Places to visit in Peru: The Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu


In a country of many wonders, one could spend months travelling around and yet leave feeling unfinished. Among the places to visit in Peru (and for a good reason) there are the Sacred Valley of the Rio Urubamba and Machu Picchu.

Sacred Valley:

The Sacred Valley of the Incas is one of the places to visit in Peru. The starting point to visit the Sacred Valley is Cusco. It is possoble to go to the sites independently (purchase a boleto turistico: tourists have two full days to visit Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Moray and Salinas), in which case it is necessary to arrange transportation. There are regular buses from Cusco to Pisac, Urubamba (from where it is possible to catch a but to go to Moray and Salinas) and Ollantaytambo.

The best option is to do a Sacred Valley tour, which is not as expensive as one may think. It really is worth the extra pennies to have a good guide that will explain the history of the places. And there are a few more tips for things to do in Peru for those who are on a tight budget.

Any agency in Cusco will sell a Sacred Valley tour, which usually includes transportation, entrance fees and a guided visit of the citadels of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, and entrance fees to Moray and the Salinas; as well as lunch in one of the many restaurants in Urubamba. Options vary: it is possible to have a private car tour (which is the best option for a small group of friends) or a bus group tour. To help save extra pennies, there even are whole packages which includes the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.

Most tours leave between 7:30 am and 9:00 am. Private cars usually leave earlier than buses, in order to let tourists experience the sites without having to push among the crowds of visitors. The tour can take tourists back to Cusco, or drop them off at Ollantaytambo, or even go directly to Aguas Calientes (which is the last stop before Machu Picchu).

Jumping around the Sacred Valley - Ollantaytambo

Jumping around the Sacred Valley – Ollantaytambo

A gorgeous view from Ollantaytambo archeological site, Sacred Valley

A gorgeous view from Ollantaytambo archeological site, Sacred Valley

Places to visit in Peru: Sacred Valley, for a breathtaking view from Pisac archelogical site

Places to visit in Peru: Sacred Valley, for a breathtaking view from Pisac archelogical site

Ollantaytambo:

If there is more time to explore the area, Ollantaytambo is among the places to visit in Peru that, despite tiny, deserves a couple of days. It is charming and a perfectly preserved example of an Inca village, there are various lovely restaurants, a nice crafts market, and life goes on slowly and quietly. The ruins are big, and a guided tour will only visits one side. But if one spends a bit of extra time there, it is possible to access the other side and enjoy a spectacular view of the village from atop the mountain. It is also possible  to fully use your boleto turistico to go to Moray and the Salinas (catch a bus heading to Urubamba).

Where to stay and eat in Ollantaytambo:

There are various options, for expensive taste and for backpackers on a budget. Hostal Chaska Wasi is a decent budget option, but guests have to put up with the moody staff and owner and the temperamental showers. El Albergue, a little outside the village, right on the railway, is a luxury boutique hotel, with huge comfortable rooms and a top notch restaurant in it. For a decent meal, go to Il Piccolo Forno, an Italian run restaurant and pizzeria. It may not be as good as in Italy, but pretty good given what the place has to offer.

What to do in Peru? Spotting the face of the Inca in Ollantaytambo

What to do in Peru? Spotting the face of the Inca in Ollantaytambo

Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu:

Known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, Aguas Calientes is not particularly interesting if not for the hot springs and for its proximity to the archeological site, and we all know that Machu Picchu is one of the things to see in Peru. Sleeping here is a good way to have early access to it (the site opens at 6:00 am, carry your passport as you will need it to access), by catching one of the many buses that link the village to the archeological site (the first one leaves at 5:30 am, a round trip ticket costs 20 US dollars), or hiking up the trail (about one hour, uphill).

Places to visit in Peru: Machu Picchu - view from the Inti Punku

Places to visit in Peru: Machu Picchu – view from the Inti Punku

Where to stay and eat in Aguas Calientes:

I recommend Denny’s house, a hostel a little off the main centre of the village. Rooms are tiny, so be sure not to carry too much lugguage. But beds are comfortable, breakfast is filling and served very early for those who wake up early to go to Machu Picchu, and most importantly showers are hot and powerful (which never goes without saying in Peru).

There are many restaurants. Most of them will try to offer a set meal, which normally includes a soup, a main dish and dessert for around 20 soles. It is cheap, but not nearly enough food. Opt for a real meal and take time in picking a good restaurant. Chifas (Chinese restaurants) are usually good options for cheap, big and usually good portions of food.

Need to have more information on Peru? Check here.


 

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8 Comments

  • Michael Huxley
    1 July 2015 at 13:32

    I know from experience that no photo can capture the sheer scale or awesomeness of those landscapes but you’ve done a great job! There are some great tips here, really useful for anyone wanting to visit. I agree about the portion sizes too, but I thought it was just me being greedy! I’m glad I’m not the only one! Haha!

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      1 July 2015 at 14:23

      Hahahahah not at all. I am small, but I have a decent appetite and when they brought dessert and I saw that it was 1/4 of a (thin) pancake I thought it was a joke!

  • Alejandra
    1 July 2015 at 19:23

    Im so excited to read this post now! Thanks for all the info. Im spending 42 days in Peru starting July 13th, my lifelong dream has been to visit Machu Picchu, did you do any of the famous routes to Machu Picchu?

    • Claudia Tavani
      Claudia Tavani
      1 July 2015 at 20:04

      Hi Alejandra, I actually have a whole series of posts on Peru and yes, I have hiked the official Inca Trail. You can find some info if you look through my posts on Peru 🙂

  • Anneklien Meanne
    1 July 2015 at 20:33

    Wow hopefully one day il set foot to these places, especially to hike Machu Picchu

  • Brianna
    2 July 2015 at 0:25

    Macchu Picchu is on my bucket list for sure.

  • Aileen
    4 July 2015 at 14:05

    Peru is amazing. I’m happy to see a part of it through your post! It really has some wonderful terrains and I can’t wait to see these for myself 😀

  • Simone
    5 July 2015 at 17:13

    Oh this was one of my favourite places in all of South America!! 🙂
    Thanks for sharing
    Simone
    http://www.theaussieflashpacker.com

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