Begin your trip to the Cusco area with the Sacred Valley, which the Inca considered paradise for its fertile earth. Up and down the valley, the Inca built a string of their most sacred sites, including temples and fortresses in Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Collected here are the top five sights in the Sacred Valley.
What’s unique about Pisac’s Inca ruins, apart from their extraordinary beauty, is their range. Here you will find not only religious architecture, but also residential, agricultural, and military structures.
Moray and Salineras
This six-hour downhill hike is a gorgeous introduction to the Sacred Valley. Start at Moray, a complex of concentric agricultural terraces, and then head downhill past Salineras, a centuries-old salt mine that is still in operation.
Second in importance only to Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo includes some of the Inca’s best stonework, including a series of ceremonial baths, elegant trapezoidal doorways, and a sun temple that faces the rising sun.
Inca Granaries (Pinkuylluna)
This moderate, 1.5-hour hike offers a spectacular view of Ollantaytambo, its gleaming sun temple, and interesting grain storehouses, known in Quechua as colcas.
The Pisac market begins every day at 9am when the first tour buses arrive from Cusco and winds down around 5pm when the last tourists leave. The town’s main square is filled with stalls selling the full range of Peruvian artesanía: carved gourds (mates burilados), ceramics, felt hats, alpaca sweaters and mittens, musical instruments, paintings, antiques, a huge variety of trinkets, and, most of all, weavings and jewelry.