America,  Peru,  TDM,  Travel Journal

The Sacred Valley (Peru): the ingenuity of the Incas

Today we will spend the whole day visiting the Sacred Valley, whose name comes from the Sacred River that zig-zags between the mountains. As planned, we bought a tour from agency A, to be resold to agency B

Part 1: Travel Diary
Part 2: Practical Tips

Part 1: Travel Diary

The planned program is as follows
– Visit of the Pisaq market
– Visit the ruins of Pisaq
– Lunch
– Visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo
– Visit of the textile workshop of Chinchero

The pick-up is done on foot, a gentleman comes to pick us up at the hotel to abandon us at the main square. We are about twenty to wait for the guide, who brings us to another place where the bus is parked (big buses aren’t allowed to circulate in the historical center)

The path is very pretty, even if I would have preferred a place on the left to see the landscapes better

We cross the four ruins located at the North of Cusco, I realize, considering the distance and the rise, that those who advise us to do it on foot are either very sporty or tell bullshit. Today, we will not visit these four ruins, they are part of the “city tour” of Cusco. We go further: until Pisaq


For some unknown reason, we will make two shopping stops instead of just one. The first one without interest, where you can find the same products as in Cuzco. I could still find my sweater in alpaca (synthetic surely, considering the price: 35 soles), hyper hyper hot. I love it!

The second shopping stop is more interesting: we stop at a goldsmith’s workshop, where we are shown how the setting is made, and why the silver used in Peru is 95% pure (and not 92.5% as in the rest of the world, the remaining 7.5% being a copper-based mixture to make the silver harder). Apparently Peruvian silver is naturally harder than the others; scientifically I don’t really see how this is possible since pure silver, whether in Peru or Hawaii, must have the same properties, right? In any case, thisn’tion of “Peruvian silver” seems to be the local pride, I was told about it during the visit of the cathedral of Cusco, where some decorations are made of Peruvian silver

The crimping is a bit disappointing: they do it with glue! That’s cheating, sir! Anyway, when I’m at the craftsmen’s, I’m over the moon! I desperately try to find myself a jewel but everything is too ugly!

In the market next door, you can find a lot of alpaca fur rugs. OMG! If I knew that, I would have chosen Peru as the last destination of the world tour, so I could have bought and brought back a lot of nice things

Ruins of Pisaq

We finally arrive at the interesting part: the visit of the ruins
Everyone goes down to show their entrance ticket, or buy one. We choose to buy a parcial boleto of 70 soles/person, valid for 2 days, which will cover the visit of today’s ruins (+ Maray and Chinchero if we want to go by ourselves tomorrow)

The ruins aren’t particularly pretty but the surroundings are beautiful! The guide explains us very well how the terraces were created: by following the shape of the mountain and not by digging in the mountain. The water is conveyed here from the glaciers, via a system of viaducts and this system is still functional

The Incas were the first to shower every day, to purify their soul. We will also see a mountain with a lot of holes: the mummies were buried there, but all were stolen because they were also buried with gold and silver. Only three are preserved in the museum of Cusco at the present time


We are all dropped off in front of an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant in Urubamba. As our tour does not include lunch, we have to pay an additional 35 soles/person. Tourist rate for an edible meal but no more

Ruins of Ollantaytambo

I love this city! It is built from the ruins of Incas. The houses are composed of 2 layers: first layer of stone (from the time of the Incas), then second layer of adobe. This gives to this village a particular charm. Most people come here to take the train to Machu Picchu, but if you have time, stay one night here; or go early in the morning before taking the train (this is the option we have chosen)

Visiting the ruins of Ollantaytambo requires a climb of more than 200 steps. The guide has the good idea to make us climb 50 steps each time, with a break for explanations and rest

This site isn’t finished, it was under construction when the Spaniards arrived. It’s very interesting because we can see stones being gathered, others being polished..

The sacred parts are entitled to perfectly polished and adjusted stones to form a giant “puzzle” or “lego”. Small stones put between 2 big stones to absorb the expansion of the big stones in case of strong heat. Others at the bottom of large stones to limit the damage of earthquakes. Contrary to Machu Picchu, all the stones come from the big mountain next door. So imagine the energy it took to transport tons and tons of granite like that from one mountain to another. And to say that we are already out of breath after 200 steps!

The visit is unfortunately a little too fast for my taste. Fortunately we could come back the next day, before taking the train to Machu Picchu

Some travelers stop their tour here and take the train directly to Machu Picchu. They miss the visit of the textile workshop in Chinchero

Chinchero textile workshop

As usual, I love visiting craftsmen even if it ends with a sales pitch at the end. Here, everything is done according to the ancestral method, from the making of the wool to the dyeing of the wool with natural ingredients

What impresses us the most is the red color obtained by crushing mercilessly an exit of parasites living on the cacti. By mixing the blood of this parasite with lemon or salt, we obtain orange or pinkish hues

The weaving part impresses me moderately, I have already seen the same technique elsewhere. Here, as everything is handmade, the cap costs in 100 soles and the sweaters 400 soles. Nothing to do with my 35 soles industrial sweater I bought this morning!

Hard not to crack. I’m dying to buy this blanket made of alpaca or llama wool, whatever! It’s so pretty!


For 30 soles/person, we liked the tour and the explanations very much. It was a little expeditious and full of people, but it is a good introduction to the Inca ruins, before the visit of Machu Picchu two days later

We liked being able to return the next day to Ollantaytambo because the 30 minutes that we were given were clearly not enough

Pisaq and Ollantaytambo are the two cities where you can easily go by colectivo. So if you aren’t particularly interested in having a guide, you can go by yourself and spend more time at the ruins. A night in Ollantaytambo is recommended, the city is so beautiful!

Part 2: Practical Tips

Budget per person: 30 soles + 35 soles for lunch + 70 soles for the boleto parcial

All agencies will offer you this tour. We have booked the cheapest at 30 soles/person. Don’t ask us the name of the agency because we booked at A to be resold later at B (lol)

To take with you
– A bottle of water
– Sunscreen + hat
– Rain poncho (the weather is changeable) or umbrella
– at least 105 soles per person to pay for food and entrance ticket

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *