Machu Picchu, the city in the clouds, has become the definitive pilgrimage for travellers to Peru. Utterly spectacular and deservedly adored, the site is one of the most visually stunning locations on the planet.
After you have hiked the Inca trail and explored this magical city for the day, it would be a shame not to visit the many incredible places that surround Machu Picchu. Less famous but just as beautiful, ruins and sites of interest scatter the hillsides of the nearby Sacred Valley.
You can buy a combination entry ticket, which costs $21, to all sites of cultural and historical interest around Cuzco, the ancient Incan capital, and it is worth spending at least two weeks in the area.
From agricultural laboratories to sprawling fortresses, here is our guide to the Sacred Valley and around with the very best of what the area has to offer.
This town in the Andes has two major attractions- the vibrant market where you can buy everything from natural dyes and textiles to cheese and leather goods, and the Inca ruins that adorn the mountain top.
Although it has become a major attraction, there is still an authenticity about the market that prevents it from becoming a tourist trap. Locals still trade here and buy their weekly food, and day-to-day life goes on as normal around the square. Arrive early on Sunday morning to browse before the tour-bus crowds descend and be sure to catch the colourful Quechua mass at 11.00.
If you can, take the walk up to Pisac’s mountainside Inca fortress during the week when the town is less crowded. The best idea is to stay in Pisac over night and head up on Monday, either in the early morning or at dusk. The walk up is fairly steep but well worth it, giving you an idea of how the fortress would have looked to the approaching Inca soldiers.
Equally as beautiful as its sister site Machu Picchu, this well preserved Incan city is humbling to behold, sprawling out on the hillsides above the town. Ascending the many steps, every terrace has avenues to explore with stunning examples of the precise stonework for which the Incas were renowned.
Aside from their stonework, the Incan’s were also well known for their progressive agricultural practises. To see an example of this take a visit the awe-inspiring Moray, where each level in the three terraced circles created a micro-climate, serving as the Inca’s laboratory for agricultural research.
The Salt Pans
Combine a trip to Moray with a visit to the other-worldly landscape of the salt pans, which have been in production for thousands of years and continues on today.
The ancient Inca capital is a one of the most beautiful cities in South America, and is a UNESCO world heritage site. Much of the Inca’s design work can still be seen, with expertly crafted walls, paved alleyways where Inca messengers would run, and the ruins of Saqsayhuaman on the hill above. Colonial churches, markets and museums make Cuzco the perfect base for exploring the Sacred Valley. Stay in hotels away from the central square to experience the atmosphere of authentic city life.
Have you visited the Sacred Valley this year? What was your most memorable experience?