The Sacred Valley of the Incas is an incomparably beautiful stretch of small villages and ancient ruins spread across a broad plain and rugged mountain slopes northwest of Cusco.
The Sacred Valley is the main valley of Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire. The valley was of great value to the Incas due to its special geographical location and ideal climate. It was the best place for maize production in Peru as well as a great source of natural wealth.
Through the valley rolls the Urubamba river (called the Willcamayu by the Incas; today part of it is also called the Vilcanota), a vital religious element of the Incas’ cosmology. The Incas not only believed that the flow of the Urubamba was inevitably tied to the constellations and the mountain peaks, but also that the river was the earthbound counterpart of the Milky Way.
Machu Picchu is considered a masterpiece of architecture and engineering. Its unique architectural features and landscape contribute to a veil of mystery woven around much of the literature published about the site. The magic and mystery of Machu Picchu is internationally recognized and it has been on the List of World Heritage Sites of UNESCO since 1983 as part of a cultural and ecological site known as the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
One of the most frequent questions we receive is, “I have two days in Cusco, what do I NEED to see?” The answer is the Sacred Valley (Ollantaytambo and Pisac in particular) and Machu Picchu. However, the Maras Salt Mines and Moray archeological site are close behind. Now, we have developed this tour that allows you to visit Maras, Moray, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu and as a bonus the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary … in two days. This tour packs an incredible amount of beauty and history into a short time frame.
You will have a thorough briefing with your guide 1 or 2 days before your trek. Your guide will meet you at our office in Cusco and you can take this opportunity to ask questions and make any final preparations.
We will pick you up at your hotel around 7:00 am and our first stop is the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary. This is an organization dedicated to rescuing and looking after animals which have suffered mistreatment of any kind from former owners or poachers and illegal hunters who commercialize protected species. Many of the animals they shelter are endangered. One of the species at risk of extinction is the Andean Condor. The sanctuary has a dedicated program for this amazing bird, where they encourage their reproduction and later release the young Condors.
After our visit, we are off to Pisac to see our first Inca ruins of the tour. At Pisac you can see magnificent Inca remains. The ancient architecture and engineering of the Inca temples is breathtaking and will sweep you off your feet. Our guided tour of Pisac lasts about 2 hours. Then we will head back to the town of Pisac to visit the most colorful and traditional local market in the Cusco region and where you can buy traditional textiles at low prices. After our visit to the market, our sightseeing continues as we drive along the beautiful Sacred Valley. This is a good time to enjoy the deluxe box lunch we provide for the tour.
Located near the town of Urubamba, we find the Moray Inca Site and the Maras Salt Mines. The Moray Inca site is a fascinating display of terraces It boasts three amphitheater-like terraces. These terraces, which are carved deep into the earth in a bowl shape, were thought to be used to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops. When we finish exploring Moray, we will head to the salt mines of Maras. This village is known as a former salt-producing center that dates back all the way to colonial times. The salt mines were used by the Incas and continue to be used to this day. There are over 3000 salt pools carved into the mountain side, being filled daily by a little stream of water. The area is amazing and beautiful.
Back on the road, it is an approximately 30 minute drive to get to the last Inca ruins on our tour, known as Ollantaytambo (Inca palace). This ruin was built with pink granite rocks and is another impressive example of Inca craftsmanship. Here you can see the second biggest rock from the Inca times (90 tons), which was used as part of the Temple of the Sun. We will have a guided tour of the site.
We will have dinner at a fantastic restaurant in Ollantaytambo featuring authentic Peruvian cuisine.
After dinner, we will go to the train station. We will take the train to Aguas Calientes. During the trip you will see many glaciers and snow-capped peaks, lush green valleys and Incan farming terraces on both sides of the valley. Upon arrival to Aguas Calientes you will check in to your hotel room and relax before your exciting visit to Machu Picchu the next day.
You will have breakfast at your hotel before we take a very early bus (5:30am) along the winding road to Machu Picchu to see the magnificent sunrise. Once there you will be given a 2 hour walking tour of the site.
Your hike of Huayna Picchu Mountain will begin at 10 AM. The ticket price for Huayna Picchu is included in the price of your trek. If you decide not to climb the mountain you will have free time to explore Machu Picchu before you return to Aguas Calientes by bus.
When you arrive in Aguas Calientes you will board the expedition train to Ollantaytambo. From Ollantaytambo you will travel by private van to Cusco and we will drop you off at your hotel. Arrival time in Cusco depends on the time of your train ticket, however is generally between 8 and 9 PM.