Known as Wilka Qhichwa in Quechua, the 110km-long Sacred Valley offers many surprises. Though famous for ruins such as Machu Picchu and beautiful cities like Cusco, there are 11 other things you must do and know about this area.
Here are 11 things to do and know about the Sacred Valley:
1. The Incas chose to settle in the Sacred Valley partly because of the agriculture
As the early inhabitants of the Cusco region, the Incas slowly achieved administrative control over the different ethnic groups living in the Sacred Valley, by conquest or diplomacy. In addition to the fact that the Sacred Valley was very close to Cusco, one of the reasons why the Incas were so interested in the Sacred Valley was probably because it was lower in elevation and therefore warmer than other areas.
The fact that it was lower and warmer allowed for better agriculture, especially for growing maize, a prestige crop for the Incas.
2. One of the coolest (or most terrifying!) hotels in the world is located in the Sacred Valley
Skylodge Adventures Suites, a sleeping camp hanging at the summit of a 400-meter mountain, is in the Sacred Valley, just 15 minutes from Ollantaytambo.
Not only does it enable you to enjoy the landscapes and the sky full of stars from your completely see-through room, but it also takes you on an adventure of a 400 m Via Ferrata or hiking and zip lining in order to reach the hotel.
What do you think, is this the coolest or the most terrifying hotel in the world?
3. There’s a Potato Park in the Sacred Valley
This biocultural reserve is one of the many things the Sacred Valley has to offer. If you are interested in learning about Andean traditions like agriculture, weaving, and sharing a few moments with the twelve different communities that live and grow potatoes there, this is the place to go to. Here is everything you need to know about this magical place.
4. The highest slingshot in the world is situated in the Action Valley
The Sacred Valley is also known for the wide range of adventures it offers. If you’re visiting the valley, take a day to go to the Action Valley, an adventure park offering bungee jumping and slingshots, founded by two national champions: a National Paragliding Champion and a National Bungee Jumping Champion.
The slingshot, built at an altitude of 3,500 meters, fires its riders more than 100 meters into the air, which makes it the highest in the world. The bungee jump is also often considered as the highest in South America, but that might be because of its very high altitude.
If you’re a fan of strong sensations, the park is waiting for you!
5. Try cuy, the staple diet of highland Peruvians
Cuy, or better known as guinea pig, is a common dish for Peruvians, with a history of over 5,000 years. In fact, the second Friday of October is the National Guinea Pig Day in Peru!
The Cuy is often served fried or roasted, and can be found in almost every restaurant in the Sacred Valley, where it is extremely popular. It might seem weird, but you should definitely give it a try (it is very good and tasty!).
6. Go mountain biking in the incredible Maras salt mines
The little town of Maras is just 40 km from Cusco city, a very short drive from Ollantaytambo and Urubamba. The small town is home to an impressive network of ancient salt deposits, used since the Inca times.
It consists of very salty spring water that arrives in hand-built pools, where it is left to evaporate in order to leave 100% natural unrefined salt.
The rules for maintaining a salt pond are very strict, as they all depend on each other: the proper maintenance of each pond is necessary for the correct functioning of all of them. The techniques have been established since the time of the Incas, perhaps even earlier.
In addition to visiting the salt mines, you can also enjoy a scenic mountain bike tour around the area.
7. The Sacred Valley houses the longest zip line of Peru
Starting close to the town of Maras, at a height of almost 5,000 m above sea level, this zip line is considered the longest in the country at of 2,130 meters of length. Apparently, it can take you up to a speed of 120 km/h, which is perfect for true adrenaline seekers.
As you fly through the air at a very high speed, take a deep breath and enjoy the incredible and beautiful panoramic view of the Sacred Valley and its mountains. If you love outdoor activities, know that the Urubamba Valley has many to offer and check out these 7 incredible adventure activities to do in the Sacred Valley.
8. Thousands of Sacred Valley homes are equipped with water connections
In 2015, Peru’s Ministry of Housing announced that 2,500 households are to have drinkable water. Many communities that live in the Sacred Valley are situated in rural and isolated areas, making access to water very difficult.
That is why the Peruvian state has decided to complete actions to help those populations. Today, more than 10,000 people benefit from water connections that provide communities with drinking water and to use for their personal necessities.
9. See the Sacred Valley from a unique and adrenaline-filled spot
Looking for the ultimate adrenaline-filled experience? Paragliding can be the best option for you! Many tourism operators propose this extreme activity, so make sure to pick one that has experience and that isn’t completely new.
Most of the operators run their tours either close to Chinchero, about 30 minutes north from Cusco, or near Pisac, about 45 minutes from Cusco. The flights last for 15-30 min and offer breathtaking views of the Sacred Valley. Here’s a little sneak-peek of how it is to paraglide in the Sacred Valley:
If you are visiting the Sacred Valley and looking for adrenaline activities, you should read this!
10. Stand where the Incas won a glorious battle against the conquistadors
In 1536, the conquistador Hernando Pizarro attacked Ollantaytambo with 70 riders and many Inca and Spanish soldiers. It was there that the Inca rebel Manco was taking refuge. Pizarro’s goal was to take him as a hostage.
They never managed to get into the fortress, as the soldiers of Manco where throwing arrows and rocks at them. Finally, he had the brilliant idea of flooding the plain by releasing the canalizations, which marked a great victory over the conquistadors. The Spanish troops came back to attack, with four times as many riders, and Manco was forced to take refuge in his fort in the forest. Today, the ruins of Ollantaytambo are considered some of the most impressive and popular in the Sacred Valley.
11. Enjoy yoga by the lake in Piuray
Take some time off the tourist route and enjoy tranquility of Piuray Lake. Let go of stress and wake up to a morning yoga session right next to the lake. You can fill in the rest of your day with activities like kayaking, stand-up paddling, or biking. A 45-min ride from Cusco city or Ollantaytambo will get you to heavenly Piuray.
This article has been updated from the original version published on September 16, 2019.