Luxury Travel To Sacred Valley

  • Beautiful Scenery, Incan Ruins And Ancient Cultures

It was probably the most populated area by the Incas, a strategic emporium for the region, the privileged climate and fertile soil were the perfect combination for the agriculture in the Andes. The Valley was a special zone with abundant fruit and nutritious plants such as corn and Coca leaf that were used in religious ceremonies and ritual acts.
This beautiful place called the Urubamba Valley was created by mighty glacial rivers that sliced through solid earth to form one of the most environmentally diverse basins in the Peruvian highlands. The valley’s surrounding mountains extend skyward, to elevations where snow accumulates year-round. For the climate and the natural beauty, the Valley became one of the best alternative luxury vacation spots in Peru.
The Vilcanota River runs along entire Valley to merge with the Amazon River hundreds kilometers later, Vilcanota means Wilca Mayo or Sacred River for this reason since it provided the vital element for crops and was personified as a Deity.


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Style: Religious, Cultural, Archaeological and Experiential

Service: Luxury


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Cities Visited: Cusco City, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu

Style: Religious, Cultural, Archaeological, and Experiential

Service: Luxury

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Service: Luxury



It's not hard to succumb to the charms of sunny Pisac, a bustling and fast-growing colonial village at the base of a spectacular Inca fortress perched on a mountain spur. Its pull is universal and recent years have seen an influx of expats and new age followers in search of an Andean Shangri- la indeed, it's a magnet for spiritual seekers. The local tourisrn industry has responded by offering everything from yoga retreats and cleanses to guided hallucinogenic trips. Yet it's also worthwhile for mainstream travelers, with ruins, a fabulous market and weaving villages that should not be missed. Located just 33km northeast of Cusco by a paved road, it's the most convenient starting point to the Sacred Valley.

Sights & Activities

Mercado de Artesanía

Pisac is known far and wide for its market, by far the biggest and most touristy in the region. Official market days are Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, when tourist buses descend on the town in droves. However, the market has taken over Pisac to such an extern that it fills the Plaza de Armas and sur-rounding streets every day; visit on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Saturday if you want to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Pisac Ruins

(boleto turístico adult/student under 26 with ISIC card S130/70; dawn-dusk) A truly awesome site with relatively few tourists, this hilltop Inca citadel lies high above the village on a triangular plateau with a plunging gorge on either side. Allow several hours to explore. To walk from town, a steep but spectacular 4km trail starts above the west side of the church. It's a two-hour climb and VA hour return. Worthwhile but grueling, it's good training for the Inca Trail Taking a taxi up and walking back is a good option.

The most impressive feature is the agricultural terracing, which sweeps around the south and east flanks of the mountain in huge and graceful curves, almost entirely unbroken by steps (which require greater maintenance and promote erosion). Instead, tire terracing is joined by diagonal flights of stairs made of flagstones set into the terrace walls. Above the terraces are diff-hugging footpaths, watched over by caracara falcons and well-defended by massive stone door-ways, steep stairs and a short tunnel carved out of the rock. Vendors sell drinks at the top.

This dominating site guards not only the Urubamba Valley below, but also a pass leading into the jungle to the northeast. Topping the terraces is the site’s ceremonial center, with an intihuatana (literally 'hitching post of the Sun'; an Inca astronomical tool), several working water channels, and some painstakingly neat masonry in the well-preserved temples. A path leads up the hillside to a series of ceremonial baths and around to the military area. Looking across the Kitamayo Gorge from the back of the site, you'll also see hundreds of holes (honeycombing the cliff wall. These are Inca  tombs that were phmdered by huaqueros  (grave robbers), and are now completely off-limits to tourists.

For those taking the footpath, there are many crisscrossing trails, but if you aim toward the terracing, you won't get lost. To the west, or the left of the hill as you climb up on the footpath, is the Río Kitamayo Gorge; to the east, or right, is the Río Chongo Valley. It's busiest when tour groups flood in mid-morning on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Horno Colonial San Francisco

(Mariscal Castilla s/n; snacks S2.50; 6am-6pm) Huge clay ovens for baking empanadas and other goodies and castillos de cuyes (miniature castles inhabited by guinea pigs) are found in many nooks and crannies, particularly on Mariscal Castilla. But this is the town's most authentic - a colonial oven dating backto 1830.

Jardín Botanico

Grau, cuadra 4; admission S8; 4:30pm) A private enterprise with a huge courtyard full of beautiful specimens and a resident cat.

La capilla

In recent times, the INC (Instituto Nacional de Cultura), in a characteristically controversial move, demolished the church in the main square in order to reconstruct it in colonial style. Masses, which nave moved to a nearby chapel, are worth visiting. On Sunday, a Quechua-language mass is held at 11am.

Traditionally dressed locals descend from the hills to attend, including men in high-land dress blowing horns and varayocs (local authorities) with silver staffs of office.


If you are interested in textiles, it's worth visiting this weaving community that's a 40-minute trip by taxi from Pisac.

Club Royal Inka

(admission S10; 8m-4pm) Ideal for families, this private recreation area is a fabulous place to while away an afternoon. A day pass allows access to an Olympic-size indoor pool that's decked with fountains, grassy areas and an ornamental duck pond. There's also a restaurant, a sauna, a trout pond and facilities for barbecues, billiards, table tennis, volleyball, tennis and sapo.

It's about 1.5km out of town.

Festivals & Events

La virgen del Carmen

Street processions and masked dancing mark the celebration of 'Mamacha Carmen' who defeats demons climbing on rooftops and balconies. This renowned celebration of the Virgin of Carmen takes place from around July 15 to July 18.

Pisac to Urubamba

Between Pisac and Urubamba is a series of pretty villages (as well as the non-touristy but fairly uninteresting town of Calca), which can easily be explored in a day. Yucay and Huarán offer boutique accommodation and food options, and make excellent bases for leisurely exploration of the safe, scenic Sacred Valley and its many intriguing side valleys.

A visit to the community of offers a fascinating participative demonstration of the weaving process, all the way from picking the plants to making dyes, to shearing sheep and setting up a loom with explanations of the meanings of colors and patterns. There are also excellent trekking options. Campsites and homestays are available with advance notice. Prices vary wildly, depending group size and transport needed.  Both , Jouney Experience and Chaski offer visits.

In Huarán, country inn Greenhouse offers respite replete with dogs lounging on their pillows and hammocks in the lush garden. Large rooms are well-appointed and afford complete privacy. As green as its name, it features solar panels, composting and recycling, uses re-cycled river water for gardening and offers guests water refills. There's a healing room with massage, acupuncture and reiki of fered. Family dinners (S70) gather guests around a common table. To get here, you can grab a bus between Pisac and Urubamba or grab a taxi (S15) from Urubamba.

Also in Huarán, adventure tour operator Munaycha; Km 60.2, Carretera Pisac-Ollantaytambo) comes highly recommended. Among other trips, it guides Lares treks, as well as more local options, and a variety of mountain-bike trips. We have heard rave reviews about trek-bike combinations to Huaipo Lake near Chinchero. Buses running between Pisac and Urubamba pass regularly.


A busy and unadorned urban center, Urubamba is a transportation hub surrounded by bucolic foothills and snowy peaks. The advantages of its lower altitude and relative proximity to Machu Picchu make it popular with both high-end hotels and package tours. While there is little of historical interest, nice countryside and gread weather make it a convenient base from which to explore the extraordinary salt flats of Salinas and the terracing of Moray.

Since Urubamba is quite spread out, the mode of transportation of choice are mototaxis (three-wheeled motorcycle rickshaw axis), The Plaza de Armas is five blocks cast and tour blocks north of the terminal, bounded by Calle Comercio and Jirón Grau.


Many outdoor activities that are organized from Cusco take place near here, including horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, paragliding and hotair balloon trips.

Perol Chico

This place is run by Dutch-Peruvian Eduard van Brunschot Vega, with an excellent ranch outside Urubamba with Peruvian paso horses. Eduard organizes horseback-riding tours that last up to two weeks. An overnight in the Sacred Valley with rides to Salinas, Maras and Moray includes all meals and luxury accommodations. Advance bookings are required.

Cusco for you

Carretera a Salineras de Maras; day trips US$170) Highly recommended for horseback-riding and trekking trips from one to eight days long. Horseback-riding day trips go to Moray and Salinas and other regional destinations. Ask about special rates for families and groups.

Sacred Wheels

Even the casual rider can enjoy these mountain-bike tours that visit the valley and urban Urubamba.


Salinas (admission S10; 09am-4:3Opm) is among the most spectacular sights ¡n the whole Cusco area, with thousands of salt pans that have been used for salt extraction since Inca times. A hot spring at the top of the valley discharges a small stream of heavily salt-laden water, which is diverted into salt pans and evaporated to produce a salt used for cattle licks. It all sounds very pedestrian but the overall effect is beautiful and surreal.

To get here, cross the Río Urubamba over the bridge in Tarabamba, about 4km down the valley from Urubamba, turn right and follow a footpath along the south bank to a small cemetery, where you turn left and climb up a valley to the salt pans of Salinas.

It's about a 500m uphill hike.

A rough dirt road that can be navigated by taxi enters Salinas from above, giving spectacular views. Tour groups visit via this route most days. A taxi from Urubamba to visit Salinas and the nearby Moray costs around S120. You can also walk or hike here from Maras. If it's hot, walk the downhill route from Maras and arrange ahead a taxi pickup.


Known to the Incas as the birthplace of the rainbow, this typical Andean village combines Inca ruins with a colonial church, some wonderful mountain views and a m colorful Sunday market. On a high plain with sweeping views to snow-laden peaks, it's quite beautiful.

Since it is very high, it's unwise to spend the night until you're somewhat acclimated. Entry to the historic precinct, where the ruins, the church and the museum are all found, is by the boleto turístico (adult/ student under 26 with IS1C card S130/70), valid for 10 days and covering 17 sites across the región, including Cusco.

Sights & Activities

Iglesia Colonial de Chinchero

(adult/student under 26 with ISIC card S130/70; 8am-5:30pm) Among the most beautiful churches in the valley, this colonial church is built on Inca foundations. The interior, decked out in merry floral and religious designs, is well worth seeing. Admission is via the boleto turístico tourist card (valid for 10 days and for 16 other sites across the region).

Mercado de Chinchero

The Chinchero market, held on Tuesday, Thursday and especially Sunday, is less touristy than its counterpart in Pisac and well worth a special trip. On Sunday, traditionally dressed locals descend from the hills for the produce market, where the ancient practice of trueco (bartering) still lakes place; this is a rare opportunity to observe genuine bartering.

Centro de TextilesTradicionales

(Manzanares s/n) The best artisan workshop in town.

Ruinas inca

The most extensive ruins here consist of terracing. If you start walking away from the village through toe terraces on the right-, hand side of the valley, you'll also find various rocks carved into seats and staircases.

Museo del Sitio

A small archaeological museum opposite the church houses a collection heavy on broken pots. Admission is via the partial boleto turístico tourist ticket (valid for two days and for nearby ruins).


On the far side of the valley, a clear trail climbs upward before heading north and, down to the Río Urubamba Valley (about : four hours). At the river, the trail turns left and continues to a bridge at Wayllabamba. Cross it for the Sacred Valley road to Calca (turn right, about 13km) or Urubamba (turn left, about 9km).

You can flag down any passing bus until mid-afternoon, or continue walking to Yu-cay, where the trail officially ends. In "Yucay you'll find a colonial church, an Inca ruin, and more than one charming accommodation option.

Moray & Maras

The impressively deep amphitheater-like terracing of Moray (admission via boleto parcial S70; dawn-dusk), reached via the small town of Maras (admission S10), is a fascinating spectacle. Different levels of concentric terraces are carved into a huge earthen bowl, each layer of which has its own microclimate, according to depth. Some theorize that the Incas used the terraces as a kind of laboratory to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops of each species. There are three bowls; one of which has been planted with various crops as a kind of living museum.

Though refreshingly beaten path, this site is not challenging to reach. Take any transportation bound between Urubamba and Cusco via Chinchero and ask to be let off at the Maras/Moray turnoff. Taxis usually wait at this turnoff to take tourists to Moray and back for around S50, or both Moray and Salinas and back to the turnoff for around S70. A taxi from Urubamba to visit both Salinas and Moray costs around S100.

You could also tackle the 4km walk to the village of Maras yourself. From there, follow the road another 9km lo Moray.

From Maras, you can walk or bike to Salinas, about 6km away. The trail starts behind the church. The Maras taxi company rents out bikes for this purpose  this is a fun, fast, single-track ride.


Dominated by two massive Inca ruins, the quaint village of Ollantaytambo (known to locals and visitors alike as Ollanta) is the best surviving example of Inca city planning, with narrow cobblestone streets that have been continuously inhabited since the 13th century. After: the hordes passing through on their way to Machu Picchu die down around late morning, Ollanta is a lovely place to be. If s perfect for wandering the mazy, narrow byways, past stone buildings and babbling irrigation channels, pretending you've stepped back in time. It also offers access to excellent hiking and biking.

Currently, Ollantaytambo suffers for being a thoroughfare between Cusco and the jungle. Since there are no alternate roads, huge semi-trucks and buses barrel through the narrow main street (barely missing pedestrians). Locals question the disruption of town life, along with the effect of excessive exhaust on the ruins, but talk of an alternative road has not materialized in any immediate plans.

There are a couple of internet cafes and ATMs in and around Plaza de Armas. There are no banks, but several places change money.

Sights & Activities

Ollantaytambo Ruins

(adult/student under 26 with ISIC card S130/70;7am-5pm) Both fortress and temple, these spectacular Inca ruins rise above Ollantaytambo, making a splendid half-day trip. (Admission is via the boleto turístico tourist card, valid for 10 days and for 16 other sites across the region.)

The huge, steep terraces that guard Ollantaytambo spectacular Inca ruins mark one of the few places where the Spanish conquistadors lost a major battle.

The rebellious Manco Inca had retreated to this fortress after Iris defeat at Sacsaywamán in 1536, Hernando Pizarro, Francisco's younger half-brother, led a forcé of 70 cavalrymen to Ollantaytambo, supported by large numbers of indigenous and Spanish foot soldiers, in an attempt to capture Manco Inca.

The conquistadors, showered with arrows, spears and boulders from atop the steep terracing, were unable to climb to the fortress. In a brilliant move, Manco Inca flooded the plain below the fortress through previously  prepared channels. With Spaniards' horses bogged down in the water, Pizarro ordered a  hasty retreat, chased down by thousands of   Manco Inca's victorious soldiers.

Yet the Inca victory would be short lived. Spanish forces soon returned with a quadrupled cavalry force and Manco fled to his jungle stronghold in Vilcabamba.

Though Ollantaytambo was a highly effective fortress, it also served as a temple. An o finely worked            is at the top of the terracing. Some extremely well-built walls were under construction at the time of the conquest and have never been completed. The stone was quarried from the mountainside 6km away, high above the opposite bank of the Río Urubamba.  Transporting the huge stone blocks to the site was a stupendous feat. The Incas' crafty technique to move massive blocks across the river meant carting the blocks to the river-side then diverting the entire river channel around them.

The 6km hike to the Inca quarry on the opposite side of the river is a good walk from Ollantaytambo. The trail starts from the Inca Bridge by the entrance to the village. It takes a few hours to reach the site, passing several abandoned blocks known as piedras cansadas - tired stones. Looking back toward Ollantaytambo, you can see the enigmatic optical] illusion of a pyramid in the fields and walls in front of the fortress, A few scholars believe this marks the legendary place where the original Incas first;   emerged from the earth.

Choco Museo

Ventiderio s/n; workshop per person S35-75; 9am-6:30pm) The Chocolate   Museum has several outlets; this one has chocolates and cacao-based goodies for sale as well as daily chocolate-making workshops.

Festivales & Events

Día de los Reyes Magos

Epiphany is celebrated on January 5 to 8, when residents of surrounding communities arrive on foot to Ollanta to celebrate the arrival of the three kings. Following a procession, there are traditional dances and a bullfight.

Señor de Choquechilca

Ocurring during Pentecost in late May or early June, the town´s most important annual event commemorates the local miracle of the Christ of Choquechilca, when a wooden cross appeared by the Inca bridge. It´s celebrated with music, dancing and colorful processions.

Awana Kancha

Awana Kancha, Corao • Daily 9am-5.30pm

About 23km from Cusco and 7km before you reach Pisac, where the road starts steeply down into the Sacred Valley, Awana Kancha offers a rare opportunity to see alpacas and llamas close at hand, as well as traditional weaving in practice. Quality alpaca and wool products are for sale too.

Lamay and Calca

Take any colectivo (S/1), minibus (S/1) or bus (5/0.50) heacfing down the valley from the town side ofthe Pisac river bridge Known for its medicinal springs, the first significant village between Pisac and Urubamba is Lamay, just 3km away. High above this village, on the other side of the Río Vilcanota and just out of sight, ate the beautiful Inca terraces of Huchuyq'osqo. A little further down the road you come to the larger village of Calca. Moving down the valley from here the climate improves and you see pears, peaches and cherries growing in abundance. In July and August vast piles of maize sit beside the road waiting to be used as cattle feed.


Combi colectivos (1Smin; S/1) run quite frequently from Calca, particularly on Sun.

The popular thermal baths of Machacanca are within an hour and a half's walk of Calca, signposted from the town. Situated under the hanging glaciers of Mount Sahuasiray, this place was favoured by the Incas for the fertility of its soil, and you can still see plenty of maize cultivation here.


The next major settlement before you get to Urubamba, Yucay had its moment in Peruvian history when, under the Incas, Huayna Capac, father of Huascar and Atahualpa, had his palace here. You can admire the ruined but finely dressed stone walls of another Inca palace (probably the country home of Sayri Tupac, though also associated with an Inca princess) on the Plaza Manco II.

Around Urubamba

Because of its convenient location and plentiful facilities, Urubamba make's an ideal base from which to explore the mountains and lower hills around the Sacred Valley, which are filled with sites of jaw-dropping splendour. The eastern side of the valley is formed by the Cordillera Urubamba, á range of snowcapped peaks dominated by the summits of Chicon and Veronica. Many of the ravines can be hiked, alone or with local guides (round only through the main hotels and hospedajes) - on the trek up from the town you can take in stupendous views of Chicon.

Around Moray

Daily 7am-530pm • Entry by Cusco Tourist ticket (see box, p.222) - 2- to 3-hr walk from Urubamba.

A stunning Inca site, part agricultural centre and part ceremonial, Moray lies about 6km north of Maras village on the Chinchero side of the river, within a two- to three-hour walk from Urubamba. The ruins are deep, bowl-like depressions in the earth, the largest comprising seven concentric circular stone terraces, facing inward and diminishing in radius like a multi-layered roulette wheel.

Around Salinas

4km walk from Moray

The salt pans of Salinas, still in use after more than four hundred years, are situated 4km on from the village of Maras, and a similar distance from Moray. Cross the river by the footbridge in the village, turn right, then after a little over 1 100m downstream along the riverbank, turn left past the cemetery and up the canyon along the salty creek. After this you cross the stream and follow the path cut into the Cliffside to reach the salt pans, which are soon visible if still a considerable uphill hike away. The trail offers spectacular views of the valley and mountains, while the Inca salt pans themselves are set gracefully against an imposing mountain backdrop. A scenic trail (about an hour's walk) leads down through the salt pans and on to the Urubamba river below, where there’s a footbridge across to the village of Tarabamba, which is on the toad for Urubamba (6km) or Ollantaytambo; colectivos pass every twenty minutes of so in both directions.

Around Chinchero

CHINCHERO ("Village of the Rainbow"), an old colonial settlement with a great market, lies 3762m above sea level, 28km (40min) northwest of Cusco and off the main road, overlooking the Sacred Valley, with the Vilcabamba range and the snowcapped peak of Salcantay dominating the horizon to the west. The bus ride here takes you up to the Pampa de Anta, once a huge lake but now relatively dry pasture, surrounded by snowcapped nevadas. The town itself is a small, rustic place, where the local women, who crowd the main plaza during the market, still wear traditional dress. Largely built of stone and adobe, the town blends perfectly with the magnificent display of Inca architecture, ruins and megalithic carved rocks, relies of the Inca veneration of nature deities. The best time to visit is on September 8 for the lively traditional fiesta. Failing that, the Sunday-morning market in the lower part of town, reached along Calle Manco II, is smaller and less touristy than Pisac's but has attractive local craftwork for sale.

Plaza Principal

Uphill from the market, along the cobbled steps and streets, you'll find a vast plaza, which may have been the original Inca marketplace. Its bounded on one side by an impressive wall reminiscent of Sacsayhuaman's ramparts, though not as massive — it too was constructed on three levels, and ten classical Inca trapezoidal niches can be seen along its surface. On the western perimeter of the plaza, the raised Inca stonework is dominated by a carved stone throne, near which are puma and monkey formations.

Iglesia de Chinchero

Daily 7am-5.30pm • Entry by Cusco Tourist Ticket, available here or in Cusco (see box, p.222)

The plaza is also home to a superb colonial adobe iglesia. Dating from the early seventeenth century, it was built on top of an Inca temple of palace, perhaps belonging to the Inca emperor Tupac Yupanqui, who particularly favoured Chinchero as an out-of-town resort - most of the areas aqueducts and terraces, many of which are still in use today, were built at his command. The church itself boasts frescoes and paintings, which, though decaying, are still very beautiful and evocative of the town's colonial past. Many pertain to the Cusqueña school and celebrated local artist Mateo Cuihuanito, the most interesting depicting the forces led by local chief Pumacahua against the rebel Tupac Amaru II in the late eighteenth century (see box, p.444).

Ollantaytambo and Around

OLLANTAYTAMBO has one of the most Inca-looking of the Sacred Valley s settlements. Coming down the valley from Urubamba the river runs smoothly between a series of impressive Inca terraces that gradually diminish in size. Just before the town, the railway tracks reappear and the road climbs a small hill to an ancient plaza. The useful Ollantaytambo Heritage Trail guides you to most of the important sites with a series of blue plaques around town.

As one of the region's hotspots, and a popular overnight stop en touted to Machu Picchu (see p.257), Ollantaytambo can get very busy in high season, making it hard to escape the scores of other travellers. At heart, though, it’s a small but still very

The Plaza de Armas

The Plaza de Armas is the centre of civic life. Backstreets radiating from here are littered with stone water channels, which still come ¡n very handy during the rainy season, carrying the gushing streams tidily away from the town and down to the Urubamba river.


El Parador, Casa del Horno, (Vetidero -Tues-Sun 10am-lpm & 2-4pm S/5.

Close to the central plaza is the CATCCO Museo, which contains interpretative exhibits in Spanish and English about local history, culture, archeology and natural history. lt also has a ceramic workshop where you can buy attractive pottery.

Plaza Manya Raquy

Downhill from the plaza, just across the Río Patacancha, is the old Inca Plaza Manya Raquy, dominated by the fortress. There are market stalls in the plaza plus a few artesanía shops and cafés nearby, mainly opposite the attractive small church, the Templo de Santiago Apóstol. Built in 1620, it has an almost Inca-style stone belfry containing two great bells supported on an ancient timber. The church's front entrance is surrounded by a simple yet appealing mestizo floral relief painted in red and cream.

The fortress

Daily 7am-5.30pm • Entry with Cusco Tourist Ticket (see box, p.222)

Climbing up through the fortress, the solid stone terraces and the natural contours of the cliff remain frighteningly impressive. Above them, huge red granite blocks mark the unfinished sun temple near the top, where, according to legend, the internal organs of mummified Incas were buried. A dangerous path leads from this upper level around the cliff towards a large sector of agricultural terracing which follows the Río Patacancha uphill. From up above yon can see down to the large Inca plaza and the impressive stone aqueducts which carried the water supply. Between here and the river you see the Andenes de Mollerussa terraces which, when viewed from the other side of the Urubamba Valley (a 20min walk up the track from the train station), look like a pyramid.

Around Ollantaytambo

High up over the other side of the Río Patacancha, behind Ollantaytambo, are rows of ruined buildings originally thought to have been prisons but now considered likely to have been granaries. In front of these, it's quite easy to make out a gigantic, rather grumpy-looking profile of a face carved out of the rock, possibly an Inca sculpture of Wiraccochan, the mythical messenger from Viraccocha, the major creator-god of Peru (see p.506). According to sixteenth- and seventieth-century histories, such an image was indeed once carved, representing him as a man of great authority; this particular image's frown certainly implies presence, and this pan of the mountain was also known as Wiraccochan Orcco ("peak of Viraccocha's messenger"). From here, looking back towards the main Ollantaytambo fortress, it's possible to see the mountain, rocks and terracing forming the image of a mother llama with a young llama, apparently representing the myth of Catachillay, which relates to the water eyele and the Milky Way. The Sacred Valley of the Incas - Myths and Symbols (available in most Cusco bookshops), written by archeologists Fernando and Edgar Salazar, is a useful companion for interpreting the sites in this part of the valley.

Activities Around Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is surrounded by stunning countryside and skyscraping mountain peaks, and offers a wealth of interesting day-trip options.


It's easy enough just to choose a path leading up into the hills to the east and see where you get to, remembering, of course, that you will need a tent or have to get back to town by nightfall. Any route will provide a good hike, bringing you into close contact with local people in their gardens. There are also a number of organized tours, available from Ollantaytambo (see below) as well as from agents in Cusco. The local Museo CATCCO, provide information on tire Rutas Ancestrales de Ollantaytambo - Ancestral Routes of Ollantaytambo. This is an entire list of walking circuits that link important points relating to the archeology or history of the area (a large map of this route can also be found at the entry to he Inca fortress).


The area around Ollantaytambo is an excellent spot to begin trekking into the hills. One possibility is to head along the main down-valley road to Km 82, where a bridge over the Río Urubamba is becoming an increasingly popular starting point for both the Inca trail and Salcantay. Alternatives are the hard-going two-day trail to the beautiful and remote lake of Yanacocha, or travel up the Rio Patacancha to the little-visited Inca ruins of Pumamarca, on the left of the river where the Río Yuramayu merges with the Patacancha under the shadows of the Nevada Helancoma. From here the main track carries on along the right bank of the Río Patacancha through various small peasant hamlets - Pullata, Colqueracay, Maracocha and Huilloc - before Crossing the pass, with the Nevada Colque Cruz on the right-hand side, It then follows the ríos Huacahuasi and Tropoche down to the valley and community of Lares, just before which are some Inca baths, Beyond the village are several more ruins en route to Ampares, from where you can either walk back to Urubamba, travel by road back to Cusco, or head down towards Quillabamba. It's at least a two-day walk one way, and you'll need camping equipment and food, as there are no facilities at all on the route.


The Inca quarries of Cachiqata can be reached in four hours on horseback with a Cusco or Ollantaytambo tour company (see p.222 & below). It’s also possible to camp here and visit the site of an Inca gateway or Intihuatana. There are also the nearer ruins of Pinkuylluna, less than an hour away by horse, or the Pumamarca Inca ruins about half a day away,

River Rafting

Ollantaytambo is a centre for river rafting, organized largely by  KB Tours on the main plaza who also offer lodging, mountain - biking and trekking tours; all activities start from around $45/day. Alliteratively, arrange a rafting trip with one of the Cusco-based tour companies (see p.222). The river around Ollantaytambo is class 2-3 in the dry season and 3-4 during the rain period (Nov-March).