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A Day in Peru’s Sacred Valley

While Machu Picchu is certainly the most famous ruin in Peru, there are dozens of other sites that held significance for the Incas. We set out to explore two of them on our day in the Sacred Valley – Pisac and Ollantaytambo – along with the awesome Pisac market.

Our day in Peru’s Sacred Valley was off to an early start when we headed up to the Pisac ruins. We drove up to the top and then hiked our way down through the complex. There are ruins up on the ridge and then some ruins down near the agricultural terraces.

Looking down the Sacred Valley above Pisac
High above the valley in Pisac

At over 11,000 feet, the Pisac ruins tower over the valleys below. The ruins themselves are in better shape than the first site we visited the day before at Sacsayhuaman, so it was easier to imagine the everyday life that took place here. Despite having a clear footprint and defined buildings, the purpose of Pisac is still speculative (perhaps part fortress and part ceremonial).

The stone Pisac ruins in the mountains
Some of the buildings at Pisac

We spent several hours hiking among the ruins and the terraces. I have to say that as (slightly unfit) people from sea level, we had some difficulty at the extreme elevation, especially as the heat of the day increased. I have a fear of heights as well, so some of the drops were a bit challenging for me. But we found Pisac to be great preparation for Machu Picchu.

Lance and Laura hiking in the Sacred Valley at Pisac
We made it!

After the ruins, we headed into Pisac town and grabbed some ridiculously good empanadas from a small, family-run shop just before we reached the town. There was no name on the store, and the empanadas only cost 2 soles each. Delicious and authentic.

Family cooking empanadas in a mud oven in Peru
The empanadas are so good!

In Pisac, we stopped at the famous Sunday market. Truth be told, we’re a little obsessed with markets. There’s just something about wandering among the aisles of bright, fresh produce that becomes mesmerizing. In Peru, there are the added elements of the women’s remarkable clothes, hats, and tapestries – the eye almost doesn’t know where to look first because there are so many things to see.

Vendors selling vegetables at the Pisac market
Vendors at the Pisac market

In addition to the produce, there are aisles of meats, clothes, and household goods at the Pisac market. We were kind of like kids in a candy store as we bounced around taking it all in.

Women in traditional garb buying and selling at the Pisac market
So many colors

Unfortunately, we were a little too excited and began to run late, so after some quick purchases we stopped for a really late lunch at 3 Keros (Tres Keros) in Urubamba. Chef Richard’s amazing 6-course lunch was the best food we had in Peru. But it put us even further behind schedule.

Our next stop in the Sacred Valley was Ollantaytambo. By the time we reached the ruins, we didn’t have enough time to really explore, and the sun was beginning to set. This was a real pity because there was a lot to see.

Terraces and buildings of Ollantaytambo

During the time of the Incas, Ollantaytambo was the estate of Emperor Pachacuti, who built the town and a ceremonial center. I can only imagine what it would have looked like in the 1400s, but the storehouses and terraces are spectacularly preserved. After about a half-hour, it was time for us to leave, but we’ll certainly return here if we make it back to the Sacred Valley.

Water pouring through the Bath of the Princess fountain at Ollantaytambo
Bath of the Princess fountain

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Laura | Travelers Universe

Thursday 16th of July 2015

I love in general ruins, but this are very very special ones. So wonderful.


Wednesday 15th of July 2015

The ruins look really beautiful. Peru has been on our list for a while and unfortunately it's probably going to stay on our list for quite a while. Getting there from Europe with limited vacation time isn't the easiest thing to do.

Laura Longwell

Wednesday 15th of July 2015

This was our first visit to South America, and we loved it. When you get the vacation time for it, it will be worth the journey.

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