Sacred Valley, Peru – Pisac, Moray, Salinas and Ollantaytambo

Posted on 20 September 2011 by onthegroundtravel

A herd of cattle grazing in the Sacred Valley, Peru from trips around the world


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.

Fabric of various vibrant colors and patterns for sale in the Pisac Market in the Sacred Valley, Peru from trips around the worldChoclo from the Pisac Market  in the Sacred Valley, Peru from trips around the world

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.

Salinas  in the Sacred Valley,Peru from trips around the world

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!

Moray  in the Sacred Valley,Peru from trips around the world

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.

Pisac Market  in the Sacred Valley,Peru from trips around the world

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.

Gate to the Pisac Sun Temple in the Sacred Valley, Peru from trips around the world

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:


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5 Comments For This Post

  1. Sewana Says:

    Well put, sir, well put. I’ll cretailny make note of that.

  2. ST312 Says:

    We are planning a trip there, but looks like we will only have time for Pisac or Moray. Which of the two cities do you think is more worthwhile to go?

  3. onthegroundtravel Says:

    It really comes down to personal preference. Salinas is quite close to Moray, so if you go to Moray, maybe you can catch the salt pans at Salinas also. If I have to pick between Pisac and Moray, I personally prefer Moray. The highlight in Pisac is the market and the ruin, and if you travel around the world quite a bit like we do, you probably have seen a number of ruins already. Moray and Salinas, on the other hand, gave us a new perspective on sights/ideas we haven’t experienced before.

  4. Craig Says:

    Where did you guys hire the car from? Did it come with a driver? How much did it cost?


  5. David Says:

    Hi Craig, originally we reserved a driver beforehand but the driver never showed up when we contacted them. So we went with our backup plan, to get our driver from our hostel. It’s a safer choice to have your hostel book a driver for you instead of from one of the street agencies. A good hostel will have drivers that they trust to give business to.

    We asked the front desk at our hostel (Amaru Hostal I, a comfortable hostel by the way) that we wanted a driver to drive us from Cusco To Ollantaytambo with stops in between for Pizac and Moray.

    The cost came out to less than $70 USD for 8hrs. That was in Sep. ’11.

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