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6 Best Sacred Valley Tours from Cusco +Tips BEFORE You Book!

6 Best Sacred Valley Tours from Cusco +Tips BEFORE You Book!

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Want to visit the Sacred Valley from Cusco? A guided tour is the perfect option! And in this blog, we’ll tell you about the very best tours!

The Sacred Valley sits right below the Andes and stretches for 100 kilometers (62 miles) of sprawling natural beauty. There are quaint mountain villages with incredible markets to explore. While Machu Picchu is technically within the northern part of the valley, all of these other activities allow you to experience some of the best places in Peru without the gobs of tourists.

You can go ziplining, ATVing, and even have lunch in a capsule on the side of a mountain cliff on these tours!

We have put together the best tours of the Sacred Valley from Cusco and the top 8 things to know so you can choose an experience that best suits your adventure level. We hope this guide lets you fall in love with this gorgeous part of Peru, just like we did!

Quick Pick: Our Favorite Tour

While each of the tours listed is uniquely awesome, our absolute favorite tour on this list is this full-day tour that visits several of the best attractions in a unique order to avoid the crowds! Not only did we learn a ton from our guide, but we got some beautiful photos and even did fun activities like weaving.

This tour includes hotel pick-up, free cancellation up to 24 hours before departure, and a buy-now pay-later option. It has over 400 5-star reviews (you can check them out here!), so it really is an excellent option.

Why book a tour to the Sacred Valley?

The Peru Rail Train at Machu Picchu
The train to Machu Picchu!

We think booking a tour from Cusco is the best way to see the Sacred Valley. Not only is it far and so large you don’t know where to start, but there is also so much history within this valley. Taking a day trip from Cusco as part of a tour means you have amazing local guides along who know this area like the back of their hands. Some of them even have family ties to the Sacred Valley! We loved the personal touch our guides brought to the area.

Booking a tour also made our day’s logistics way easier. Once you get to the Sacred Valley, there is a lot you can do and it’s only possible with a tour. I personally don’t know how to navigate the back roads of the Andes Mountains (surprising, right?) so I was relieved to have our guides easily get us to our destinations so we could set off on an epic excursion. 

Tours are also the most cost-effective way to explore the Sacred Valley! Many of these tours include transportation, whatever activity you’re doing (plus more), lunch, and invaluable knowledge from your guide. Cusco is the closest major city and the most convenient place to visit from. It’s really a no-brainer if you’re spending a few days in Cusco to book a tour from here!

Related Read: You’ll also need a tour if you plan to hike around Machu Picchu – here’s our honest review and guide to the Salkantay Trek.

What are the best tours to the Sacred Valley from Cusco?

Now that we’ve adequately hyped up a visit to the Sacred Valley, we have even more ways to experience it! Rather than just visiting the main towns, these tours let you dive into the historic and outdoor side of the valley. There is a good mix of tour options so you can find one that best suits you and really have a memorable day exploring one of the best places to visit in South America.

2-Day Tour: Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu by Train

Stunning shot of Machu Picchu from a viewpoint above the Inca site
Machu Picchu!
Terraces at Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru
Ancient buildings at Pisac, Sacred Valley, Peru

We’ve been saying that it’s difficult to see everything the Sacred Valley has to offer in a day, so why not make it two? This 2-day tour will take you along the stunning valley by train and up to Machu Picchu! Having two full days to explore lets you travel at a relaxed pace and soak in the beauty of this area. 

Your first day will be dedicated to exploring the Sacred Valley. You’ll spend most of the day driving from one archeological site to the next, including stops at a textile shop, a traditional market, and scenic viewpoints along the way. In the afternoon, you’ll hit Ollantaytambo and board the Inca Rail for an iconic ride up to Agua Calientes (it’s quite stunning, you’ll see). This is where you’ll stay the night and rest up for day two of this adventure!

An early wake-up and a 30-minute bus ride will get you to Machu Picchu just in time for sunrise! The guide will provide a tour of the ruins, then you’ll have the opportunity to explore by yourself. You’ll have about 4 hours here, which is a good amount of time to take in the rich history and beauty of Machu Picchu. Finally, you will take the train back to Cusco, and the tour guides will drop you off back at your hotel by the evening – what a full but wonderful day!

This is a small group tour of 10 travelers and includes all of your transportation (trains, buses, and driving to and from your hotel). It also includes the hotel stay in Agua Calientes, all of your guided tours, entrance fees to Machu Picchu, and breakfast on day two. However, it does not include any other meals (so bring plenty of cash, there will be lots of yummy food options), entrance to the Sacred Valley (about 70 Peruvian Soles which is around $20 USD), or any additional expenses you might have, like souvenirs, snacks, etc. 

This is a non-refundable tour and can’t be changed for any reason, so double-check those dates before you book! The price of this tour depends on the train and hotel room you select with the cheapest option being $479 USD and the most expensive option of $599 USD per person.

This is a great tour that truly includes so much, so if it’s in your budget it will be an experience you surely won’t forget! You can reserve your spot online here

The Ultimate Sacred Valley Tour

A panoramic view of the Salineras de Maras salt beds in Peru
How cool is this!

We love this tour because it intentionally gets you off the normal tourist route so you see fewer people and more of the beautiful valley! The Ultimate Sacred Valley Tour is 12 hours of the best sites: Chinchero, Moray, Maras, and Ollantantambo. 

Your day will start with an early morning pickup from your hotel in Cusco. This tour is small with only 8 travelers, so you won’t be rushed at any of the stops because of a large group! Your first stop will take you to Chinchero to witness traditional Peruvian weaving and a farm of guinea pigs and alpacas – an authentic Peru experience! 

The group will then head to the Moray ruins, which are an impressive feat of agricultural engineering from the Incas. It is pretty mind-blowing to see how advanced they were so long ago. After the ruins, you’ll go to the nearby town of Maras to see thousands of salt ponds that are hundreds of years old! This is the most iconic photo stop in the Sacred Valley. 

The tour’s last stop will be a traditional lunch buffet in one of the best restaurants in the Sacred Valley, followed by the ruins of Ollantaytambo. This area was once the entrance to Machu Picchu and was an important area to protect during the Spanish Invasion, so it’s cool to stand in such a historic location. The tour will end by taking the train back to Cusco, where you’ll likely be exhausted but enthralled by all the amazing things you experienced during the day!

This 12-hour tour includes roundtrip transportation from your hotel, lunch, and your amazing guide (you’ll be thankful for their commentary, as there is so much to learn along the way!). It doesn’t include entrance fees, which will be about 80 Peruvian Soles (equal to $22 USD), so bring cash! It costs $129 USD per person or it’s even cheaper if you book for more people.

This is a great tour for those who want to get away from major tourist crowds and really dig into the ancient culture that lies within the Sacred Valley. This is a refundable tour, so if you need to cancel or change your itinerary you can do so up to 24 hours before your tour’s scheduled departure time. You can reserve this amazing full-day tour of the Sacred Valley online!

Full-Day Excursion to Sacred Valley, Pisac, and Ollantaytambo 

Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru
Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru!

This full-day tour is great for those traveling on a budget, as you get a whole day of exploration to check out the most iconic sites of the Sacred Valley, but for only $48 USD! Over the course of 13 hours, you will explore five important locations in the valley, all guided by your wonderful local tour guide.

You will cover a lot of ground during this tour, five stops in one day means you’re cruising! The tour starts with hotel pick up, then takes off to the mountains. You will stop at ruins in Chinchero and Moray before visiting the salt mines in Maras. The tour will stop for a buffet lunch in Urubamba where you can try an assortment of Peruvian dishes. We love a good buffet on a tour!

Then you will visit Ollantaytambo to see the Inca’s military fortress. Having a guide is really helpful for the ruins, as this military fortress also serves as a significant religious and cultural hub for the Incas. You’d never know the details of this rich history simply by visiting the site on your own. The last stop of the tour will take you on a drive through the valley, all the way to Pisac for more fascinating ruins and history.

While this tour still takes you to so many stops along the way, it is a larger group of 20 travelers so you don’t get as much time at each location or the personalized touch of smaller tours. But, if you’re traveling on a budget, this is still a great way to get to the Sacred Valley and learn about the fascinating history of the Incan civilization.

This tour includes transportation (pickup from your hotel in the morning and will return you to the main square in Cusco in the evening). It also includes lunch and your guide but doesn’t include entrance fees, which will be about 80 soles (~$22 USD). This is a refundable tour, so you can cancel or change it for a full refund as long as it is 24 hours before your tour’s scheduled departure time!

This will be a long day, but totally worth it once you experience the beautiful Sacred Valley! To secure your spot on this affordable tour of the Sacred Valley, book a spot here.

ATV Tour to Moray and Maras Salt Mines in the Sacred Valley 

Willka travel Cusco ATV tour
Photo credit: Willka Travel Cusco

Any ATV tour I’ve done has always been an awesome and unique way to experience an area. You get a chance to go to places that cars often can’t, and there’s something so freeing about having your own wheels in an epic location! This ATV Tour to Moray and Maras is a wonderful way to experience the Sacred Valley like you couldn’t imagine! Plus, riding ATVs is fun enough in itself. 

This tour offers hotel pickup to those staying in the historical center of Cusco, otherwise, you’ll meet at the designated point in the city. The tour will take you on a 50-minute drive up the mountains to the Sacred Valley where you will begin your ATV ride. They will provide the vehicle, helmet, gloves, and a guide to lead you along the way.

On your ATV ride, you will make stops at the Moray ruins for a guided tour, and then ride to the Maras Salt Mines for another tour. In between, you’ll rip down bumpy roads, get stunning views of the valley, and experience the area as the Incas did. Well, that is if the Incas had motorized vehicles! It will be an enthralling day of riding. 

This tour is actually very reasonably priced for what it is. For $39 USD for a shared ATV (2 people on board), you’ll get 5 hours of guided tour, including time on the ATV, all the equipment, and a totally unique way to see the Sacred Valley. If you want a private ATV, the cost rises to $52 USD per person. It doesn’t include any food (so pack snacks) or entrance to both locations, so bring cash in Peruvian soles (about 85 soles total). This is a refundable tour, so you can change or cancel your reservation up to 24 hours in advance. 

If you’re ready for an adventure exploring the Sacred Valley on an ATV, you can reserve this epic experience online here!

Zipline Adventure with Lunch in Transparent Capsule 

The view from one of the Sacred Valley in Peru pods at the Sky Adventure Lodge in the
Photo credit: Sky Lodge Adventures
Sky Lodge Adventures via ferrata
Photo credit: Sky Lodge Adventures

Okay, this is one of the coolest tours I’ve ever seen. As if the Sacred Valley wasn’t stunning enough, this tour will give you epic views as you dine in a transparent capsule 400 meters (1,312 feet) above the ground, in addition to rock climbing up the mountain and ziplining down. 

The tour starts by picking you up from your hotel in Cusco and transporting you to Pachar, about an hour away. This drive gives you stunning views of the Sacred Valley along the way. Once you reach Pachar, your guides will give you safety equipment and instructions to climb up the mountain! Even if you haven’t rock climbed before, this is a very safe and guided route, so it’s doable for any adventurous traveler. 

At the top, you’ll find the transparent capsules where you’ll dine on a 4-course lunch made of the best Peruvian food in the most epic location possible! After lunch, your group will descend on a series of ziplines down the mountain. 

If you’re an adventure traveler like we are, this tour is a “must-do” activity! The whole day is full of moments that make you take a step back and marvel at the beauty. It will also give you a great adrenaline rush at multiple points in the day!

This tour includes roundtrip transportation from your hotel in Cusco, safety equipment and instruction, and your delicious lunch in a unique setting. It is a non-refundable experience and can’t be changed for any reason, so double-check your schedule before booking this tour! While the tour is a bit more costly at $345 USD, we think it’s worth it if you are looking for an unforgettable experience on your trip to the Sacred Valley. 

Check your schedule, and then book this epic tour online here!

Pisac Inca Town, Artisan Market, and Ollantaytambo Full-Day Tour 

Pisac city in the Sacred Valley, Peru
It’s a confusing place to explore without a tour!

We’ll rank this Sacred Valley tour as the “best overall cultural experience” on this list. This tour highlights areas of the Sacred Valley that have been significant since the time of the Incas, and are still used today! You’ll visit the expansive Pisac Market, Ollantaytambo ruins, and the mysterious Temple of the Sun and learn tons of history during this 10-hour tour.

The Pisac Market was once a major trading post during the Incan civilization. It still holds on to these roots, as it is a hub for hand-crafted textiles, jewelry, souvenirs, and locally grown fruits and vegetables. Not only is it an insight into the cultural inner workings of the Sacred Valley, but it’s also a great chance for you to support the local craftsmen and take home souvenirs from your trip! If you visit on a Sunday, you will have the chance to check out a traditional mass, which is a unique glimpse into the lives of the locals. 

You’ll have lunch in Pisac, then head to Ollantaytambo to check out the ruins. The hour-long drive will take you all the way through the Sacred Valley, giving you amazing views along the way. In Ollantaytambo, you’ll see the Temple of the Sun, which is a huge structure made up of 3.5-meter (12-foot) stones. This building is not completed, which leaves a lot of questions about the history of this temple.

This tour includes roundtrip transportation from your Cusco hotel, admission to the Ollantaytambo ruins as well as your knowledgeable guide and lunch! It is a fully refundable tour and you can change your reservation up to 24 hours before departing. 

This is a great way to see the local side of the Sacred Valley and learn so much about the Incan and Peruvian cultures. You can book this group tour for $79 USD or opt for a private tour for $173 USD for two people or only $99 USD each for a group of six! Book online here before spots fill up!

How far is the Sacred Valley from Cusco?

Moray Ruins in the Sacred Valley, Peru
Moray Ruins in the Sacred Valley, Peru

The Sacred Valley stretches 100 kilometers (62 miles) between the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, just northwest of Cusco. It’s pretty expansive!

From Cusco, you can reach Pisac in about 45 minutes or get to Ollantaytambo in 1 hour 15 minutes in the opposite direction. Because they are so far apart, it can be difficult to explore both the northern and southern parts of the Sacred Valley in one day without your own transportation or knowledge of the area.

Driving in a rental car or as part of a tour is the most direct way to reach either of these cities, or you can catch a bus. We usually opt to book tours largely because of the convenient private transportation that’s included!

Do you need to book a tour of the Sacred Valley in advance? 

Tambomachay Ruins in the Sacred Valley, Peru
These are impressive and they are so close to Cusco!

Yes, all of these tours we’ve talked about need to be booked in advance! The best part about booking through Viator is that you get free cancellations or changes to your booking up to 24 hours before your tour. This is possible with most of the tours, so be sure to read the details when booking.

However, most of these tours are available just a day in advance, with the more popular tourist seasons being a little further out. So whether you’re a strict itinerary planner or a day-before type of traveler, you can still participate in these tours!

When is the best time to visit the Sacred Valley? 

Museo Inkariy display
Museo Inkariy
Artifact at Museo Inkariy, Sacred Valley, Peru
Museo Inkariy

The best season to visit the Sacred Valley is from April to October, as this is Peru’s dry season. The peak tourism season is June through September, so if you want to avoid crowds, shoot to visit in April/May or September/October. 

You can really visit any time of year but expect some rain from November to March. Sometimes we prefer to visit in the off-season, as there are fewer people at these often overcrowded sites! The tours run year-round, so no matter when you go, you will still get to experience the Sacred Valley in an epic way.

Related Read: The dry season is also the ideal time to go trekking in Peru! Take it from me, heavy rain can make you feel like you’re swimming in mud instead of hiking a trail.

Tips for visiting the Sacred Valley

weaving in Chinchero, Sacred Valley
The weaving is impressive and you can get a great souvenir!

Wear layers – The valley can either be very windy and cold or really hot. At this high elevation, the sun can dictate the temperature or lack of it! I definitely recommend dressing in layers so you can adjust to the temperature accordingly. No one wants to be cold and miserable on a full-day tour!

Bring sun protection – If you visit during the dry season, you can expect lots of sun. The valley’s high elevation brings on harsh UV rays, so if you’re susceptible to sunburns, you’ll want some sort of sun protection! Either bring sunblock or some sort of lightweight clothing that covers the skin, as most of these tours will be outside all day.

Wear comfortable shoes – These full-day tours require a lot of walking – there are so many ruins to see! Skip the cute outfit and go for comfort here, this includes comfortable shoes. There will be uneven terrain and old ruins that you can walk on, so wear something that’s comfy to walk in all day.

Hand sanitizer – Hand sanitizer is a must while traveling! You might find a lack of available handwashing opportunities on these tours, so keep some hand sanitizer in your backpack to use throughout the day.

Motion sickness tablets – If you’re prone to motion sickness, you’ll want to bring some meds for the van rides. The roads in the Sacred Valley are windy and bumpy, and the Peruvian drivers are notoriously fast and aggressive. Bailey often gets motion sick and found this a necessity while going on these tours!

Is visiting the Sacred Valley worth it? 

Yes, visiting the Sacred Valley is completely worth it! While most people flock to Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley offers impressive ruins and views with a fraction of the people. There are so many corners of the valley that hold significant Incan history and ties into Peruvian culture today, so it’s amazing to get to explore and learn.

I would highly recommend any traveler add a trip to the Sacred Valley to their Cusco itinerary, and the tours on this list make a day trip so much easier!

Related Read: Another wow-worthy place to add to your trip is the Insta-famous Rainbow Mountain, Peru! It really is striped with vibrant colors!

History of the Sacred Valley

Statue of an Inca King in the Sacred Valley, Peru
Statue of an Inca King in the Sacred Valley, Peru
A llama in the Sacred Valley in Peru
So cute!

The Sacred Valley has long-standing ties to the ancient Incan civilization. The valley was an attractive area to reside in due to its lower elevation and warmer climate, so the Incas took control of the valley’s smaller villages and ethnic groups to make it their own. This warmer climate meant they could grow maize, which became a staple in their diet, economy, and culture. You can still try the traditional drink made of fermented maize called chicha! 

Chicha has a fascinating history – in times of war the Incas would decapitate their enemies and use their skulls as a vessel to drink chicha. This ceremoniously symbolized the successful transformation of the disorder of war to the order of the Incan Empire. This boom in maize production led to the success of the empire, and the Sacred Valley soon became the area of royal estates and country homes, many of which you’ll see the ruins of when you explore it for yourself. 

The Incas ruled the Sacred Valley for around 400 years until it came under Spanish control in 1537. It was truly a dynasty.

Up in the hills of the northern end of the Sacred Valley, you will find Machu Picchu. This area is believed to be the home of Pachacuti, a prominent Incan Emperor. You can still see the Urubamba River that carved out the Sacred Valley thousands of years ago and drew the Incas to this area. 

While most people don’t realize Machu Picchu is in the Sacred Valley, this iconic ruins site brings in nearly 1.2 million visitors each year. Since the Sacred Valley is massive, Machu Picchu is often visited from Cusco as a separate trip and is well worth it!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Cusco

The Plaza del Armas in Cusco, Peru
Come down and see the locals go about their daily lives!

Cusco is a top travel destination for good reason! There are plenty of things to do in Cusco. So, if you’ve already taken a trip out to the Sacred Valley, check out some other activities below.

  • Hangout in the Plaza de Armas The Plaza de Armas is one of our favorite places to people-watch and soak up the atmosphere. There are several benches, or you can post up at one of the restaurants. You might even see live music or dancing, or you can visit the Cusco Cathedral and the Church of the Society of Jesus.
  • Take a tour of Cusco – Guides can help you learn all about this ancient city. As you walk through the cobblestone streets, they’ll show you the top sights and even some hidden gems. If you’re on a budget, take this free Inkan Milky Way walking tour (reserve in advance!). But if you can afford it, this Cusco Sightseeing Tour is much more in-depth and the perfect intro to the city!
  • Stay in the Skylodge Adventure Suites – While one of the tours we mentioned earlier lets you eat lunch in a capsule on the side of a mountain, you can take things a step further and sleep here! Staying at Skylodge Adventure Suites has to be one of the most unique accommodation experiences in the world. Your room is completely transparent and right on the side of a mountain!
  • Take a cooking class – Peruvian food is insanely delicious, so if you want to make it upon your return, book this Peruvian cooking class. A local chef will take you to the San Pedro Market for all the ingredients before making local dishes with a modern twist! You’ll also taste pisco sours, try exotic fruits, and get to know the culture.
  • Go shopping – Cusco’s shopping is full of unique textiles and creative handmade goods. The San Blas area has excellent shopping and a weekend craft market. Avenida el Sol is an artisan hub with everything from paintings and jewelry to alpaca clothing. You can also buy all sorts of things at the San Pedro Market, including fresh juices, cheap meals, and many souvenirs. 

Where to Stay in Cusco, Peru

the courtyard at Palacio del Inka
This hotel is simply gorgeous! Photo Credit: Palacio del Inka

We recommend planning to stay at least a few days in Cusco because of all the things to do in the city and leaving enough time to explore the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. There are plenty of options for accommodations, from reasonably priced hostels to more luxurious hotels, depending on your budget. These are the places that top our list of recommendations!

Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Cusco – $$$  

If you can spend a bit more during your stay, soak up the incredible architecture and location at Palacio del Inka located in the city center. This luxurious hotel offers delightful amenities like an internal courtyard perfect for stargazing, excellent dining options, and onsite staff who go above and beyond. There is also an indoor swimming pool and fitness center for an additional fee. The interior design combines bold, traditional works of art with modern-day comforts like wifi and cable TV. If you’re feeling the altitude, oxygen and coca tea are available by request. The price tag here starts at around $380 USD per night. You can check availability and book Palacio del Inka online here.

Casa Matara Boutique – $$  

For a mid-range option, we love Casa Matara Boutique for its central location – it’s within walking distance to the main square and lots of top attractions. The breakfast here is excellent, the staff is amazing and so willing to help with everything, and the whole place gives off a cozy and charming atmosphere.

Rooms here are around $90 USD a night. To snag this deal, check availability and book Casa Matara Boutique online here.

Selina Plaza De Armas – $ 

The Selina Plaza De Armas is a budget-friendly option that offers shared dorm rooms, private rooms, or even unique outdoor tent accommodations. It’s only a short walk from Plaza De Armas and the cathedral, so you’re staying right in the action. The hotel also has a beautiful lobby with a glass-covered patio you can relax in.

Dorm rooms are around $30-$50 USD per night, and the teepee tents are under $100 USD. You can book a stay at Selina Plaza De Armas on HostelWorld.com or through Booking.com.   

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a photo on the Salkantay Trek in Peru
Thanks for reading!

Visiting the Sacred Valley from Cusco is one of those Peru experiences you don’t want to miss out on. We originally only planned to spend three days in Cusco and then four weeks later, we were still here! It was not only the city itself, but the incredible destinations around Cusco – like the Sacred Valley – that had us hooked. The incredible history and jaw-dropping scenery of this ancient valley don’t disappoint!

Before you book those plane tickets, have a look around our other blogs about Peru. There are plenty of ideas for your upcoming trip along with tips to help you plan out the best itinerary.

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