Most people visit Peru with one attraction in mind: Machu Picchu. We were those people, too! But, now that we’ve been there, we know the Sacred Valley is full of other ruins and attractions that you must see.
We visited Peru with a group of our friends using Gate 1 Travel company. With the help of our guide, we put together this awesome one-day Sacred Valley itinerary.
This schedule will definitely keep you busy and you’ll need a driver unless you’re very adventurous. We’ve done road trips in many other countries including Ireland and Curaçao, but some of the roads in Peru were the windiest we’ve seen!
RECOMMENDATION: Following advice from many reviewers on TripAdvisor, we hired Percy Salas as our driver for our day tour around the Sacred Valley. We seriously can’t recommend him enough! You can contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: We had a group of five of us on our tour. I wouldn’t recommend more than that in the van, especially if you have guys with long legs! The vehicle could probably fit two more people but it would be pretty tight!
Our Sacred Valley Itinerary
First Stop: Chincero Weaving Center
Percy picked us up at our Cusco hotel at 8:00am and we got on the road toward the town of Chincero. The drive to this first stop is about 40-45 minutes.
At the weaving center, the Chincero women explain the traditional weaving process of cleaning the wool, dying the yarn, and creating the textiles. The demonstration takes about 15 minutes.
The Chincero textiles resemble the rainbow and it was neat to see how they create the different colors. They make the dyes from all sorts of items including fruits, vegetables, roots, even bugs!
Once you’ve watched the demonstration, you’ll have a few minutes to shop the finished products which include blankets, scarves, sweaters, mittens, and more. We didn’t purchase anything and there wasn’t any pressure, but we did leave a tip for the woman who gave our demonstration.
Second Stop: Maras Salt Mines
Please Note: As of June 15, 2019, the entrance to the Maras Salt Mines is now closed to tourists. You can visit a viewpoint to see them from a distance but can no longer walk between the ponds. Visit our post to learn more!
Our next stop was about a 40 minute ride from Chincero. There is an entrance fee of 7 soles per person, but it is definitely worth it! After the entrance, you’ll still have quite a windy road before you reach the actual site. From here, you’ll be able to see the salt mines in the distance.
The Maras Salt Mines are such a unique site. They’re unlike anything we’ve seen before! The salt forms from an underground hypersaline spring. The pools are believed to have been built back in the 1400s and there are approximately 3,000 of them.
Another reason you’ll want a tour guide with you on this day trip is so you can learn about the history of each site. Percy explained that the salt mines are harvested by hand. For those who own the salt mines at the very bottom, they have to hike down, harvest the pools, and then carry the very-heavy bags of salt all the way back to the top!
The Boleto Turistico is a tourist pass that you’ll need to visit certain sites in Peru. There are several different options depending on how many attractions you’ll be visiting.
NOTE: The full pass covers 16 sites and costs 130 soles. Sites included in this pass include Moray (the next stop on this itinerary) and Sacsayhuamán (also on our tour) and the pass is good for 10 days. There are also partial passes if you are only going to a few of the sites. You can learn more about the passes on TripAdvisor.
Third Stop: Moray
The Moray agricultural terraces are only about a 15 minute drive from Maras (once you get back up the windy road to the entrance of the salt mines).
Although the purpose of the terraces is not for certain, Percy explained that it’s believed the structure served as experimental farmlands. Each of the circles is a slightly different altitude and the temperature changes as you climb higher up the structure. The difference in temperature from the bottom to the top is about 15°C (27°F). In this way, the Incas could have tested various plants and the altitude in which they grow best.
Besides the one very large terrace, there are also two other smaller circular terraces at Moray. Some parts of the two smaller terraces are currently undergoing reconstruction.
Fourth Stop: Ollantaytambo
While Machu Picchu gets most of the hype in Peru, Ollantaytambo (in our opinion) is just as incredible. Perhaps the best part about these Incan ruins is the much lighter crowd at this site.
This fortress sits on the hill above the town of Ollantaytambo near the Urubamba River.
Climbing Ollantaytambo is actually a lot more difficult than climbing Machu Picchu! The steps are a lot steeper and it is very windy so you need to be careful near the edges of the structure!
Fifth Stop: Awana Kancha Alpaca Farm
The Awana Kancha Alpaca Farm was a fun attraction near the end of our long day tour. The alpaca farm is about 30 minutes outside of Cusco, so it’s a good stop on the way back from your Sacred Valley tour.
The alpaca farm is home to alpaca, llama and vicuña and there are baskets of grasses available near the pens so that you can feed them!
The llamas and alpacas are very friendly and we took turns feeding them.
Baby alpaca wool products are the softest (and most expensive) items you’ll buy in Peru.
We were surprised to learn that purchasing a “baby alpaca” item does not necessarily mean the wool came from a baby alpaca. Percy explained that baby alpaca wool comes from the very first time the alpaca is sheared. Of course, the alpaca is usually still pretty young but not necessarily a baby. These alpacas have very long wool by the time they get their first shear.
NOTE: It is free to visit the Awana Kancha Alpaca Farm, but you should leave something in the tip box to help with upkeep of the facility. Purchasing an item from the gift shop also helps with funding the farm.
Sixth Stop: Sacsayhuamán
We made it to this stop at the very end of a long day, just before it closed. The fortress ruins are very close to Cusco so it’s a good stop to make at the beginning or end of a day.
This site is very crowded, unlike many of the other stops on our day tour. This is probably because of its close proximity to Cusco making it an easy tourist destination (unlike some of the other places we went that are much farther outside the city). Also, tour buses have easy access to this site so you will see many large tour groups.
Relax and drink a Pisco Sour!
We hope you enjoy this day tour as much as we did! Of course, if you have more time in Cusco, we’d highly recommend visiting some of the other sites that we missed. Your Boleto Turistico covers entry into a variety of other sites that aren’t on this itinerary. We would have loved to check out Qenko, Tambomachay, Puka Pukara, and more, but simply didn’t have the time!
Have you been to the Sacred Valley? What was your favorite spot?
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