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Machu Picchu and The Sacred Valley in 6 Days

Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.

Day 1

  • Pisaq
  • Ollantaytambo

Arrived at the Cusco airport early in the morning, got a taxi to take us to Pisaq (about an hour) and then our hostel in Ollantaytambo (another hour and 15 mins). Pisaq was great, walked around the ruins and terraces, then the town below for some food and shopping. Definitely worth a stop.

Once we got to Ollantaytambo we dropped off our bags and headed out to explore the ruins there, too. Similar terraces to Pisaq but definitely worth it as well.

Day 2

  • Machu Picchu
  • Huayna Picchu

We caught the earliest train to Aguas Calientes, dropped our bags at the next hostel and got the bus up to Machu Picchu. Make sure to explore all over the grounds and view the ruins from every angle. The Sun Gate is where those hiking the Inca Trail will get their first glimpse of Machu Picchu – definitely worth the walk over for that view.

We chose to do the second group for Huayna Picchu – tough decision because you have to make it in advance but it is weather dependent. Worked out for us, and I would highly recommend doing it if you can get tickets. There are some sketchy parts with no railings, so make sure you’re comfortable with heights. If you can’t get tickets for Huayna Picchu, you should try to get tickets for Machu Picchu Mountain.

We spent all day there without a guide and stayed in Aguas Calientes. You can get a guide if you want (plenty available near the entrance), but we prefer to read up on stuff on our own and go at our own pace.

Day 3

  • Putucusi Mountain
  • Ollantaytambo

Please note: I’ve read that the ladders have since been removed and it is no longer possible to summit Putucusi.

Woke up and hiked Putucusi, one of the mountains that overlooks Machu Picchu. Didn’t see another person the whole time, going up or coming down. The ladders to get to the top are awesome, and quite intimidating. I’m not super comfortable with heights, but had to do it. Great views from the top, sit on the rocks and have a snack.

Overlooking Machu Picchu from Putucusi

Took a train back to Ollantaytambo in the afternoon, walked around the ruins again and stayed in Ollantaytambo again.

Day 4

  • Salineras de Maras
  • Moray
  • Saqsayhuaman

We hired a car for the day to take us to Salineras de Maras, Moray, and Saqsayhuaman on the way from Ollantaytambo to Cusco. Driving straight through would take less than 2 hours but all 3 are very unique and pretty much on the way. A fantastic way to spend a half day with lots of variety. Salineras is the salt mine/salt pans area that’s really neat.

Moray consists of ruins in a circular pattern. You can go down and walk around the circles.

Saqsayhuaman is an area where gigantic rocks were somehow put together like a puzzle to form a very long wall – no clue how that was accomplished.

Got to Cusco in early afternoon, plenty of time to walk around the city. Had an amazing meal at Inkazuela, highly recommend.

Day 5

Was a waste, supposed to fly to Lima for a wedding but Star Peru ruined that one (long story). They’re cheap for a reason and their planes don’t fly in bad weather – I would recommend paying more and going with LAN because their 737s flew when the prop planes didn’t. We had to stay in Cusco, were lied to twice by Star Peru representatives at the airport and spent hours trying to figure out how to get to Lima the next day. Didn’t really do anything more in Cusco.

Day 6

Last day, flew to Lima, met up with friends and went to their house and a ridiculously crowded beach. Hung out with them all day then flew home on a midnight flight.

Final thoughts

I spent a lot of time researching how best to do all the stuff in the Sacred Valley, and really thought the route we took ended up great. No real wasted time and felt like we got to spend enough time at each place. I think 4 days in the Sacred Valley is perfect, but I also think hiking the Inca Trail and/or Choquequirao would have been awesome; we just didn’t have the vacation time from work. It was easy enough to find drivers through the hostels and airports, very affordable trip and lots to do. Great food too, quinoa soups and avocado everywhere. Wouldn’t recommend Star Peru though. We went in January and purchased train tickets to/from Machu Picchu in advance, and I think that’d be a good idea at any time of the year.

Year traveled: January 2013

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