Whether your ultimate destination is Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, or one of the other small towns in the Sacred Valley, you need to know the best way to get there. Some people prefer to take the scenic route, others try to economize, while still others prioritize convenience and efficiency; the definition of 'best' in terms of ways to get where you’re going is bound to vary depending on the kind of traveler you are.
Cusco's Sacred Valley is one of Peru's most tranquil destinations for travelers who are looking to get away. It is also a necessary point of departure for many whose final destination is Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. However, getting there can be confusing and hectic, and many people don't understand all of the options available to them. For that reason, I've identified the three best ways to travel from Cusco to the Sacred Valley.
1. Book a tour
For those who aren't in a huge rush and prefer to take the scenic route, many tour companies in Cusco will be happy to drop you and your luggage at or near your destination in the Sacred Valley. That way you will be able to spend the day visiting many of the archaeological sites and towns that are along the route to Ollantaytambo before arriving at your final destination. This option is perfect for travelers catching the train to Aguas Calientes from Ollantaytambo in the late afternoon, as they won't pass over many of the other fascinating attractions in the Cusco region while in direct route to Machu Picchu.
A view from the Pisac ruins (Photo: Nicholle Cardinal)
Sacred Valley tours cost around S/ 82, or approximately US $25. Ask around at the different tourist agencies in Cusco to find the best price. In addition, you will need to purchase the Boleto Turistico Unico (BTU) at the OFEC office in Cusco, or at the entrance to the first archaeological stop on the tour. The BTU costs S/ 130 (approximately US $41) for foreign visitors or S/ 70 (approximately US $22) for students with a valid ISIC card. The BTU is valid for 10 days from the date of purchase and includes entrance to 16 different attractions in the Sacred Valley and Cusco. Alternatively, it is possible to purchase a partial ticket for S/ 70 (approximately US $22), which includes entrance to four attractions in the Sacred Valley and is valid for two days.
2. Take a taxi
For those who have a deadline to meet or simply want to make it to their destination in the Sacred Valley as soon as possible, the quickest way is to hire a taxi. When leaving directly from the airport in Cusco, a taxi can cost up to S/ 100 (approximately US $30). When leaving from the city center in Cusco, a taxi may cost between S/ 50 and S/ 80 (between US $15 and $24) to get to Ollantaytambo. When hiring a taxi from the street, you can always haggle or ask multiple drivers until you find the price you want. The drive from Cusco to Ollantaytambo takes about an hour and a half.
Ollantaytambo (Photo: Nicholle Cardinal)
3. Take a collectivo
The most economical option for getting to the Sacred Valley is to go by collectivo. The collectivos that run between Cusco and Ollantaytambo are typically large vans that accommodate up to 10 passengers. You can catch a ride in a collectivo from Calle Pavitos in Cusco. The collectivo will cost between S/ 10 and S/ 15 (between US $3 and $5) per person.
The Sacred Valley is one of the most idyllic and relaxing destinations in Peru, so planning your method of getting there shouldn't be stressful. Whether you are headed to the train station in Ollantaytambo, Skylodge Adventure Suites in Urubamba, or budget accommodations, there is an option to suit your travel style and get you where you want to go.
Nicholle Cardinal is a writer from Clarkston, Michigan who is currently living, traveling, and writing in Peru. While her interests are focused mostly on travel and culture, she enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, including health, natural medicine, and food.