The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located north of the Imperial City of Cusco and extends along the Vilcanota - Urubamba river. This beautiful valley holds an exuberant nature, visually striking landscapes, and ancient Inca ruins that served as ceremonial, administrative, and military centers.
This renowned culture used to believe that the Urubamba valley resembled the Milky Way. However, the fertility of these lands made it relevant for this civilization to establish here. Likewise, it was chosen for its geographic and climate qualities that provided an optimal agricultural practice.
The Inca Empire looked to improve their agricultural skills in this location. Here they used to cultivate corn, potato, olluco, and the so-known coca plant. Thereby, the Incas had implemented a series of agricultural terraces where they used to experiment with different vegetables and plant species, as seen in the Moray Archeological Site.
In addition to the fertility of this territory, the valley was considered sacred due to its proximity to the imposing Salkantay and Veronica mountains, which they called Apus. According to the Inca mythology, the Apus were the guardians of the surrounding lands and they believed that these ‘spirits’ protected their people, cattle, and crops.
Nowadays, the Sacred Valley of the Incas remains one of Cusco’s most visited destinations since it receives over 800,000 tourists per year. Here you can practice white-water rafting, zip lining, biking, trekking, rock climbing, and many more activities besides getting immersed in the history and cultural expression of this authentic place.
Weather in the Sacred Valley Peru
The elevation in the Sacred Valley ranges between 3,000 and 2,050 meters above sea level and is located within the Peruvian Andes, having the characteristic weather of this region. However, due to the lower altitude of this region, it has warmer temperatures in comparison to Cusco. The Sacred Valley of the Incas has two distinctive seasons throughout the year:
- Rainy Season: It starts in December and ends around April. These are considered the rainiest months of the year. Temperatures range between 21°C and 8°C during this period.
- Dry Season: Takes place between May and October. Although rain isn’t expected through this time of the year, it is considered the coldest season of the year with temperatures ranging between 20°C and 1°C.
It is worth mentioning that the climate conditions are different among the different Peruvian regions. If you wish to learn more about the weather in Peru, make sure to read our informative guide while you’re here.
What to See?
For most tours to the Sacred Valley, the town of Pisac is the first stop. It is located 30 kilometers away from Cusco city at an altitude of 2,972 meters above sea level. This small town is home to one of the Inca ruins within the region and to one of the most diverse local markets.
- Pisac Archeological Site
The ancient structure served as a control and religious center during the Inca era. However, the real purpose is still unknown, according to some historians it was a royal hacienda of the Inca Pachacutec with administrative, ceremonial, and agricultural areas, but this remains uncertain.
The Archeological Site of Pisac is located at 3,300 meters above sea level, offering incredible views of its surroundings and the Sacred Valley. To visit this Inca site, you’ll have to purchase the Cusco Tourist Ticket, which is usually included in the price of most tours.
- Local Market
If visiting this beautiful town, make sure to pass by the local craft market, where you’ll find a great variety of textiles, alpaca clothing, and souvenirs. The Pisac Market is located in the town’s main square and only opens on Sundays.
Undoubtedly, this is one of the most picturesque towns in the Sacred Valley, if you’d like to know everything about this ancient Inca hub, check our Pisac travel guide.
It is located 70 kilometers away from Cusco and has an altitude of 2,792 meters above sea level. The small town of Ollantaytambo is one of the perfect examples of Inca urbanism. Its cobbled streets will leave you breathless as well as the Inca open draining system and one of the largest ceremony centers of the area.
- Archeological Site of Ollantaytambo
It is located in the heart of the town, it served as a ceremonial fortress with terraces for agricultural exploitation and experiments, as it was in Moray. The archeological site is recognized as the only place that defeated the Spanish army during colonization.
To visit the Ollantaytambo ruins you must have the Cusco Tourist Ticket, which is usually included in most tours to the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
- Depósitos de Pinkuylluna
These impressive Inca ruins are located just in front of the Ollantaytambo Archeological Site. It was a storehouse, ideally engineered for the preservation of grains produced in the surrounding terraces. Due to the high elevation of this place, the Incas realized that the cold breeze and low temperatures would conserve the food and protect it from attacks.
It takes about 30 minutes to reach this archeological site from the town of Ollantaytambo. It is a free attraction, though it is worth mentioning that the trek can be quite difficult since it is very steep.
Ollantaytambo will allow you to walk through history before heading to the greatest attraction in Cusco, Machu Picchu. Learn everything about Ollantaytambo here.
This old town offers a unique contrast of the Colonial and Inca world. Chinchero is located 30 kilometers away from Cusco and sits at an altitude of 3,754 meters above sea level. Its inhabitants have maintained their ancient customs alive since Inca times and most of them speak Quechua as a first language.
- Chinchero Archeological Site
This Inca site was the designated residence of Tupac Yupanqui. Here he ordered the construction of beautiful palaces though it was later incinerated by Manco Inca to help people escape during colonization to the hidden lands of the jungle.
Nowadays, only a few parts of its structure have remained, being the most preserved construction, the one used as the foundation of a Church that dates back to the XVI century.
- Local Craft Market
Chinchero is recognized for its top-quality textiles and its cultural expression. The local craft market is situated next to the Archeological Site of Chinchero. Here you’ll find remarkable textiles, backpacks, and alpaca clothing.
4. Maras Salt Mines
The site is composed of a group of over 3,000 sand pools that has been in use since Inca times. It is located in the region of Maras, 40 kilometers away from Cusco. The Maras Salt Mines are only administered by local families, each of them own up to 5 wells, making it a tradition passed on by generations.
5. Moray Archeological Site
Moray is another perfect example of Inca engineering. This archeological site has several circular terraces used as a laboratory center of agricultural exploitation. Each sector owns its irrigation channel that ensures the water supply of all crops.
It is believed that over 250 plant species were cultivated in this location. Would you like to know more? Check our blog about this outstanding hydraulic and agricultural system.
How to Get to the Sacred Valley?
To reach the Sacred Valley of the Incas, one must be in Cusco. The so-called Imperial City is easily accessible by train, bus, or plane. Here are some recommendations to help you organize your trip:
- Bus to Cusco: If you have a flexible itinerary and wish to know Peru at its fullest, we encourage you to take bus rides to the different destinations within your itinerary.
You can get a bus ride to Cusco from almost every city in Peru, but keep in mind that a direct bus could be very exhausting. For that reason, we recommend you visit different cities along the way. Get to know more about this experience here! →
- Flight to Cusco: For those on a tight schedule, this might be a more suitable option. Flying to the principal destinations you’d like to visit will give you more time to explore and get to know more of its attractions. Luckily for you, we have structured an itinerary so you don’t miss anything during your trip through Cusco. Find out more here →
- Train to Cusco: If you didn’t know, train travel is possible to Cusco. The Belmond Andean Explorer train offers a luxury service that connects the most in-demand cities of the Andes. This rail route passes through Arequipa, Puno, and Cusco. Learn more about it here →
Once in Cusco, you can easily visit the Sacred Valley of the Incas. However, if you’re planning to do this on your own, consider the travel times between the different towns, transport to the archeological sites, entrance tickets, and trying to find a guide upon arrival.
A full day tour could be the optimal option if you don’t want to deal with all the logistics in between. Therefore, we have included a guided visit to the Sacred Valley in all of our packages. For more information please contact your travel agent.
Would you like to know more about Peru? Here you’ll find all the information you need for your trip. Our local expert team has prepared the most complete informative guides for you! Also, if you’re eager to know Peru at its fullest, check our travel packages and live an authentic experience with Viagens Machu Picchu.