In between Cusco and Machu Picchu is the Sacred Valley, a magical mountainous land. I believe that all three places in the area build on layers of understanding and each day was a treasured piece of my trip in Peru. You can’t just walk to the Sacred Valley, it takes a bit of planning, but it is worth the effort. There are many sites to choose in the sprawling valley, but first – how to get to there? You could dapple with public transportation or finding your own private driver. After researching online I decided to book with a company called Taxidatum which had great reviews – and they turned out to be wonderful (we would use them again in Lima).
You can choose which areas of interest you prefer and they are flexible. One of their popular tours include Chinchero, Maras, Moray – all places I wanted to see – and they allowed me to add in lunch in Urubamba and drop off in Ollantaytambo on the same ticket. Email response was quick and the great thing about this tour? You don’t pay in advance, only at the end of your trip. A very fair price for the day $65 USD or 200 soles, whichever currency you prefer. The price is per car not per person, so it’s good to have friend, but it is a private tour – just the people in your group. Plus you’ll need your Boleto Turistico to enter the sites, Maras is extra and you can’t miss it!.
A reason this tour was so affordable was because our driver didn’t speak a lick of English. This didn’t stop us from having an amazing time (or talking about the sites we visited, culture, our pets, and families), but GoogleTranslates did help heaps because our Spanish is not so swell, all over the country it was our golden tool.
You set the time for pick up and they will scoop you right from your hotel, then your journey begins. Even with no story, the Sacred Valley is undeniably breathtaking with its mountains,
Our driver made us laugh uncontrollably by making us get out to take pictures in a random farm by the papas florasitas.
He didn’t mind stopping anywhere we wanted to take pictures. We never felt rushed at any moment wandering the ruins and towns he dropped us off in and waited patiently. He suggested stopping off in random town squares,
and told us the story of every ancient doorway.
We really loved how our driver made the effort to explain things to us, he really cared about our experience. By picking up the few familiar words we knew and using the translate app, we put together the story of the valley and learned a whole lot of traditional Quechua words. It was a day we’ll never forget.
On a practical note, if you plan on going from Cusco –> Sacred Valley –> Machu Picchu you may consider taking the train at the end of your day in the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu because you will save yourself a lot of time. You need to take the train to get to Machu Picchu, and it seems a bit silly to go all the way back to Cusco and take a much longer train the next day. Ending the day in Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Machu Picchu, made the ride much shorter and more affordable as well.
More details on each site of the Sacred Valley this week, but here is the breakdown of our daytrip:
+Chinchero – authentic market and ruins
+Moray – ruins
+Maras – ancient salt mines
+Urubamba – lunch
+Ollantaytambo – ruins, dinner, pick up the train to Machu Picchu
If I had an extra day to explore the Sacred Valley? I would take the other route and explore the ruins of Tipon and market at Pisac!