Activities in the Sacred Valley before visiting Machu Picchu

One of the most important destinations in Cusco is the Sacred Valley. An important region dedicated exclusively to the cultivation of corn. In the past, it was a fundamental territory for territorial expansion to begin with greater intensity. Since then, different dairy farms were built that over time came to be considered citadels. Among these, the constructions of Pisac and Ollantaytambo will stand out. However, it is also possible to visit natural destinations and even do unusual activities such as zip lining or zip-lining. Here we tell you some of the best activities you can do before visiting Machu Picchu or also if you feel that Cusco is beautiful and you never want to leave.

During experiential tourism it is possible to connect better with communities

The Sacred Valley of the Incas

Panoramic view of the Sacred Valley of the Incas

It was and continues to be an important region dedicated to agriculture. For many years the lands of this valley were used to plant corn, especially. Today it continues to have that role, however, you can find more attractions and various activities that can make your stay in Cusco more memorable. Especially if your plans include traveling to Machu Picchu. It is important to remember that to get to Machu Picchu you have to go through the Sacred Valley, whose beautiful geography is thanks to the high mountain ranges that surround it.

Throughout this extensive valley, homes were built to form small districts that still bear the name of the past. Among these districts, we will highlight the presence of Ollantaytambo and Pisac. Archaeological places, near current towns, maintain the memory and some traditions of the past. But those are not all the destinations that can be visited. Being a valley, it houses small waterfalls and the presence of the Vilcanota River that practically forms and accompanies the entire Sacred Valley.

It is known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas because corn can be grown normally throughout this valley. Corn for pre-Columbian cultures was of vital importance because it guaranteed an extraordinary food. Not only for its nutritional qualities but also for having the ability to be stored for several years like any other grain. Having these properties was essential so that food could be reserved in the event of a natural disaster or for times of war.

Today the Sacred Valley has not lost those qualities. Every day it receives a large number of visitors who often take the traditional tour of the Sacred Valley, that is the Inca constructions. Of course, it is a good way to appreciate the splendor of the constructions that challenge current engineering. However, few tourists dare to take other tours or stay a few more days in this beautiful place. The Sacred Valley has an excellent climate and altitude. The average annual temperature is 15 °C. while it is located at an altitude that varies from 2800 to 2000 meters above sea level. Below, we present some destinations or activities that you can visit when you arrive in Cusco, even before or after visiting the wonder of the world: Machu Picchu.

When is the best day to go?
Visiting the Sacred Valley of the Incas can be done any day of the year. It has an ideal climate to visit both in the rainy season and during the dry season. The activities, as we will see, are multiple and you can stay as long as you want in this beautiful place. Don’t miss the opportunity to have an unforgettable vacation.

Inca Constructions

Inca constructions were characterized by the use of carved stones

The Inca constructions that can be found throughout the Sacred Valley are abundant. In some cases, you can find only vestiges of some colcas or warehouses. It is also possible to find the remains of some checkpoints or similar. However, the Inca constructions that stand out for the entire enclosure they possess and the importance they possess are those that continue.

  • Chinchero – It is one of the closest destinations to Cusco so there should be no excuse to visit it. Within this place, you can find the remains of one of the most important Inca constructions because it would be the royal enclosure or royal palace of Tupac Yupanqui. Also in Chinchero, you can find one of the largest artisan markets in Cusco.
  • Pisac – It was probably one of the first constructions that were made to reach the Sacred Valley. They are located in an elevated area and allow you to appreciate the entire extensive valley. Within these constructions, the religious sector will stand out, where you can see the finely carved Inca walls, similar to those found in the Historic Center of Cusco. Likewise, it is possible to find an intihuatana and the remains of the temple of the sun. Like all Inca construction, you can see the emblematic Inca platforms or terraces.
  • Ollantaytambo – This is a place that houses a lot of history. Different battles were fought both in the archaeological site and on the outskirts of the enclosure. The most emblematic will be that of the Inca rebels against the Spanish rise. However, it is possible to find remains of the most emblematic temples. We are referring to the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of Water. There are more Inca constructions and the colcas or large warehouses in the middle of the mountain will also stand out. Finally, mention that Ollantaytambo is a mandatory site for those who want to know Machu Picchu, so you must visit it.
  • Moray – It seems that this is a site dedicated to agricultural exploration and experimentation. At least the remains found indicate that. Moray is made up of circular platforms, which were used to check the ideal altitude of some plants. That is so that any of the plants can grow beyond their geographical space. These platforms can form small microclimates. In this sense, they were constructions that greatly favored agriculture.
  • Mandatory route to Machu Picchu – The Sacred Valley is the mandatory route to Machu Picchu. In Ollantaytambo, you can find the train station to Machu Picchu Pueblo. In this sense, if you plan to travel to Machu Picchu traditionally, you will have to go through Ollantaytambo. Before traveling to the wonder of the world, take advantage and tour the entire Ollantaytambo area. If you want to stay more days in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, an excellent option is Urubamba. In Urubamba, you can find some of the best hotels. From this district, you can take more tours throughout the Sacred Valley.

Natural destinations

Perolniyoc Falls offers a great hike

  • Salt mines of Maras – It is the perfect complement to the Circular Platforms of Moray. It is only 10 minutes from this. It is a location made up of thousands of salt wells. The residents of this place are dedicated to the extraction and sale of this mineral. The visit allows you to appreciate the magnificent landscapes and at the same time learn more about this incredible mineral that is very beneficial for health.
  • Falls Poc Poc It is located very close to Chinchero. These falls have a drop of more than 35 meters in altitude. The water comes from the waters of the snow-capped Antaquilca. It is located between the mountains that make up the Sacred Valley, so the visit to get there follows a path with abundant vegetation composed mainly of trees. To get to this place you have to walk approximately 3 kilometers.
  • Perolniyoc Falls – It is very close to the Ollantaytambo district. Furthermore, at the top of this waterfall, you can find the remains of an Inca construction. These little-known constructions are called Perolniyoc or also Raqaypata. It seems that this waterfall and Inca enclosure was one of the first Inca constructions to connect Cusco with Ollantaytambo.
  • The corn fields – The farms or fields of corn cultivation can be seen from the beginning of the trip. Once you begin to descend towards the valley. The ideal season to see the growth of these incredible plants is November and in some cases January to February. It is during this time that the crops are mature and cover the entire extensive valley with green. The greenery of the valley is thanks to the frequent rains of the season.
  • The Vilcanota River – This is one of the most important rivers in Peru. It runs through the entire South Valley, Sacred Valley, and connects to the Urubamba Valley, where its name changes. The name comes from “Willcamayu” which can be translated as “Sacred River”. During the trip or some walks, it is possible to appreciate the continuous waters of this river. When the rains begin, its flow increases considerably. That is why some communities divert their waters towards crops, of course, without drastically altering their flow.

Extreme or adventure sports

The ATV tour will allow you to take a totally different trip

Thanks to the geography that accompanies and surrounds the Sacred Valley, you can visit and do different activities that involve activities beyond conventional ones. All of these activities are ideal for people who like extreme sports.

  • Zipline in the Sacred Valley – Offers a special way to appreciate the entire extensive Sacred Valley. The steel cables are stretched over two parallel mountains. From there you can practically fly through the Sacred Valley. It is located very close to Chinchero, that is, only 30 minutes from Cusco. Doing this activity is a way to get away from common activities and enjoy the adrenaline it generates.
  • ATV in the Sacred Valley – This is one of the most popular activities. The tours that can be done by ATV involve destinations such as Maras and Moray and the refuge of the gods. It is also possible to take ATV tours to other less popular destinations. It is an activity that allows you to enjoy the landscapes from another perspective.
  • Cycling in the Sacred Valley – In the Sacred Valley you can take tours through different places in this extensive valley. Destinations such as Maras and Moray will stand out, some routes connect Urubamba with Ollantaytambo. Finally, one of the most striking tours that also includes bicycle tours is the tour called Inca Jungle.
  • Canoeing in the Sacred Valley – Thanks to the power of the river’s waters, you can canoe in the waters of the Vilcanota River. It is exactly possible to do this activity on the banks of the Urubamba district, where the river changes its name. Boating is one of the most exciting experiences you will ever do. Besides. Remember that all the tours we mention can be carried out under the contract of a tourist package to guarantee safety in the activities.

Other activities

Horseback riding or horseback riding is possible in Urubamba

  • Horseback riding – It is one of the activities where you can contemplate the entire landscape. Horseback riding or horseback riding is easy to do and is done with the supervision of an expert, so this activity is quite safe It is possible to do it along the route from Maras to Moray, but it is also possible to do it in the Urubamba valley. In both cases, you can see beautiful landscapes.
  • Walks – If you don’t find an activity that catches your attention, you can take walks through any of the places in the Sacred Valley. That is, having a free walk through the places you want. Some afternoons during the rainy season you can see beautiful landscapes due to the presence of rainbows that decorate the entire valley. Normally any day is ideal to walk through the tranquility and safety of these places.
  • Experiential tourism – If you want to go a little beyond the normal and want to have a cultural encounter. One recommendation is that you can do experiential tourism. There are some communities where it is possible to live with them for a few days. This will be the perfect preamble to then go recharged with new energy to Machu Picchu. One of the districts where you can have an unforgettable experience is Wacahuasi.
  • Visit of restaurants – In the Sacred Valley of the Incas you can find a wide variety of restaurants. These places at the service of tourists can be found in all the districts that belong to the valley. Among them, the districts of Urubamba, which also has a variety of hotels, and Ollantaytambo stand out.


By Imachupicchu – Last updated, January 9, 2024

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