Peru: 3 unique attractions in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

“For its multiple attractions and bewitching effect, there is no place on earth that can be compared to it,” said explorer Hiram Bingham. The cultural cradle of the Incas is much more than the iconic Machu Picchu. Flight over a land that is as exhilarating as it is bewitching.

 

Peruvian magic operates as soon as you land and continues to enchant travelers eager for discovery. Breathtaking landscapes follow one another as you climb the vertiginous passes of the Andes Cordillera. Warm and generous hospitality, gastronomy listed as a UNESCO Intangible Heritage of Humanity, thousand-year-old roots of incredible richness as well as archaeological sites transcending reason – everything is there to arouse the five senses! 

To anchor in sacred ground

Given the vast expanse of the Sacred Valley as well as its rural location (about 90 minutes by car from Cusco airport), it is wise to opt for a lodge offering a transport service. Located in the heart of the Inca Empire, the ecological hotel chain Explora is a good base camp from which to explore a vibrant world with unique sounds, customs, and ecosystems.

Judiciously combining simplicity with a panoply of distinct excursions, it is the beauty of the place (as well as the architecture) that seduces first and foremost. Here, the smallest details are taken care of in order to allow travelers to free themselves from the logistical constraints intrinsically linked to distant lands such as transport, access to the remains, planning of excursions, and meals, here, everything is included in the cost of the stay.  

 

Valley Sagrado

An inviting spa awaits guests after a day outdoors. The lush hacienda of the Explora Valle Sagrado lodge offers a dream setting.

 

It is thus possible to be taken care of and enjoy a completely personalized itinerary, since Explora Valle Sagrado offers each guest the possibility of choosing from about twenty excursions that are both unmissable and unknown, from half a day or a whole day, depending on our interests (gourmet stops, peaceful, unusual, moderate or intense trekking) and the desired level of difficulty. Fees also include all meals, snacks, beverages, and beverages.

There is also a magnificent spa and a charming swimming pool in the heart of a lush garden. We take care to bask there after a hike, glass of bubbles in hand. Resolutely immersive, the establishment in perfect harmony with nature is the undisputed starting point for exploring the surrounding biodiversity.

Go on an adventure 

As a backdrop: valleys and terraces that rise to the bed of the rivers of Valle Sagrado, are all dominated by majestic glaciers. Vestiges and panoramas were deeply impregnated with the Inca presence. Cacti, hordes of deer, and eucalyptus forests straddle rugged terrain, salt marshes, canyons, and hypnotic colonial cities.

 

Ollantaytambo

The Temple of the Sun in Ollantaytambo revolves around many terraces and huge blocks of embedded stone. 

Ollantaytambo is an unavoidable stop in the Sacred Valley: the last Inca stronghold is prized for its fortress as well as its village and its pretty cobbled streets – the only one in the country to have preserved the traditional Inca building plan. Its urban heart is punctuated by conventional shops and residences with flowery patios. The delicious scents of the market perfume the air: prickly pears, mango, maracuja… Everything is there to delight lovers of history, architecture, and culture.

Crossing the Valley by taking an old Inca path that runs along a stream is imperative. The one-day excursion to Amor Violence thus allowed us to cross a real Inca trail, to then reach the village of Chinchero, with typical Andean facades (roofs covered with lime, and red stone) and surprising alleys. Cradle of textile manufacturing, the town offers a multitude of stalls where you can unearth splendid scarves made of baby alpaca wool, an extremely rare and luxurious fiber reminiscent of cashmere, for less than CAD 45!

 

Chinchero

Let’s go to Chinchero! An ancient Inca trail still used by locals offers an edifying panorama.

 

The hike, with a moderate level of difficulty, allows you to cross a plateau located at an altitude of 3750m, to reach stunning rugged peaks, then reach flowered fields as well as agricultural terraces. We rush there for its colonial church as well as its important archaeological ruins. Yet it is the trek through the Vilcanota mountain range and the stunning peaks of the iconic Salkantay that offer vistas like nowhere else.

The archaeological site of Pisac is one of the most important in the area. Located 30 km from Cusco, the town is very well preserved and has a dynamic craft market, but also a solar clock, thermal baths, an astronomical observatory, burials on the mountainside, temples, as well as an impressive military complex. connected in the rock by a tunnel! Intriguing for both young and old, we come across inhabitants wearing traditional colorful clothes. We land on the Plaza de Armas to savor the diversity of the city, with a glass of freshly squeezed maracuja (passion fruit) in our hands.

 

feast

Once again, ecstasy and discoveries are on the menu. Enthroned in the pantheon of Latin American cuisine, Peruvian gastronomy is healthy, fresh, colorful, and full of contrasts. Enjoying resources as rich as they are varied, Peru enchants with its 2000 varieties of potatoes and its exquisite dishes based on fish, with frank and tangy flavors. We owe this culinary success to a rather improbable marriage: several Japanese people emigrated to Peru almost a century ago. Japanese-Peruvian cuisine has therefore given rise to succulent creations combining raw fish (of Japanese origin) with chili and lime (abundantly used in Peruvian cuisine).

Among the dishes to discover cheerfully: the ceviche (raw fish in cubes, marinated in lemon juice, with red onion and coriander), the aji de gallina (a long-simmered dish with chicken and topped with a creamy cumin sauce and yellow pepper, deliciously fragrant), as well as the delicious anticuchos (charcoal-grilled skewers made from beef or firm-fleshed fish, flavored with cumin, lemon, and turmeric and served with corn on the cob). We do not fail to taste capulin, an endemic fruit species that is reminiscent of cherries, salads made from hearts of palm (whose flavor and texture have nothing to do with what we find at our merchants!), star fruit, as well as guanabana, a widespread and succulent fruit. The pisco sour stands out as the cocktail of choice. This AOC grape brandy is also produced in Peru. Mixed with lime juice and whipped egg whites, it provides an irresistibly refreshing effect.

 

Good to know

  • The altitude is a challenge that no visitor escapes. In order to acclimatize gently, it is necessary to plan at least one day of rest, without any activity. Spa, swimming, reading, or walking, it doesn’t matter, but we make sure to hydrate as much as possible and avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • The sun is very strong, even when the sky is overcast.
  • We also make sure to wear several layers of clothing and have a backpack and comfortable shoes with us. Moving between valleys and mountain peaks, from a hot climate to chilly alpine air requires a versatile wardrobe.

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