Cusco is one of the most favorite destinations visited by travelers around the world. Sacred Valley is a hundred+ miles long valley with the world’s most impressive Inca ruins, amazing agricultural terraces and beautiful authentic villages. The Sacred Valley in Peru is one of the highlights of Cusco due to the amazing Inca sites that can be found all through the scenic valley. From the vast archaeological sites to the majestic cordilleras, there are so many things to explore in Sacred Valley and provides a visual retreat to everyone visiting this place.
10 day Tourist Ticket
Please make sure you purchase the 10-day Tourist ticket that costs 50USD per person. It gives you access to most of these sites for one price, and gives you ten days to do it. It is much more efficient and budget-friendly than paying for each individual site. This covers entrance fees to 16 attractions in Cusco and Sacred Valley and is delivered to you on your first itinerary tour. We did all of the Inca sites Circuit 1, just the sun temple in Circuit 2 and Pisac, Ollantaytambo in the Circuit 3. Depending on your time, you can choose the circuits but circuit 1 and 3 are more interesting and has beautiful scenic views of the valley.
✓ Inca sites circuit 1:
✓ Inca sites circuit 2:
• Qoricancha sun temple
• Regional historic museum
• Museum of contemporary art
• Pachacuteq monument
• Museum of popular art
• Qosqo center of native art
✓ Inca sites circuit 3:
Children under 10: $50 off (free)
Children 11-17: $15 off
Students 18-25 with valid University ID: $15 off
Let’s dive in to each of the key places to see in Cusco.
Pisac, Sacred Valley
Pisac is a village in the Sacred Valley known for its large traditional market and this is the place you need to be for food, souvenirs, and local experiences. The highlight of Pisac is the incredible Inca ruins overlooking the town. The ruins are ancient houses, ceremonial places, water canals, and vegetation terraces. This is a strenuous hike involving steep climbs and descent, so take your time to walk if you need to catch a breath :-). It takes around 2+ hours to climb to the top that has an elevation of around 3514 meters high altitude. It’s worth the hike to see the beautiful valley from the top.
After Machu Picchu, the ruins of Pisac was my favorite Inca site that I visited. It is nestled up on a mountain overlooking the beautiful Sacred Valley. The hike can be quite challenging, however, it will be worth it to explore this archaeological site from 3514 meters. Pisac Archaeological Site is spread out over the mountain, and you will pass through several sections of the mountain where you will witness some of the old stone buildings, Andean terraces, and more impressive feats of Inca architecture like their water system, agricultural lands etc.
Maras Salt Mines
Hidden behind a hill, deep in the Sacred Valley is a landscape of white terraced baths better known as the Maras Salt Mines. This ancient Incan technique of extracting salt, by hand, is still used today, which is impressive to learn from our guides. This is one of the more unique attractions that one can visit from Cusco are the salt pools of Maras. This was bundled as part of the tour package when visiting the Sacred valley. If you have to visit on our own, you would need to take a vehicle or bus from Urubamba or directly to the Maras. While there isn’t much to do here besides look at the seemingly endless pools of salt, it is still marvelous to look at. and best place to take some amazing photo shots. Some of my friends who visited 7 years ago got a chance to walk through the actual ponds but this activity is no longer allowed today. There are view point booths where people can take upclose photos of the salt mines.
Ollantaytambo town is the last part of the Sacred Valley that’s accessible by car. It is the starting point for many walking trails to Machu Picchu and the world-famous train ride to Aguas Calientes (also known as Machu Picchu town). Ollantaytambo is a tiny cobblestone village offering accommodation to Machu Picchu day trips and is the gateway to the world-famous Inca Trail. We did not attempt the Inca Trail and instead chose the scenic train to Machu Picchu and started the 3 hour hike from the entrance of Machu Picchu. Ollantaytambo is one of the best-preserved ruins in Peru that are located behind this town. An Inca temple and terraced city is built against the steep slopes that is a moderate difficult hike. Ollantaytambo ruins are one of the best attractions around and has some of the best stonework after Machu Picchu. This was a much crowded tourist visited area where you can easily get lost without a local guide. Given the train station is less than 1 KM, you will see heavy traffic in this area and the town itself is beautiful with cobbled alleyways with so many shops and restaurants. We did not have enough time to roam around the town as we had limited time. Our major focus was to climb the Inca site and head towards the Ollantaytambo train station to board the Voyager train to Machu Picchu.
Sacsayhuaman (sometimes spelled Saqsaywaman) in Cusco is a must-visit ruin while exploring the Peruvian region of Incas. The pronunciation of Sacsayhuaman by the locals sounds like the Sexy Woman in English. The fortress of Sacsayhuaman overlooks Cusco in stoic majesty and is a perfect trip to acclimatize to the altitude and a great introduction to what you can expect from the ancient ruins and amazing landscapes. Due to it’s location, Sacsayhuaman is one of the best half-day trips from Cusco that is a must-include in your Travel itinerary. A quick hike up will take you these megalithic structures. Standing alongside the massive stone blocks is a great feeling and a reminder of just how powerful the Inca were in their peak period. They overlook the whole city and the surrounding mountains, making it one of the best photo spots in Cusco. The Sacsayhuaman itself is an extraordinary site built by the Incas and is a part of UNESCO sites in the Cusco area. You will get a glimpse to watch groups of Alpacas and Limas grazing in this Inca site. This is a pretty light weight hike, not very intense and site is located very close to the Cusco city that makes it a easy one to visit.
Cochahuasi Animal Sanctuary
The Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary is a privately-owned, family-run organization in the Sacred Valley of Peru. Their mission is to rescue exotic animals that have been injured or have been used for cruel entertainment purposes. If you are staying in Cusco and doing the Sacred valley tours, this sanctuary is located on the way to Pisac and can be easily accommodated into your itinerary. You need just one to 1.5 hours as this is not a large zoo and have very limited species. On arrival, you will first see the Andean bears followed by turtles, Alpacas, Lamas, macaws, Condors and other bird species.
The Andean Condors are truly the jewel of this Animal sanctuary and breathtaking to watch them fly around. They arrange a small show for the visitors inside the enclosure with these giant condors. The sanctuary employees have the condors fly from one end of the enclosure to the other end to demonstrate the bird’s smartness and their massive 10 feet wingspan. The macaws were a great sight to watch them interact with the visitors and multiple parakeets talking in the background in Spanish (Hola..)