, and that was sufficient.
The Pisac Ruin is an Inca citadel that lies on a hilltop with plunging cliffs on both sides. Some trails in the ruin hug the cliff closely, and it takes ~ 1.5 hour to finish the hike if you choose to go to the Sun Temple and back. Note that all the tourgroups arrive around 11am so make sure you get there really early to enjoy the site and to get out before the one sole entrance gets jammed with buses and other vehicles!
About a 10 min drive away from the Pisac Ruin lies the Pisac Market. You will find many market stalls there selling handicraft goods and products made out of Alpaca fur. In the market, we stumbled upon a stall selling one of the biggest corn we have ever seen. Each kernel is in the size of a penny. Locals call it Choclo, and one was enough to fill us both up.
Salinas, the intricately-terraced salt pans, was next. Locals still extract salt from the site today. A hot spring at the top of valley provides the salt-laden water for the pans. The water then evaporates to form the salt there. It was truly a spectacular site after days of seeing many fields and ruins.
After Salinas, we stopped by Moray, which is an agricultural experimental lab for the Incas. The site has three concentric terraces with multiple levels carved into the hill. Each level has a different microclimate, allowing the Incas to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops of different species. What a smart idea! To tour the site, be prepared to walk up and down the terraces. The steps between terraces are stones that jut out from the walls of the terrace. Some are very narrow and deep so watch your footing!
We ended the day in Ollantaytambo, a small and restive town with Andean mountains as its backdrop. Right by the town square, there is a restaurant called Hearts Cafe. It was started by a British woman, Sonia Newhouse, in 2007. Profits of this restaurant provide funding for her charity which aims to improve the living conditions of rural communities in the Peruvian highlands. The restaurant serves hearty home-made food in generous potions at reasonable price. For a good cause and a great meal, we highly recommend our fellow travelers to dine there as well!
Sacred Valley, Peru Travel Tips:
1) The Pisac Ruin and Pisac Market are in two different locations. So if you are planning to hire a car to these sites, make sure you specify both locations as separate stops.
2) You will be hiking up and down hills quite a bit! There are many steps to climb, and some of them are deep, uneven, and narrow steps. A trekking pole will come in handy, especially in the Pisac Ruin and Moray.
3) In Moray, locals believe positive energy concentrates in the center of the lowest concentric circle in the main terrace. If you’re up for it, hike all the way down and spend a few moments there. You may find some locals (and other quick footed tourists!) have beat you to it. So be patient, and wait for your turn.
4) Be prepared with loose change if you need to use the public restrooms. You will always find someone outside the restroom collecting an entrance fee (~1 soles, ~$0.40 USD) either before or after you use the facility. The facility is usually clean.
5) In Ollantaytambo, we highly recommend dining at the Hearts Cafe. It’s for a good cause. The meal is delicious, comes in generous potions, and at a great price. You can’t beat that!
To follow our journey to Machu Pacchu, check out these posts:
- Starting Our Machu Picchu Travel from Cusco
- Seeing the Milky Way in Aguas Calientes
- 10 Tips for Getting to Machu Picchu
- Machu Picchu – Lost City of the Incas
- La Marinera, the National Dance of Peru (POPULAR POST)
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