Sacred Valley, Cusco
Our horseback ride from Urubamba up past the salt terraces to Maras and Moray was the best adventure of our entire visit to Peru, For a mere $US60 a person, Rancho Casa Hospedaje supplied a non-English-speaking guide (Juan Carlos) to take for a nine-hour ride along the Urubamba River, then up a canyon into the high country, wher a whole new world awaits. It was a world of beautiful fields, snow-capped mountains, flocks of sheep and hard-working farmers (who lack machinery). We only intersected the road for our journey through the town of Maras -- otherwise we were on the same foot/burro paths that the locals use for transiting between towns. We got to see every day Andean life go by.
We saw no other tourists during the entire ride, but we saw plenty of people. Most of them waved. Amazingly, one of the people we saw wa Juan Carlos' uncle, who was walking somewhere with his aunt and a baby.
Despite the fact that Juan Carlos spoke no English, we communicated well enough in Spanish to learn a few things from him. He also taught us the word "cuidado" for "be careful", which is important when a pricker bush is heading rapidly toward your face.
NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW THIS YET BUT THERE'S AN ANIMAL RESCUE CENTER RIGHT OUTSIDE THE CITY. LOCALS CALL IT A ZOO, BUT IT'S NOT.
THIS FAMILY RECOVERS ILLED, INJURED OR UNWANTED ANIMALS, THEY TAKE CARE OF THEM, HEAL THEM AND ONCE THEY ARE WELL THEY REINTRODUCE THEM TO THEIR HABITAT.
ALL DONATIONS AND ENTRANCE FEE GO TO SUPPORT AND TAKE CARE OF THIS BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS, SO YOU NOT ONLY GET TO SEE THESE UNIQUE BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS BUT YOU ALSO GET TO DO YOUR PART.
THE HIGHLIGHT IS THE BEAUTIFUL CONDOR THEY HAVE!!
This village felt more remote than the others we visited in the Sacred Valley, perhaps because it's not on the main road that runs the length of the valley but tucked away and rather higher up. We visited on a wet Sunday and although there were plenty of other tourists around, the market was definitely set up primarily for the benefit of local people first and foremost. The traders obviously welcomed the opportunity to sell to the tourists but we could tell that the market would exist and thrive whether we came or not, which was refreshing. Much of the space was given over to foodstuffs but of course there were all the usual textiles and other souvenirs too. Musicians were playing, but again that seemed as much for the locals' enjoyment as for ours. I really liked browsing around here, despite the rain dripping on me from the plastic awnings overhead!
The other main attraction for me in Chinchero was the lovely colonial church with beautiful old paintings both inside and out. It's set on one side of a square which like the church itself is built on Inca foundations, and the setting is lovely, even in the rain.
Take your tourist ticket which you'll need to go up to the church although not for the market.
The first place Jose (the owner of our B&B) took us in Peru's Sacred Valley was a llama/alpaca farm. Here, we could feed, pet and even hold llamasand alpacas. We were given stalks of alfalfa, which immediately attracted scores of llamas and alpacas, who were eager to tear it out of our hands. As forthe few vicunyas on the farm, they were kept in a seaparate area -- apparently they're a bit wilder than their more domesticated relatives.
The llamas and alpacas at the farm were very friendly and had beautiful eyes. There were a couple of baby alpacas who had entered the world only three days before. One of the farm workers caught one and allowed Sarah to hold it in her arms as the rest of the alpaca community stood around and watched.
Ollataytambo- located half way between Cusco & Aqua Calientes. It is on the same train line you take to Macchu Picchu. You can stay overnight on your way back to Cusco. More ruins to see in this area and white water rafting on the Urubamba River. Visit the Ceramicas Seminario to see crafts created and great selection of pottery/frames/plates to take home& they ship to the USA. Stay At Wilka Tikka Lodge- a Yoga/meditation retreat. Several rooms with crystals and yoga classes. Serene gardens ...and a nice staff that will prepare your meals-
Wow! These ruins are spectacular and huge! I didn't realize its magnitude until I actually visited them! You have to climb hundreds of steps to arrive at the top and there are also little paths you can take around part of the mountain. We were there for about an hour and half, but I think we could have spent 4 hours there. A fun place to explore.
Admission is with the tourist ticket.
The Rio Urubamba cuts through this beautiful valley which has much to offer such as Inca ruins,Quechua villages,markets and gorgeous mountain views. It is definately worth at least a day trip.
You can visit many of the towns in the valley by local bus but if your time is limited, you can take a day tour. I took a full day tour for$25 which included lunch. We visited Pisca,Urubamba,Ollantaytambo,Chinchero and a couple other Quencha towns . The distances between the towns is not that far and we had a fairly decent amount of time in each place. We were not stuck on a bus all day and felt terribly rushed. We saw stunning views the entire ride through this valley and if there was a place which was exceptionally scenic, the driver would stop for a few minutes so we could snap some photos.
If you visit these towns independanly or take the tour, be sure to bring your tourist ticket with you. It is needed to visit places such as Chinchero and the fortress at Ollantaytambo.
At 3,800 m ( 12,500 ft ), Chinchero is the highest village in the Sacred Valley and its setting is very scenic. There is a big Sunday market here and smaller markets the rest of the week. The square at the top of this town is very picturesque with its church and mountain scenery in the background.
You need your tourist ticket for admission here.
There aren't many notable sights in Urubamba ,but there is a pretty church and some beautiful views of glaciered mountains from this town. We took a stroll and stopped here for lunch at El Maizal. This restaurant is on the main road and offers a buffet which includes many Peruvian dishes. There is indoor and also outdoor seating, which is in a pretty garden surrounded by trees and flowers.
Pisac is one of the towns in the Sacred Valley known for its ruins and huge Sunday market. There are also smaller markets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We went on a Tuesday and there were more than enough variety of wares to choose from. You can also visit a traditional Quechuan bakery while you are there.