From Cusco you could spend four separate days doing day tours to various attractions. You’d also be picked up at 3:30am every day and return at 5pm each night. This is why we decided to choose ONE tour. Our choices were Rainbow Mountain, Lake Humantay and Sacred Valley.
Having met several travelers in Arequipa who had done one if not all three of these tours, we had some solid input. My soul was set on Rainbow Mountain. But after speaking with people who had visited, we were informed it was over run by tourists, the altitude was terrible, and it’s just not that impressive (photos are HEAVILY photoshopped).
We chose Sacred Valley because we get the most bang for our buck. My soul does still want to see Lake Humantay and Rainbow Mountain however. Perhaps another time. I’ve linked google images of each so you can see – I hope you can see the difference between the photoshopped and non-photoshopped rainbow mountains…the whether is also crazy at that altitude so you rarely get a clear day, not worth the 6 hour trek IMO).
Through our Airbnb we paid for a private tour which was SO MUCH better than being in a van or bus with 12+ other travelers (personal opinion).
First stop in the village of Chinchero. We got an early start so we were head of the crowds for almost the entire day. If you can do this ANYWHERE, I always encourage it.
The road into The Sacred Valley with views of towns Urabamba and Pisac I believe. As you can imagine wtih most natural beauty, these non-photoshopped pictures don’t do the Andes Mountains justice. Especially because there wasn’t another soul in sight.
From the view of the Sacred Valley, we drop down into the Maras Salt Mines (still ahead of the crowds).
The salt mines were one of my favorite stops. The Incas were innovative, and still use the natural techniques today. Plus I just think it’s strangely gorgeous.
We passed 12 tour vans on our way out. They were closing in. I threw a small fit with myself in the back seat. I’m sure you can see it now. Why did I have to share the Sacred Valley with other humans?… No one can give me a valid answer.
So, in my silent tantrum, we headed to Moray Terraces. THIS IS COOL folks. If you aren’t in on the whole reasoning behind terraces, this one might just blow ya dang mind.
According to our guide (you never know how much is folklore and how much is truth), this circular terrace was specifically designed for growing different crops based on the different temperatures in the circle and exposure to sunlight throughout the day.
Truth or tale? Who knows, they look cool nonetheless and the precision is impressive.
Now we were headed for the main attraction, the Ollantaytambo ruins. But first we had to drive through the gorge where you can stay in these suspended rooms. No thank you. But a cool, and terrifying, concept I suppose.
We arrived in the town of Ollantaytambo and then moved on to the ruins. There is no shortage of tourist buying opportunities in this village. Cue the bright aztec weaved bags below.
We quickly moved on to the ruins. And they were nothing short of mind boggling. How did they move 80 ton rocks in 1,000-1,400? No one knows. How did they carve such perfect edges out of stone? I just kept asking HOW. Take a look and imagine it for yourself.
The crowds caught up to us at Ollantaytambo. We spent about an hour there (could easily spend more) and then headed to our last stop of Pisac (or Pisaq). Oh look, more perfectly sculpted terraces, built out of the mountain side. Makes sense.
To say it was windy is an understatement. Whether in The Sacred Valley changes VERY quickly. I almost lost Nate’s hat off my head a few times.
I also feel the need to add, these terraces look small – they are NOT. When walking along the terraces themselves, they are easily taller than me, probably 7-8 feet in height…probably higher; my depth perception is terrible. They look so simple, but they are truly an impressive sight. You can see people in one of the pictures below (I’ll point it out) that really put their mass into perspective.
Look at the two photos below. You can see how small the people are on the second terrace down from the main walkway. Go ahead, look for the people. Play a little where’s Waldo.
Aaaaaaand you get another sweet view from the top of the ruins.
That’s it! After almost getting blown off the mountain side, we completed our Sacred Valley tour. More than worth every penny. The Andes Mountains, history of the Incas, the ruins, and the terraces are in a different league. One that I think you should experience if traveling is on your list of things to do in life.
Plus we didn’t have to wake up at 3am to trek at 15,000ft for 6 hours…so #winning.
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