The heart of Valle Sagrado features a few very interesting archaeological sites on the road to Machu Picchu. The Valle Sagrado tour is a full day of activities for S/35. It leaves Cusco at 9am and returns at 7pm. The tour can be booked at any tour office in town.
The first stop was to get a look at the valley and the Río Urubamba above the town of Taray.
Inhabited since the 11th century, it contains Inca homes, military structures, graves, and temples.
There are terraces on both sides of the ruins. One one side, they’re more rounded and on the other side they’re squared off.
Climbing up to the top gives spectacular views of the valley below.
We then stopped for a buffet lunch (not included) in the modern town of Pisac.
The important ruins of Ollantaytambo were next. Admission is covered in the Boleto Turístico. These ruins are spread over a large area but we visited only the main parts. We climbed up several levels of terraces and stopped for a breather every few levels up. During the stops, we were taught about the natural refrigeration system the Incas used to store food on the mountain across.
When we reached the correct terrace level, we walked to the unfinished Temple of the Sun and were given a short lecture about it.
We were then given 30 minutes to wander on our own.
At ground level, there was a small structure with a fountain inside. You also get a great perspective of the ruins and terraces.
The train to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu leaves from the town of Ollantaytambo. It’s possible to purchase a tour designed for you to take the train to Aguas Calientes just after exploring the ruins.
The last stop on the tour was Chinchero. We walked up several steps to a beautifully decorated 17th century colonial church, Nuestra Señora de Monserrat. The interior of the church was intricately decorated with original paintings. Admission is covered in the Boleto Turístico.
The church itself is a great attraction, but more interesting is the fact it was built on top of the ruins of the palace of Inca ruler Tupac Yupanqui.
We made a quick visit to a traditional craft market before driving back to Cusco. A few women demonstrated how natural plants were used to dye the wool and we were given a few minutes to do some shopping.