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The Best Sacred Valley Tour From Cusco | Perfect 1-Day Sacred Valley Itinerary

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When one thinks of Incan ruins in Peru, many think about Machu Picchu. And while that is the most popular, it is far from the only significant Incan structure. The beauty of flying into Cusco and going to Machu Picchu is exploring the Sacred Valley itself. And for those of us who are short on time like we were during our 10 days in Peru, we decided to stick to a 1-day Sacred Valley itinerary by going with the best Sacred Valley tour option from Cusco that we could find!

Are you short on time as well? This is the best Sacred Valley tour option for you!

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Moray Incan Ruins as a day trip from Cusco

Best Sacred Valley Tour From Cusco

As we had a limited amount of time, we opted to go with a Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu 2 day/1 night tour. It was the perfect option for us because we could still see the other highlights of Peru while enjoying the Sacred Valley.

It feels like you don’t have to sacrifice anything during your trip. This tour is great for you!

You can also opt for a 1-day Sacred Valley Day Tour (with another company) if you would rather see Machu Picchu separately!

Update: The original company we used for this trip no longer does this tour. As such, the company we are discussing here is very similar and offers the same itinerary that we had during our visit.

Kat & Chris looking out over the salt mines in the Sacred Valley Peru

Perfect Sacred Valley Itinerary for 1 Day

The perfect tour starts with an earlier morning. And basically, in Peru, be prepared for the early morning wake-up times. If you want to stay in the Amazon, you’ll be getting up at 4 AM to start searching for animals or watching the sunrise at 5 AM. If you want to hike Rainbow Mountain, to get ahead of the crowds, you have to get up before 2 AM. But I digress…

Today won’t be too bad though, as it is only a 7:45 AM pick-up time. And you start your day heading to Chinchero.

Andes Mountains in the background of the Chinchero Ruins

Incan ruins in Chinchero, Sacred Valley
Incan terraces lining Chinchero.
Entrance to Cathedral with intricate paintings in Chinchero, Sacred Valley, Peru
Entrance to Cathedral with intricate paintings in Chinchero.

Stop 1 of the Best Sacred Valley Tour From Cusco: Chinchero Market and the Archeological Site 

This small town surrounded by the stunning Andes Mountains, with Salcantay Mountain ahead, has a beautiful market, lovely ruins, and an old Cathedral.

You start off walking around the hilly town, and with the higher altitude of over 12,000 feet, or 3,600 meters, you’ll be puffing a bit. But once you get to the ruins, you’ll learn about how the Incans used terraces for farming and support as they built many of their towns on the mountains. The Incans grew quinoa, fava beans, potatoes, and more along the terraces, as the earth in the Sacred Valley is very fertile.

After admiring the ruins and the amazing mountain views jutting past them, you will head to the colonial church built on top of an Incan palace by the Spanish.

The stone ruins and church in Chinchero, Peru
Walking amongst the Chinchero Incan Ruins in Peru

Then, you’ll venture to a weaving demonstration and learn how the locals make alpaca and wool products from the fur to dying various colors, and finally, to making the textile itself. You have the opportunity to purchase some products from them, and there are so many beautiful scarves, blankets, sweaters, etc. to choose from.

Lastly, the Chinchero Market is another great place to visit to haggle for more textiles, fruit, and more!

Note: Depending on timing, the visit may just be to the weaving demonstration.

Stop 2: Moray Ruins

Next up on the best Sacred Valley tour from Cusco are the Moray Agricultural ruins!

The Moray Ruins look like circular walls getting smaller and smaller as each layer goes deeper and deeper into the ground. They are very cool to look at and take photos of, but the reason they were built was to experiment with food! Yup- it was an agricultural research center for the Incans!

The terraces were built on different levels to block out wind and create their own microclimate so that they could grow food in more humid and warmer temperatures.

They even have a draining system underneath them to prevent flooding! They brought in soil from different spots in the country, studied a lot of vegetation, and experimented with creating hybrid plants. It is really neat to learn about and see just how advanced the Incas were in their time.

Moray, Peru Incan ruins
Moray ruins in the Sacred Valley
Moray agricultural ruins in the Sacred Valley, Peru

Walk around the three terraced areas and admire the work the Incans contributed to agriculture way ahead of their time.

Stop 3: Maras Salt Mines, or Salineras

After wandering around Moray, it is time to check out the Maras Salt Mines or salineras. This site was created by the Inca and is still used to this day! The Inca found a salty spring and created small channels that filtered into these pools. They would coat the pools with clay to prevent the water from seeping out, and then they would wait for it to evaporate, wash it three times, and voila! The famous pink salt from Peru.

And it is still used today. This place is less of a site and more of a working, natural salt factory where you will still see families producing salt.

You can even purchase the salt at the market within the site. They sell processed white salt, natural pink salt, various flavored salts, and more! Definitely pick up a dark chocolate salt candy bar and thank me later.

Maras Salt Mines pools of salt close up
Maras Salt Mines at varying levels in Sacred Valley, Peru
Kat looking out at the salt pools at Maras Salt Mines

This was hands-down our favorite spot on our journey through the Sacred Valley. I highly recommend this Sacred Valley route so you can see this.

Then, you’ll head to a Peruvian buffet for lunch where you can try all kinds of local dishes like cuy, or guinea pig, trout ceviche, and alpaca curry.

Kat & Chris looking at the salt pools at Maras Salt Mines

Stop 4: Ollantaytambo Ruins and Train to Aguas Calientes

About an hour drive from the salt mines is Ollantaytambo. This town is a great stop and a major hub for those departing for Machu Picchu. Here you will visit the Ollantaytambo Ruins.

This ancient Incan temple and fortress became home to many Incan nobility. It had temples, many terraces for support and farming, and was built into a very steep hill.

It also was the site of a major victory against the Spanish conquistadors. And while it eventually succumbed to the Spanish, the ruins are still a significant place to visit.

What we noticed were the huge stones creating a wall for the Temple of the Sun. How did they carry it all the way from the quarry? The marvels of Incan technology are astounding.

Climb the steps around the ruins and enjoy the views before taking the train to Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu. The train has a glass roof, allowing you to see all of the views in the Sacred Valley as you ride alongside the river and past many snow-capped mountains.

Overlooking Ollantaytambo town while on top of the ruins in the Sacred Valley, Peru

Pro-tip: Try to get a seat if you can on the side of the train next to the river. If facing the front of the train that will be on your left. It has better views!

Stop 5: Aguas Calientes

After a fun-filled day exploring the Sacred Valley and learning more about the Inca, check into your hotel in Aguas Calientes, explore across the river, and grab dinner. You’ll arrive around 6 PM, so you’ve got time to wander around the city or visit the hot springs (if they’re still open).

Aguas Calientes, Peru at night with the bridge and waterfalls
Aguas Calientes, Peru at night with the bridge and waterfalls.

And for dinner, I definitely recommend Julian Restaurant. Get the trout with Andean potatoes! It is SO good! Then, head to bed for an early day at Machu Picchu!

Where to stay in the Sacred Valley

I highly recommend the hotel we stayed at in Aguas Calientes called Jaya Machupicchu Hotel. The rooms are huge with king-sized beds, a large jet bathtub, and the perfect place to stay after a long day of walking around the Sacred Valley. It was also included in our tour price.

However, hotels will vary.

If you would like to be super-adventurous, there are the Sky Lodges that hang from the cliffs in the mountains of the Sacred Valley!

Lastly, if you plan to spend more time in the Sacred Valley, check out an affordable VRBO we mention in this article

Ollantaytambo Ruins in Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru

Cost and Inclusions of the 2 Day/1 Night Tour of the Sacred Valley from Cusco 

To save you all a bunch of time, we’re breaking down the itinerary (as seen above), costs, and inclusions!

Book the tour here!

Kat exploring the salt pools at the Maras Salt Mines in the Sacred Valley

What it includes: The cost may sound high, but here is what you’re getting:

  • Local guide fluent in Spanish and English
  • Transportation (including bus to Machu Picchu and train from Ollantaytambo)
  • Hotel pick-up and drop-off
  • Hotel in Aguas Calientes
  • Entrance tickets to Machu Picchu

It costs $619 per person and it is well worth it!

Ollantaytambo Ruins
Ollantaytambo Ruins.

As much as we all wish we had more time to explore all the highlights of Peru, having the option to do a one-day tour of the Sacred Valley is a great fit for those short on time.

So start dreaming of the perfect day exploring the amazing ruins, markets, and historical sites of the Sacred Valley to get prepared to see Peru’s most famous landmark- Machu Picchu!

What would you like to see in the Sacred Valley? Let us know in the comments!

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