Cheapest Destinations Blog is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The 17 Best Things to Do in the Sacred Valley, Peru (Besides Machu Picchu)

Most people breeze through Peru in a hurry, in a big rush to get to Machu Picchu and snap their identical selfie. If they see the Sacred Valley of the Incas at all, it’s often from a train or bus window or on some whirlwind day trip from Cusco that hits six sites in one day. This is a shame because you could easily spend a week or two in the valley and only see a portion of it, or more if you go on one of the multi-day treks.

things to do in Sacred Valley, Peru

Nestled within the heart of southeastern Peru, the Sacred Valley boasts a rich Inca history and stunning landscapes to explore. This verdant valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains offers an array of activities and sights that allow you to immerse yourself in the region’s past and present. There’s far more to it than the big wonder of the world at the end. I’ve been to the region four times in my travels and there are still plenty of places I could have on my list if I go back again, which I probably will at some point.

As you plan your journey, you can save a few bucks by booking your adventure tour locally, but you can have more peace of mind and the payment process is easier if you book tours through reputable platforms like Viator or GetYourGuide. These platforms offer a vast array of Cusco and Sacred Valley tours tailored to various interests and fitness levels, allowing you to personalize your itinerary and make the most of your time while traveling in Peru.

A journey through the Sacred Valley ends up being a lifetime travel highlight for a whole lot of people, thanks to a richness of offerings that most nations would drool over to have in their entire country. I’ve experienced most of what’s in this article first-hand and have been to some of the spots twice. These are curated, highly recommended experiences. Set aside enough time to add at least a few of these tours and things to do in Peru to your list and don’t forget to leave time for the magical unexpected experiences to find you too!

Exploring the Sacred Valley on Single-Day Tours

The Sacred Valley of Peru offers numerous opportunities for adventure, history, and cultural experiences, with a lot to choose from. If your time is limited or you want to experience multiple attractions in a day, it’s easy to set up a multi-site tour from Cusco or Ollaytantambo and visit several of the main sites on one tour. After all, that’s what most of the tourists on bus tours do and it’s a well-worn path.

You can also set it up with your own driver or a rental car from Cusco and have more control over when you land where and maybe avoid some of the peak crowd times. Even better, take your time instead and spend the night in a place like Pisac, Chinchero, or Urubamba and experience the region without all the day-trippers. It’s a whole different experience when the locals outnumber the travelers, which is true in the evenings everywhere except Ollyatantambo, which is a major train depot launching trips to Machu Picchu.

Pisac Ruins and Town

Pisac ruins peru

In the picturesque village of Pisac, you’ll find the renowned Pisac Archaeological Park. You’ll find mesmerizing Inca ruins, terraces, and structures nestled within the surrounding mountains. Often the hills will be dotted with wildflowers and the mountains make a nice backdrop.

Although it’s touristy in some sections, there’s a vibrant market in the town of Pisac with a mix of local handicrafts, seasonal produce from the area, and items meant for local households. If you want to eat like a local, skip the bus tour restaurants and pull up a stool at a market stall instead.

Note that some versions of the Lares Route for trekkers will pass through Pisac, so check the itinerary if you’re going on that. If you’re going on a high-end Lares adventure with Mountain Lodges of Peru, for instance, you’ll approach Pisac from a high ridge above and see it from the opposite side before meandering down into town.


Chinchero can get quite busy during the day, but it still feels like an authentic Andean village. The crowds come to see the beautiful Chinchero Archaeological Park and if you can time it right, there’s a vibrant Sunday market. This is a better spot than most to shop for authentic textiles and crafts as the market is really meant more for locals than visitors.

You’ll get a whole different taste of Andean culture if you can spend the night here because few other travelers, even backpackers, pick this as an overnight spot. It’ll reward you with beautiful mountain views—topped by snow much of the year—and nice dusk lighting on the historic buildings. In the evenings you’ll know for sure that those Andean women are not dressing up in those colorful costumes for photo ops: it’s what they’re wearing all the time.

Ollantaytambo the Fortress Town

Ollantaytambo is easier to visit than to say since it’s on the main train line to Machu Picchu and is connected by road to other towns. It is known for its well-preserved Inca architecture, with the same amazing stonework as Machu Picchu. All of it done by artisans who somehow got the giant rocks transported from a quarry miles away via nothing larger than men and llamas.

Ollantaytambo fortress Sacred Valley tour

A tour of the original town showcases its narrow, cobbled streets and water channels that still function today. Be sure to visit the Ollantaytambo Fortress to admire the stunning terraces, temple buildings, and fortifications. This was one of the last strongholds for the Incas as the Spanish conquistadors invaded and it’s well worth more than a quick stopover.

Since there are multiple train options between here and its more famous archaeological cousin, there are plenty of hotels, restaurants, coffee shops, and tour companies here. Because of that though, don’t expect as much local flavor and culture as you’ll find in the less popular spots.

Search hotels in Ollantaytambo

Maras Salt Mines

The small town of Maras is home to the fascinating Maras Salt Mines, where you’ll witness a striking landscape of salt pans that have been in use since pre-Inca times. (You’ve probably seen photos of this in articles or on social media and had trouble figuring out what they were.)

On a guided tour, you’ll learn about the traditional salt extraction process and even have the opportunity to purchase some locally-harvested salt to take home. This is on most of the one-day bus tours of the region, so try to arrive early or late if you have more flexibility. The light will be better then anyway for photos. The Salinas de Maras are a quick trip from Urubamba, so you can easily time it well if you’re staying in one of the many hotels there.


Moray Terraces

Moray is another popular social media photo spot thanks to its unusual image of terraces on multiple levels on the side of a mountain. The impressive Inca terraces were likely used as an agricultural laboratory, a place where the Incas experimented with various crops and microclimates.

If you have a guide with you then you’ll learn more about the site’s purpose and engineering marvels. If not, consult a guidebook or bookmark some in-depth articles to learn more about this fascinating place in the Sacred Valley. Extra time here can pay off too: there’s a hiking trail up to a lookout point for a better view.

The archaeological site of Moray is about a 35-minute ride from Urubamba, about 45 minutes from Chinchero. It’s an easy site to combine with the salt mines of Maras nearby.

Ancasmarca Ruins

Ancasmarca Inca ruins

There’s very little written about this impressive archaeological site that Wikipedia confuses with a mountain of the same name. It’s one of the most impressive sites I’ve visited in Peru though, partly because of the panoramic views all around and partly because we were the only visitors there in the two hours we spent exploring the place. There were two local women half-heartedly trying to sell some woven items near the entrance, but other than them and the ticket-taker, we didn’t see any people.

This is probably likely to its remote vacation, the only real towns around being Calca 35 minutes to the south or Lares about an hour to the northwest. You’re more likely to see Ancasmarca, also written as Ankasmarka, on a Lares Adventures itinerary than on a Sacred Valley tour. Once you’re there, you can explore the hundreds of circular stone structures, thought to have been food storage buildings, on a lower trail that weaves through them or an upper trail that looks down on them from above.

If you have a rental car or driver, some of the most scenic drives in Peru are in this region. From Calca, it is possible to get to the Ankasmarka Archaeological site on collective public transportation as well.

Huchuy Qosqo

Huchuy Qosqo, also spelled Yuchuy Cuzco, is another Inca Empire archaeological site that’s off the beaten path and doesn’t get many visitors. It has impressive views from its elevation of 3,650 meters (11,980 feet) and a lot of interesting stone buildings to explore.

If you spend the night in Lamay, you can hike up and back from there the same day. Otherwise you’ll find it offered as a two- or three-day adventure tour or a stop on some Lares Trek tours. Either way, a trek to her offers an authentic taste of Andean rural life as you pass through various small villages and farmlands. Going on a tour can offer more opportunities to interact with the locals since far more speak Quechua than Spanish..

Here’s an ancient post I did about it when I hiked up to Huchuy Qosqo with a guide back in 2009. 

Sacred Valley Trails and Trekking

Peru’s Sacred Valley is bookended by the mighty Andes Mountains and there are hundreds of miles of trails criss-crossing the mountains, some of them in use before the Spanish ever set foot on the continent. Locals used and maintained the trails to travel between villages, while the Incas used them for communication, troop movements, and governance on a continent where feet, not horses, were the main means of transportation.

If you go on one of the treks around the Sacred Valley, you can see the area at a more human pace and get far away from the mass tourism crowds. There are ruins along these trails that are only accessible by foot and by getting to areas only served by footpaths, you can see a version of village life that’s not geared toward making money from visitors who are here and gone. Three of the treks below end up at a major archaeological site, while the Lares Trek is more focused on landscapes and handicrafts.

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Tim Leffel on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

The Classic 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is the most famous and popular hiking route in all of South America. This 26-mile (42-kilometer) trek leads you through breathtaking natural landscapes, past several fascinating archaeological sites such as Runcuracay, Sayacmarca, and Winaywayna, then ends up passing through the Sun Gate at sunrise to experience the Machu Picchu ruins.

This is no trail built for tourists: as you hike this ancient path, you’ll be following in the footsteps of the Inca royalty, your shoes landing on flagstones that have been in place for centuries. Several tour operators on Viator and GetYourGuide offer guided hikes along the Inca Trail, ensuring you’ll be well-supported on your adventure.

Book well in advance as there are daily limits on visitors and permits can often get booked out for three to six months ahead of time. Tour prices will cover food, a tent to sleep in, and a guide, but you’ll be glad to pay a porter extra to carry your pack, especially when crossing the Dead Woman’s Pass at the highest point and going down and down the original steep steps for hours on end. The prime dry months are May through September and note that the trail is closed every February during the height of rainy season.


Salkantay Trek

For those seeking a more different adventure that doesn’t need to be booked so far in advance, the Salkantay Trek offers a rewarding 5-day journey through remote Andean landscapes with major changes in elevation. You’ll go up and up after passing a glacier lake and traversing the Salkantay Pass at an altitude of tk feet (tk meters), you’ll be rewarded with stunning views all around.

You’ll see Machu Picchu from afar as you approach from a neighboring mountain. The trek doesn’t go directly to the lost city of Machu Picchu like the Inca trail does though: you have to hop on a train for a short stretch at the end. Check out the various Salkantay Trek options here to find the perfect itinerary for your adventure and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what’s included and where you’ll sleep.

Scenery on the Salkantay Trek of Peru

Be advised that the trail can get a bit sh*tty during this trek: everything is transported by mules rather than human porters, so what goes in them for fuel must come out as they move along. It’s longer too, at 45 to 57 miles (depending on the starting point). See more on the differences here: The Inca Trail vs. the Salkantay Trek

Choquequirao Trek

The Choquequirao Trek is an ideal choice for those with a special interest in ancient sites and for those who want to feel like a pioneer rather than one of the ticket-controlled masses. The Choquequirao archaeological complex is sometimes called the sister city of Machu Picchu, but you can’t get there by road or train. The only way to reach it is via a tough hike through the mountains, camping along the way. It’s a trek with plenty of great scenery along the way, including the Apurimac Canyon, and you may see Andean Condors flying past, their huge wings outstretched.

The big reward comes at the end when exploring the remote ruins—often with nobody else around—in a place that only the most intrepid travelers have seen. You can imagine what it was like to be one of

It’s worth spending some time researching the various Choquequirao Trek providers to see what they offer for the price and to read any online articles or reviews you can find. This tour can end up being as short as four days or as long as eight, with various levels of comfort, and you’re going to want to go with a tour company that has been through this many times before. Explore the rarely-visited archaeological site of Choquequirao

Lares Trek

The Lares Trek is a lesser-known but equally captivating hiking option in the Sacred Valley. This 3 or 4-day journey takes you through traditional Andean villages, where you can connect with local cultures and gain insight into the region’s rich history. It is sometimes called “The Weaver’s Route” because there are so many family textile centers along the trail in different villages.

This one is more about the scenery than Inca history. Soaring mountain peaks, glacial lakes, and alpaca herds are just a few of the unforgettable sights you’ll encounter along the way. I ended up with hundreds of photos from this hiking trip and there would have been more if it didn’t pour down rain on us one day. Other times we just had eerie fog moving over mountain lagoons and it was magical.

There are various tour packages available catering to a range of preferences and fitness levels. Know that this route is not as set as the others above, so different tour companies may have different itineraries named “Lares Trek.” They mostly differ because of where you’ll spend the night and whether it’s all continuous hiking or there is some van transport in the mix.

Lares Trek Peru scenery on a guided tour

Valle Sagrado Adventure Activities

The Sacred Valley of Peru offers numerous opportunities for adventure travelers to explore its breathtaking landscapes in a high-energy fashion.

Zip-lining in Peru

Looking for a heart-pounding adrenaline rush? Various companies offer zip lining tours in the area, though if you’re based in Ollantaytambo, the full-on choice is this combination via ferrata and zip-lining tour with amazing views over the valley. If that looks like too much, there’s also a zip-line tour from Cusco that’s more straightforward or one that has bikes you pedal to move you along the cables.

There are zip-lining options suitable for beginners as well as those seeking a more challenging experience. Sometimes these tours are combined with other exciting activities like rock climbing or a stay in a transparent sky lodge suspended on the side of a mountain.

Urubamba River Rafting

The Urubamba River comes roaring out of the mountains and then heads down through the Urubamba Valley floor. If you’re staying in Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu town, you’ll constantly hear its roar. In the rainy season it can sometimes get too high and cause flooding, sometimes cutting off access to the citadel.

In the drier months you can go rafting on the river and get some thrills while seeing the mountains rise up around you on a Urubamba River Rafting tour. Just be advised that this is not exactly the cleanest river in South America, so you want to go with a company that starts as far upstream as possible and you probably don’t want to be gulping in the water splashing in your face.

Mountain Biking

For those who prefer to stay close to the ground and get a workout, mountain biking is another exciting way to explore the Sacred Valley. Traversing trails with jaw-dropping views, you’ll be immersed in the stunning natural landscapes while challenging your physical abilities.

Companies like Amazonas Explorer offer various mountain biking tours, ranging from half-day excursions to multi-day adventures. These tours cater to a range of experience levels, from novice riders to seasoned experts, ensuring you find the perfect option for your abilities.

As you pedal through the Sacred Valley, you’ll encounter fascinating destinations like the Maras Salt Mines, Moray agricultural terraces, and ancient Inca ruins. Along the way, you can also have friendly interactions with local communities.

See options and prices from Viator here, then explore other tours in the area while you’re on the site.

Sacred Valley Cultural Experiences

Local Markets

local market items in Cusco

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture of the Sacred Valley is to visit the local markets. Wander through the vibrant stalls at the Pisac Market, where you’ll find colorful textiles, fresh produce, and traditional handicrafts. The one in Chinchero is also well-known, especially when it’s the biggest market day on Sunday, though sometimes it can feel like a spectacle when eight tour buses pull in at once.

Other towns in the Sacred Valley have their own traditional market too, though you may need to ask around to find out where and when. Don’t forget about the big city of Cusco though: the huge San Pedro market is walking distance from the main plaza and can be a better place to buy handicrafts and local food items than in the shops in the main tourist areas. The Wanchaq market is further out, but provides a more authentic look at local life. If you really want to dive in deep, others include Huancaro, Vinocanchan, and Ttio.

Search hotels in Cusco

Textile Workshops

The Sacred Valley is home to a rich textile tradition, and visiting a textile workshop is an excellent way to dive deeper into the local culture. Discover the ancient techniques of weaving by hands-on experience in a traditional textile workshop. Throughout the workshop, you’ll learn about the natural dyes, patterns, and symbolism used in the weaving process.

You can sign up for guided tours on Viator and GetYourGuide to meet local weavers and even participate in a hands-on workshop to create your piece of Peruvian textile art.

Pachamanca Dining

pachamanca dining peru

Experience the flavors of the Sacred Valley by participating in a Pachamanca dining event. Pachamanca is a traditional Andean cooking method in which ingredients like potatoes, corn, and marinated meat are combined with hot stones and cooked underground. This method infuses the food with a unique earthy flavor while symbolizing the connection between the land and its people. You can book a Pachamanca dining experience by itself or often it will be included on some other kind of multi-day tour. This experience will allow you to savor this unique culinary tradition while learning about its historical and cultural significance. (And get ready, there will be guinea pig on the menu.)

This is not a comprehensive list of things to do in the Sacred Valley, Peru of course, just some of the best places and experiences. I’ve done Sacred Valley hikes that aren’t on this list, one of them to ruins the guide didn’t even know the name of, and there are plenty of other sites that aren’t on the tourist radar at all. Archaeologists are still finding ruins that nobody knew about until recently.

How about you? If you’ve been to the Sacred Valley before, what were the highlights for you?