5 Day Sacred Valley Itinerary: Cusco to Ollantaytambo

I have complied the ultimate 5 day itinerary to see the best Inca sights in sacred valley as well as appreciate the nature of this beautiful spot.

Me at the Pisac Ruins in the Sacred Valley

You might notice that the highlight of the sacred valley of the Incas Machu Picchu is not on this itinerary. I have chosen to do this as I am assuming Machu Picchu is already top of your list for a visit to Peru. This itinerary highlights the best spots of the sacred valley whilst discovering some off the beaten track gems.

Pisac ruins in sacred valley peru
Ruins at Pisac

This itinerary starts in Cusco and finishes in Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is the best place to get a train to Aguas Calientes to see Machu Picchu. The order can be reversed as you prefer. Personally, I like the idea that you build up to the biggest attraction Machu Picchu. Or if you want to do a trek to Machu Picchu such as the Salkantay trek you might have to go back to Cusco to meet your tour company.

View over the mountains of the Sacred Valley

About The Sacred Valley of the Incas

The Sacred Valley of the Incas was a significant part of Incan history. The Incan population started to move into the region in the year 1000 but took over the region in 1420. They remain in complete control until the Spanish arrived in the 1530s. The Incan’s precise masonry work is one of the reasons that many of the structures still stand today.

Me at Saqsayhuaman

The Sacred valley is lower in altitude than the town of Cusco (the Incan capital). This meant they were able to grow maize and use it for other types of food production. As well as this, Incan’s used the sacred valley for royal homes and estates. Just walking around the ruins of these settlements takes you back to how they used to live and you can imagine day to day life.

Sacred Valley Tourist Ticket

A sacred valley tourist ticket is vital if you’re going to spend any time in the sacred valley. There are 2 options, a 2 day pass which includes 4 entrances (Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero and Moray) or a 10 day pass which includes all of these plus Sacsayhuaman and more museums. The 10 day pass is 130 Soles, the 2 day ticket is 70 Soles.

View from Sacsayhuaman ruins over Cusco

To follow this itinerary, make sure to buy the 10 day pass. You can buy this ticket at the entrance to any of the sites in the Sacred Valley. They will write your name on the ticket and make sure to keep it safe as they will check it at each entrance to a site. Take a photo of your ticket just in case you lose it along the way, you might be able to convince the ticket office that you have already paid.

Me enjoying the view in Ollantaytambo

How to get around the sacred valley : Taxi or collectivo

There are 2 main ways to get around the sacred valley, taxi or collectivo. A collectivo is a public bus that goes between the main towns and can stop anywhere in between. I personally took a collectivo throughout my time in the Sacred Valley. Collectivos are very easy to take and significantly cheaper than a taxi. I never paid more than 7 soles throughout my trip in the sacred valley.

How collectivos work

As I will be mentioning collectivos a few times in this post, here is a small explanation about how they work. They each have a scheduled route, for example Cusco to Ollantaytambo. However, there are no official bus stops. You can tell the driver to stop when and where you would like. You will notice people doing this throughout the journey which of course adds to journey time.

5 day sacred valley itinerary: terraces at ollantaytambo ruins
Ollantaytambo ruins

There a no official bus times either. At the first station, the driver will wait for the bus to be full and then leave. You can ask the cost of the journey before you board. I have found this to be a sign to the driver that you don’t take a collectivo often. What I ended up doing (as did the local people I observed) was just getting on the bus and paying the same amount as everyone else when we made it to the next town. This worked well as I was always going between major towns and ended up paying the same amount. If you look like you know what you’re doing they’re less likely to overcharge – fake it till you make it!

Ruins of Sacsayhuaman

5 day Sacred Valley Itinerary

5 day Sacred Valley Itinerary Day 1: Saqsayhuaman and then go to Pisac

Start your day in Cusco with a lovely coffee. I discovered a few cafes in Cusco that have brilliant coffee and baked goods. They are café Hwasi, Three monkeys and Cercanía Pan y Café.

The walls of the ruins at Saqsayhuaman

Saqsayhuaman Ruins

The Ruins of Saqsayhuaman are accessible from the city centre of Cusco by foot. The walk is about 20 minutes and is completely uphill. Cusco is at an altitude of 3400m, this can be a bit of a shock to the system. If you are not up to this or have not adjusted to the altitude yet you can choose to get a taxi.

At the entrance of Saqsayhuaman make sure to get a 10 day tourist ticket to the sacred valley. They will stamp it with the correct date and you must write your name on it.

Saqsayhuaman ruins

Fun fact: Saqsayhuaman is pronounced surprisingly similar to Sexy woman. (No joke!). Many of the locals refer to the ruins as sexy woman.

Sacsayhuaman was built in the 15th century and is very distinctive because of the very large stone used to construct it. This site was used by the Incan’s as a fortress overlooking the capital of Cusco.

From the ruins, make sure to take in the panoramic views of Cusco. You might even spot a few llamas roaming around the place!

Ruins of Saqsayhuaman with a view of Cusco in the background

Statue of Jesus Christ and View of Cusco

Once you have finished at the ruins, whilst you are ‘in the area’, visit the other view point of Jesus Christ. The statue of Jesus Christ looks surprisingly similar to the famous viewpoint in Rio Brazil but it is significantly smaller. This is another spot to get a great view of Cusco town.

Jesus Christ Statue in Cusco
The statue of Jesus Christ that overlooks Cusco

Make your way back into the centre of Cusco for some lunch and a last wander around the city centre. Pick up your big bags from your accommodation and then go to the collectivo station. The collectivo to Pisac leaves from Puputi Street in Cusco.

Once you have arrived in Pisac, settle into your accommodation and wander around the town. Pisac is very small and you can see most of it in a small walk.

View of Cusco from the Jesus Christ Statue
View of Cusco from the Jesus Christ Statue

Where to stay in Pisac

Here are the best options of where to stay in Pisac for every budget:

5 day Sacred Valley Itinerary Day 2: Visit the Pisac ruins and Pisac market

Start day 2 with an early start to avoid too much of the heat of the day. The first port of call is the Pisac ruins, they are on top of a hill above Pisac town. There are 2 ways to access the ruins: by hiking the way up or by taking a taxi up to the top of the hill.

Terraces of Pisac ruins – this is the path to walk up!

Pisac Ruins

When I visited Pisac, I chose to walk up. The walk up to the Pisac ruins is pretty intense, especially if you are not yet fully adjusted to the altitude. One of my friends I met travelling have a joke that the Pisac ruins hike is the hardest hike in Peru, and we both did the Salkantay trek! If you are not up to the walk, organising a taxi up is the easiest way to organise getting there.

View over the Pisac ruins

The path entrance to walk up to the ruins is at the road that leads from the main sqaure to the Pisac market, Inithuatana. There is a ticket gate here and also a map in which the agent explains the route up. Make sure to bring lots of water and even snacks because there is nowhere to buy them on the way up.

The advantage of walking up is that there are many small ruins on the way up and the view across the valley during the walk is lovely. As well as this, you really get away from the crowds! It was really noticeable when I got up to the top when the ruins suddenly became busy.

Some of the Pisac ruins on the walk up

It is not known exactly what Pisac was used for but it is assumed it was a place of agricultural and military significance. Large terraces used for agriculture can be seen in Pisac ruins. As well as this, it is assumed that the Pisac was used as a retreat for noble and royals.

Pisac Town and Market

After visiting the ruins, make your way back down to Pisac town for some lunch. Apart from the ruins, Pisac is famous for it’s market. It is not the cheapest you will find goods but the quality is high. There is lots of souvenirs on offer including cosy colourful jumpers made of llama wool. I went a bit crazy in Pisac market and it looked like a llama wool factory exploded on me.

I may or may not have had too much fun in the Pisac market….

Do you have extra time? Stay in Pisac for an extra night and spend the day after leisurely getting to Urubamaba. You could even add in a stop to Calca or Chincero on the way.

To stick to the 5 day itinerary, take a taxi or collectivo to Urubamba and sleep in Urubamaba.

Where to Stay in Urubamba

Here are the best options of where to stay in Urubamba:

Looking for a once in a lifetime adventurous night sleep? Try sleeping in the Sky Lodge. They are pods mounted on the side of the valley wall and looks incredible!

Terraces of the Pisac Ruins

5 day Sacred Valley Itinerary Day 3: Visit Moray ruins and Maras Salt Production

Day 3 of the 5 day itinerary is a big one but also my favourite. If there are any things you want to do in the Sacred Valley, Moray and Maras is it!

Before we begin, here is a summary of the names as it can get confusing:

Moray: Ancient Incan ruins.

Maras Pueblo: the town of Maras.

Salineras de Maras: Salt farm of Maras.

Personally, I did this day by taking a taxi up to the ruins of Moray and then walking all the way back down to Urubamaba. This walk is only downhill and flat and is really beautiful (have you guess yet that I love walking?). Another option is to take a taxi for a full day and get them to take you from spot to spot. Be wary of hoping taxis will just turn up to the attractions as they are relatively remote and not on a through route.

View from the path between Moray and Maras

Moray Ruins

Start the day at Moray, Incan ruins. The entrance is included in the Sacred Valley tourist ticket. This is thought to be an Incan greenhouse. The ruins are circular terraces used to grow fruits and vegetables. The form of the terraces creates a temperature difference of 5°C between the top and the bottom. As well as this, they have found evidence of soil from all over Peru suggesting the Incas knew the importance of different types of soil for growing certain crops.

Moray ruins - one of the things to see on a 5 day sacred valley itinerary peru
Moray ruins

After enjoying time in Moray, either get in a taxi or walk to Maras Pueblo. The walk is about 1.15hours. Maras is a cute little town is the perfect spot for a bit of lunch. There aren’t too many options for restaurants but there are some bakeries to get a picnic lunch.

Salineras de Maras

From Maras, walk or get a taxi to the Salineras de Maras. The walk is clearly signposted from the main square. The walk to the Salineras is about 2 hours. The drive is 20 minutes. It is longer than you would expect as the road is not direct at all.

The Salineras of Maras

The Salineras are salt fabrication plant but trust me here, it is beautiful! The entrance is not included in the tourist ticket, it is 10 Soles entry. There are a couple of viewpoints over the salt flats. The Salineras are many small pools of salt water than are used to harvest salt. They span across the valley which is very beautiful, who knew salt could be pretty?!

If you continue to walk from here, the path is signposted and is parallel to the side of the Salineras. So it is technically off the visit path but is still permitted. The extra benefit here is that you get a closer view of the Salineras away from other visitors.

The path at the bottom of the valley of the Salineras going to Pichingoto

The path takes you down the valley to the river at the bottom at Pichingoto. Personally, I walked all the way back to Urubamba from here. The path followed the river and I quite liked it. This is also parallel to the main road so you can easily flag down a taxi or even collectivo to go back to Urubamba. After a big day, eat and sleep in Urubamba.

5 day Sacred Valley Itinerary Day 4: Go to Ollantaytambo and visit small ruins

On Day 4 in the Sacred Valley, time to move to your final destination- Ollantaytambo! (it took me a long time to remember how to pronounce it if I am honest…). This is the perfect day to have a slow morning and maybe enjoy a nice brunch in Urubamaba. From here, take a collectivo to Ollantaytambo. When I did this journey, I paid 2.5soles for the collectivo. The collectivo from Urubamba leaves from the bus terminal.

street in ollantaytambo, sacred valley
One of the streets in Ollantaytambo

Of all of the towns in the sacred valley, Ollantaytambo was my favourite one so I recommend allotting some time just to enjoy wondering the streets of the town. Ollantaytambo was built and occupied by the Incans. After the Spanish arrived, they also lived in Ollantaytambo. Because of this, the architechture is very interesting and has some of the oldest continuously occupied houses in South America.

After checking into your accommodation, there are some free ruins just on the outskirts of the town called Palacion Quello Raqay. You can find these by following the water channel down hill from Plaza del Armas. It is about 500m walk away. When I went, a lovely dog showed me the way, it was great! I had got some fruit from the central market just next to the Plaza del Armas and it was a fab spot for an afternoon snack and to enjoy the view of the valley.

The ruins of Palacion Quello Raqay.

Where to stay in Ollantaytambo

Here are the best options of where to stay in Ollantaytambo:

The market of Ollantaytambo

5 day Sacred Valley Itinerary Day 5: Visit Ollantaytambo ruins

On the final day of this 5 day sacred valley itinerary, finish with the amazing Ollantaytambo ruins. The entry to these ruins are included in the tourist ticket. These ruins are simply enormous and span up the hill of the valley. The stairs or the ‘Inca escalator’ take you all the way up to the top which gives a lovely view.

The view from the top of the ruins of Ollantaytambo

There are 2 main elements to the Ollantaytambo ruins: Temple hill and the terraces. At the top of Temple hill there are large monolithic stones with markings on them assumed to have significant religious meaning for the Incan people. The large spanning terraces were used for agriculture.

The view from ‘the fridge’ of Ollantaytambo town and ruins

At the exit of the ruins, there is a market that sells lots of souvenirs. I saw some lovely hats when I was there but I had gone too crazy in Pisac so I limited myself. Take time for a spot of lunch before heading to the ‘Inca Fridge’.

The ‘Incan Fridge’ or Pinkuylluna are the ruins on terraces that are on the opposite side of the valley to the main ruins. The entrance is free and the walk up is pretty steep without any handrails so not for those who are unsteady on their feet. These ruins are nicknamed the fridge because it is thought that the Incan population stored food there. It is high up on the hills and also doesn’t get direct sunlight so is quite cool. From here you also get a great view of the main Ollantaytambo ruins and of the valley.

The ‘Incan Fridge’

The end of the Ultimate 5 day Sacred Valley Itinerary

This is the end of the 5 day sacred valley itinerary. From here, you can easily go back to Cusco by collectivo. If you are going onto visit Machu Picchu, you can take a train Aguas Calientes which is the town you can access Machu Picchu from. Or if you are choosing to do a trek to Machu Picchu, such as the Salkantay trek, you may need to go back to Cusco to meet your tour agency.

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