Learn Spanish in The Sacred Valley

What to do in the sacred valley


iglesia calca Calca is located 31.3 miles from Cusco and sits at an altitude of 9,606 feet above sea level with a temperature has an average of 59 ºF during the winter and 68 ºF during the summer.

Calca is the capital of the providence of Calca and is located about 18km from Pisac. While visiting Calca you will find the lovely hot springs of Machacancha and the Minasmoqo.

This town was quite important during the Pre-Hispanic period. The influence of this city can be reflected in the archeological remains such as Huch´uy Qosqo.

This is a beautiful town if you are looking to rest and relax. With mild weather, gorgeous landscape, and the snowcapped mountains reaching out into the distance, Calca is a wonderful place to visit.

To get to Calca it is best if you hire private transportation as a special request at any travel agency or you take public transportation. It takes about an hour to arrive to Calca by bus or you can arrange to travel by taxi.


The picturesque Andean village of Písac is on the Urubamba River, 32 kilometres from the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, at the eastern end of the Valley. The name ‘Písac’ derives from the word ‘pisaca’, which means ‘partridge’ in Quechua. It is also thought that the layout of the city resembles a bird, with the terraced fields forming the wings, much like the city of Cusco is thought to be set out in the form of a puma. The nearby hillside is lined with agricultural terraces that have the form of a female breast – homage to Mother Earth.

pisaq Písac is most famous for its big Sunday market, as well as its smaller markets which occur on Tuesdays and Thursdays which attract tourists from all over the world. On these days the main square of the town is packed wall to wall with stalls selling the full range of artesanial goods: ceramics, alpaca sweaters, gloves, socks and hats, paintings, antiques, musical instruments, trinkets, weavings and jewellery. The immense popularity of the market has meant that the traditional vendors of fruit, vegetables and other local products have moved away to a small corner of the market. The area around Pisac is extremely fertile and is home to over 100 different types of potatoes, 21different types of corn and many vegetables that are unknown to Europe.
It is believed that Písac was a fortification that defended the southern entrance into the Sacred Valley. The ruins, known as Inca Písac, lie atop a hill at the entrance to the valley. They are divided along the ridge into four groups: Pisaqa, Intihuatana, Q’allaqasa and Kinchiracay. Intihuatana is comprised of many temples and baths, including the Temple of the Sun which holds the Intihuatana stone (similar to ancient European sun dials). Q’allaqasa is also known as “the citadel”, built on a natural spur and overlooking the valley.


urubamba Urubamba is located just an hour away from Cusco. Urubamba (which means Flat Land of Spiders in Quechua) sits near the Urubamba River under the snow-topped mountain of Chicon. Because of its natural beauty and calm, the 18th century naturalist Antonio de Leon called it the biblical Garden of Eden.

Urubamba is an important agricultural town at the junction of the roads to Pisac and Chincheros. It sits about 4km from Yucay and its location makes it a convenient base from which to explore the beauty of the Sacred Valley.

The settlement was one of the main agricultural centres of the Inca Empire, and is where the best corn can be produced. During the rainy season, fruits like peaches and strawberries are abundant.

The town itself has all the amenities a traveller passing through could ask for, with numerous bars and cafes situated around the main Plaza de Armas, as well as markets and shops to choose from. There is also a popular market that sells fresh fruit and vegetables along with pots, pans and other essential items. Urubamba is also home to the popular ceramic artisan Pablo Seminario’s workshop. Here, he produces high quality ceramics that can be bought from the workshop itself, or at his store in Cusco.

Urubamba has a wonderful climate all year round, with a beautiful landscape and panoramic view of the valley, as well as breathtaking views of the Vilcanota mountain range. It is the perfect location for adventure sports such as trekking, rafting, mountain biking, horse riding or even just resting while on the way to Machu Picchu.


Yucay is a small town located a few kilometers east of Urubamba. It is a peaceful town several interesting colonial homes and the restored colonial church of Santiago Apóstol. There are beautiful and colorful oil paintings and fine altars inside the church, along with the impressive altar at the front.
A divided, grassy plaza can be seen at the main square in the center of the town. Many locals love to go there and place soccer. Facing the Plaza Manco II is the adobe palace of Sayri Túpac, who settled here after arriving from Vilcabamba in 1588.

yucay Not too far away from the town are the extensive Inca terraces. These are located up on the hillsides and are perfect to visit on a lovely afternoon. Because Yucay is small, there are not as many services available to tourists. Nevertheless, it is one of the Sacred Valley’s small charms and is a great city to visit for those looking to reach the heart of the people. One of the Sacred Valley’s best kept secrets is also located near Yucay. Huayoccari Hacienda Restaurant is an elegant, converted country manor perched on a ridge overlooking the Sacred Valley, about 2 kilometers outside of Yucay. In addition to walls decorated with colonial paintings and ceramics, and a rustic courtyard, the hacienda has some of the best cuisine in all of Cusco and in the Sacred Valley. It is best to visit Yucay while on a tour of some of the other small villages and towns located in the region to make the most out of a day.


chinchero Guarded by the Chicón snow capped mountain, Chinchero is located between Urubamba and Cusco, and is well known for its fantastic ruins and for its beautiful church containing paintings from the Cusco School of Art. The name ‘Chinchero’ means ‘Town of the Rainbows’ in Quechua, and the town supposedly got this name as it is believed to be the mythical birthplace of the rainbow. The rainbow was revered as a deity during the Inca times, and still today people revere, respect or even fear it. Alfonsina Barrionuevo quotes “It is not possible to watch the rainbow, they say superstitiously, without covering the mouth because it rots the teeth. Neither it is possible to point it with the finger because it undermines the bones. Maidens run away from it because if it catches them in the countryside, it has children with them". Perhaps this is a bit of a strange quote, but it nevertheless explains the superstition and the fear that many still fear about the rainbow.

Chinchero is strategically located at the intersection of the three roads that connect Cusco, Yucay and Pumamarca, and during the time of Tahuantinsuyo, it was on the road that led directly to Machu Picchu.
The town is well known for its colorful Sunday market which is less tourist-orientated than the market in Písac. Still a traditional town, the houses are mainly constructed from adobe and the locals still go about their daily business in traditional garb. Adult men wear the typical cloth cap, along with a poncho made from sheep wool, flannel vests and pants and colorful chullos. The women typically wear llicllas (blankets decorated with red and green filigrees with a brooch near the chest), vests and black flannel skirts. On their heads, decorated with plaits, they wear colorful cloth caps.

It is thought that Chinchero may have been an important location during the time of the Inca Empire. The most obvious remnant of this period is the striking stone wall that sits in the middle of the plaza, with ten trapezoidal niches. The construction of this wall, the agricultural terraces and other ruins around the area are attributed to Inca Tupac Yupanqui, who was thought to have used Chinchero as a sort of country estate.

In the main plaza is a colonial church constructed from adobe that dates back to the early 17th century, and has been built upon the foundations of an ancient Inca palace.

Chinchero is a great place to visit for the market with its beautiful scenery as well as its ruins.


The citadel of Ollantaytambo is located at the far end of the Sacred Valley, about 97km from Cusco, along the Patakancha River, close to where it joins the Urubamba River.
It is named after the great Inca warrior Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo was an Inca construction and also had a fortress that is said to have guarded the way to Machu Picchu. During the time of the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region. Nowadays Ollantaytambo is an important tourist spot due to its Inca buildings. The place is also one of the most common starting points for the Inca Trail.

The citadel served as both a temple and a fortress. However, at some unknown time, and for reasons unknown, work mysteriously stopped on the huge project.
The town is divided into canchas (blocks), most of which are almost entirely intact, giving the best example of Inca town planning. Each cancha usually has one huge stone doorway that leads into a courtyard, with the houses surrounding the courtyard.

During the Spanish invasion of Peru in the 1500’s, Ollantaytambo was the only place to resist attacks from the Spanish.
ollantaytambo The valleys of the Urubamba and Patakancha rivers that run along Ollantaytambo are covered with agricultural terraces, allowing farming on otherwise unusable terrain. These terraces have been built with higher quality than the other terraces around: they have higher walls made of cut stones, instead of rough field stones, among other qualities. This sort of terracing can also be seen at Chinchero, Pisaq and Yucay.
Across from the ruins of Ollantaytambo in the Urubamba Valley stands a sacred mountain where the profile of Viracocha, the Inca sun god, is carved into the stone. When the sun strikes the profile of Viracocha during the winter solstice, the mountain reflects and refracts the rays, causing the Incas to believe that this was a sign verifying the god. Legend has it that the white bearded god Viracocha entered the town, and blessed the people, and they honored him by carving his profile into the nearby mountains.
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