The Sacred Valley – Pisac, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, Moray and Salineras de Maras

I was faced with a dilemma the day after returning from the Salkantay trek and Machu Picchu. I had three days left on my ticket, i brought a 10 day ticket for 130 sol, to see as many Inca sites as I possibly could but I was also exhausted and wanted to rest. I decided to male the most of both worlds and just head to Pisac which seemed to be the closest and luckily for me there was a colectivo just around the corner.

I don’t know hot much tours are to all of the ruins but I do know they run packages. I decided to go independently as often with tours you only get an hour or more to explore, although it meant I wouldn’t have a guide. I realise that some people find tours easier and better but I’ve been travelling long enough now to feel confident going alone and also I wanted to save as much money as I could and spreading the sites across three days suited me well. If you want to take a tour I’d suggest starting with the tour agency you used to book Machu Picchu as you will no doubt be able to negotiate a discount.

Pisac

You can easily reach the town of Pisac by collectivo. They leave from Puputi street which is on the east side of town and happily for me two streets away from my hostel Hospedaje TurΓ­stico Recoleta. It’s about a 15 min walk from the main plaza. There will be many companies wanting your custom and they leave when full, but you won’t wait long. Maybe try and find one that has passengers on board. The journey takes 45 mins and cost be 5 sols.

You’ll get dropped in the Main Street so head toward the main Plaza in Pisac and walk north from the left hand sided the town is quite touristy and you can easily make a day of it as they have markets on Sundays, which is the day I went, and buy lunch in town. I brought food from the market in Cusco which is one street across from where you catch the collectivo and there are lots of cheap delicious things on offer. The town is pretty scenic as you can see.

If you don’t have a ticket then you can buy one at the office, so just think if you want to buy a two day or ten day ticket.

You walk up to the ticket office from the left side of the square and then brace your self for lots of up from there. I actually thought this would be a nice relaxing afternoon but the site is huge, a lot of it is up high which seems to be the trend for Inca ruins. It seems they built their buildings for practical defensive reasons rather than considering the modern day tourist. I’d argue that’s an oversight on their part but nothing to be done now. Anyways I ended up walking 14 km that day and lots of the site is steep so wear decent shoes.

You start by walking up the terraces you can see below and then up a hill, more terraces and then follow a path that twists and turns past various buildings which are pretty spread out.

I saw some ruins that I thought were at the top so I decided to go up and then i could work my way down again. When I arrived I realised I wasn’t at the top and there was a path that worked it’s was along a ridge slowly going higher so logically I decided to follow this.

As you can see the path twisted and turned along the top of the hill. For the first time I saw that they had constructed stairs to assist with the ascent, so it must be challenging, and there was even a tunnel to squeeze though at one point. I was impressed by the Dad who decided to carry his baby along this route. I was using both my hands to balance and hold on but he seemed perfectly fine holding the baby and traversing the terrain.

I eventually reached the top and could see how large the whole complex was. Despite being tired the only logical thing to do was to go down and explore the rest which is exactly what I did.

I had a few false starts on my way back as I wanted to head back to the town without having to retrace my steps over the top of the mountains. The paths that appeared on my map that i tried first were all closed off to me but i found another path that went the long way around the ruins, but at least not the high way.

I eventually ended up retracing my stars back down to the town plaza and kept going straight. When i hit the main road there was a collectivo opposite that was going back to Cusco. I think you can also flag them down from the main road as they do go to other destinations. The return journey was also 45 mins and 5 soles and dropped me in the same location.

That night I went to Jacks and met up with everyone from the Salkantay trek who was still in town. The food there is great, I had cheese toasty, and although it’s not quite the same as back home it’s good if you are missing home comforts. I went back a few days later for some chicken soup.

Urubamba

The next day I had decided to travel to Urubamba a small town in the in the Sacred Valley. If you want to visit some of the ruins that are further from Cusco then it’s a good place to base yourself. I decided to take it easy and visit Ollantaytambo and Moray.

To get there I headed back to Puputi street and caught a collectivo, 6 soles, to Urubamba. It took the same route as the say before and passed through Pisac and after about an hour and forty minutes it arrived in Urubamba. I jumped out, left my bag in the hostel and returned to the bus station and caught a collectivo to Ollantaytambo, 2 soles, which is another 30 minute ride.

When I arrived I was dropped in the main plaza and there are ruins on either side of the valley. The ruins to the west of the plaza are what are known as Ollantaytambo so I had a little walk through the town and then headed there first and collected another punch hole in my ticket.

It was getting hot and I didn’t want to make the same mistake as yesterday so forgoing the option of a guide, one issue when you are alone is that it costs so much, I headed up to the highest point which surprise surprise was higher than I thought it would be. There is pretty much a one way route around the site so follow the arrows and you won’t miss anything.

If you do go all the way up to the highest point then it is well worth the effort as you get to see the Sun Temple but even more spectacular are the views. I even got to see a train wind it’s way through the valley as I realised this was the town that I had been dropped off in a few days before. Had I realised that I might have tried to plan the journey a little better.

On the way back down I spotted a church like building, it’s unlikely it was a church as the Incas were not Christian, but I decided to walk across the high pathway to get a closer look.

I had seen everything so I decided to check out the structures on the other hill. I had a quick walk across town and upon arriving I saw the sign that said it was dangerous and entry was at ones own risk. Still this was free so every cloud.

Again there was a steep climb and the steps were not the best, I suppose there is no funding to maintain this area, but there is a one way system to follow. When you can take the first right. Don’t do what I did and go the other way as you will just end up with people telling you that you are going in the wrong direction.

The path takes you around some fort Like structures on the right before winding around to the left and heading towards the bigger structures. It’s a very narrow party with some big drops so not for the faint hearted.

After feeling tired due to walking up mountains and running around for most of the day I decided to head back to Urubamba to relax. My hostel looked really nice and I wanted to take advantage of it. It took me a while to find the busses as the place I thought I was told and the stop on the map was not where they were. If you take the road from the south west corner of the plaza one block towards the market then you will find a load of collectivos heading back to Urubamba, again 2 soles.

I decided to do some home cooking and just have a small lunch of sandwiches so scouted town for supplies. I’ve still not quite worked out how PerΓΊ works with timings of shops and what each shop sells and this was the most difficult town so far but soon I found everything I needed and it enabled me to have a good look at this pretty touristish town.

I mentioned above that the hostel was a relaxing place to stay and with me being only one of two guests I had a private dorm and the place to myself.

And this was the view from my room.

Moray

The next day after breakfast I decided to visit Moray which is close to the town of Maras. Now there is no direct public transport to Maras from either Cusco or Urubamba. As I mentioned above there are several ways to visit but I’ll only outline the trip I took.

I went to the bus station and found a collectivo going to Cusco via Maras and it cost 5 sol to get there, which is expensive considering it’s not far. You get dropped off at the turnoff to Maras and there are taxis waiting to rip you off, I mean take you to the sites. I was quoted 70 soles to visit both sites and to be fair it is a 3 hour and 30 km trip. I was dithering about what to do and badly trying to negotiate a cheaper price when another car pulled up and Veronica from Uruguay stepped out. We decided to split the fair which meant we paid 35 soles each, still more than I wanted to pay but only half as bad. Again this is a situation where it’s cheaper to travel in a group. Anyways soon we had arrived and on the way I started to see the mountain range properly for the first time and I was really glad I had come.

Again I’ve not really done much research so when we arrived we went out separate ways and explored the site. It’s largely circles in the ground built as terraces, which at other sites would have been used for growing food. But I have a feeling this site has more signifance.

Above are photos from the main section but as you walk around there are a few other sections, again built as circles.

We spent and hour exploring and towards the end all the tour groups showed up. Again I don’t have a problem with that but if I can I like to explore with less people. It makes for better photos and means you don’t have to jostle with others for space.

Salineras de Maras

The last stop on my little tour was Salineras de Maras. Now this is a working site and I’ve been told that the salt harvested, no idea if that is the correct term, is sold in Cusco and across the world. I’ve not seen any evidence of this but I’ve not really looked for it elsewhere. Note that this site is not included on the Inca sites tickets and costs and addition 10 soles for entry. The taxi took is straight into the site but first we had a look from above.

We then went down into the valley and got to see the little fields upclose. There is water running through the whole site and you can see people working in the fields, creating big piles of salt that I then assume is packaged and sold. Veronica and I took our time and I was fascinated by the colours the salt creates on the mountain landscape.

Afterwards I treated myself to my first Inca Cola. It’s the best selling drink in Peru apparently, although still made by Coca-Cola, and is a bright yellow colour. I felt it tastes very similar to Iron Bru but it’s been a while since I’ve had one so don’t quote me on that. Just try it, you might like it.

We headed back to the main road in the taxi where we parted ways. Almost straight away a collectivo, 3 soles, pulled up to take me back to Urubamba where I returned to the hostel and collected my bags. Afterwards I headed back to the bus station and jumped in another collectivo to Cusco for 6 soles. This one took a different route and I was dropped 2km from my hostel which I decided to walk.

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