Below you will find highlights from my 16 day trip Peru / Machu Picchu trip:
Urubamba / Sacred Valley Highlights
Trip Report Chapters:
• Peru 16 day trip: Itinerary, Points & Miles
• Daily Highlights
• Hotel: Sheraton Lima
• Urubamba / Sacred Valley ⌫ (you are reading this)
• Hotel: Tambo del Inka, Resort & Spa (Urubamba)
• Aguas Calientes / Putucusi Mountain
• How to Book Machu Picchu Tickets Online (without pulling your hair out!)
• Machu Picchu & Wayna Picchu (Huayna Picchu)
• Hotel: La Pequeña Casita (Aguas Calientes)
• Amazon Jungle (Puerto Maldonado)
• Hotel: Amazon Planet (Puerto Maldonado)
• Hotel: Palacio del Inka (Cusco)
• Puno / Lake Titicaca
• Hotel: Tierra Viva Puno Plaza (Puno)
• Colca Valley
• Hotel: Killawase Lodge (Yanque, Colca Valley)
• Hotel: Los Tambos (Arequipa)
• Sandboarding in Huacachina
Day 4 – Exploring the Sacred Valley
When we arrived to Urubamba, nothing had yet been planned so I had no idea what to expect. This day was arranged in the lobby of Tambo del Inka while we checked in. We hired a private local guide, Oscar Guevara, through the hotel. Oscar picked us up at 8am and we spent the day touring 3 archeological sites: Moray, Salineras/Maras (salt mine), and Ollantaytambo (like a mini-Machu Picchu). We skipped the 4th site, Pisac (a market). Don't worry, you will have vendors selling your favorite ‘Made in China' goods at almost every stop and everywhere you look, even in remote places in the mountains. Click here to read a quick guide to the area.
The Sacred Valley
This map will give you an idea of the major sites:
Our Local Guide
Oscar was an excellent English speaking guide. He lives in the area and said he studied tourism in Cusco. Several readers have already contacted him and said they were happy with him. Below is his contact information in case you would like to get in touch with him. I've also listed his services/tours and the prices. Had we known earlier, we would have hired him to pick us up at the airport because he was cheaper and more pleasant than the airport taxi service.
Name: Oscar Guevara
Email Address: email@example.com
All the prices are for up to 3 people that can fit in his car. If you have 4 to 6 people, he will rent a van and charge a bit more (see below). If you combine the tour with the ride from Cusco, you’ll save money but have less time at the sites. We arrived in the afternoon, took a cab to the hotel and arranged the tour for the next day.
Here are his services/tours and prices as of December 2013.
1) Cusco Airport to tambo del inka hotel = 90 soles
2) Tour pickup at Tambo del Inka, 3 sites (Moray, Salineras de Maras (salt mine), and Ollantaytambo) = 240 soles (or 400 for 4 to 6 people) (I did this and booked through the hotel for 300 soles — definitely recommend this one!)
3) Tour pickup at Tambo del Inka, 4 sites including Pisac = 300 soles (a full day) (470 soles for 4 to 6 people)
4) Tour pickup at Tambo del Inka, only to the Pisac market and archaeological parts = 160 soles
5) Transfer from Tambo del Inka to the train station in Ollantaytambo = 45 soles
6) Tour in Machupicchu full day 90 dollars include a walk to the sun gate, or Wayna Picchu
7) Transfer to Cusco from Ollantaytambo station = 135 soles
8) Transfer from Tambo del Inka to Cusco 90 soles.
Our first stop was Moray (tripadvisor review). The drive to Moray has a beautiful backdrop.
We lucked out – Moray was empty so I was able to take some nice pictures. I thought it might be due to the time of the year (December), but Oscar said a few days ago it was packed with tourists. Perhaps we just beat the tour buses. I rarely hire private guides due to the cost but am so happy I did here.
Supposedly, this smaller terrace has some special spiritual significance and some people come here specifically to experience this. Well, that's the story I heard.
Salineras de Maras (salt mine)
The second stop was to Salineras de Maras (tripadvisor review) – an operating salt mine. The visit here was brief but interesting.
The salt pans were very muddy due to the heavy rains over the prior week. As you walk along the top ridge, there are piles of salt that you can touch, and if you want, taste. Tip: don't taste the yellow salt!
After we saw the salt pans, our guide offered us a short hike – we could hike down the back side or drive down in the car. We chose to hike. On the way down, we walked through a small village wondering if our guide was really going to meet us or leave us there. Good thing Oscar was there waiting for us.
The third stop was Ollantaytambo (tripadvisor review). It was described to me as a mini-Machu Picchu. There are small tourist shops at the entrance if you need a drink, snack, or gift.
On the other side, there is a mountain with an angry face looking formation called Viracocha. To the right is Pinkuylluna, which are Inca storehouses.
There weren't many options near the hotel. Tres Keros was open, walking distance, and rated #1 on tripadvisor so that's where we went. We had the entire restaurant to ourselves. The food was good, not amazing. They even lit the wood burning fireplace for us. The other option was to eat at the hotel which was very expensive. I prefer the local spots.
These photos were taken using my Canon S100 Digital Camera, which has now been replaced by the S110 and S120. It tiny, fits in my pocket, and takes amazing pictures. I used to carry a larger digital SLR (Nikon D40) but it was so bulky I rarely wanted to take the camera with me.
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Back from trip; Oscar firstname.lastname@example.org (he has a cell, always ringing but he does not answer while driving) was all that he was hyped to be! He drives a comfortable Kia and keeps it clean.
He picked us up at our Pension Alemana (excellent choice) in Cusco the first day and took us to Quenko, Saqsayhuaman, and the Koricancha for 200 soles.
Next day, Chinchero (best for textile shopping), Moray, salt mines of Maras back to hotel for 300 soles.
Picked us up from the train in Ollantaytambo after three days away back to Pension Alemana in Cusco, 130 soles. (the drivers at the station quoted 100 soles) but Oscar lives in Urumbamba so has to drive further.
Next day, Pisac ruins (ALL of them, better ask if you want them, most tours stop after the tunnel, and you miss the best of Pisac ruins) and market, then back to our Pension Alemana = 250 soles and worth every sole.
Peru tip, change dollars for soles on the street. Best rate. Most experienced foreign travelers we met extract dollars from the bank/atm and change on the street. We got $30 more for 1k than at Scotiabank. The latter is a partner of Bank of America so no fees at the ATM.
We hiked Huayna Picchu and I had heard a horror story at La Case de Mi Abuelo (good place in Ollantaytambo) from a guy that must have been a woos, he said it was sheer cliffs and narrow stairs and his knees were knocking. Since I expected the worst, it was not that bad. Just long and steep. Some women carried purses and wore Keds. Our ticket was 10-11 a.m. meaning you can show up at 10:59. We got a guide after entering the park at 8 a.m. for 150 soles (you can bargain if you want to) and HIGHLY recommend getting one. After the guided tour, we signed in to climb at 10:40, signed out at 12 something. Spent several more hours in the park after and were totally exhausted.
We splurged at the Belmond Sanctuary at the entrance to MP, and recommend if you want to splurge or can afford it. Includes 5 star dining, drinks including bottles of wine from the list, high tea, hot tub, and you can store luggage and use day room (shower, TV, beverages) till 9 p.m. the day you check out. If you miss lunch the first day, you can have it the next day even though you have checked out.
Do not take taxis off the streets in Lima. Our hotel and drivers told us same. Ask a nearby hotel to call one for your return or use Uber.
Drink only bottled water in Peru.
Thanks for the update! We had the same warnings about the street cabs. We used the free shuttle from the Sheraton a few times but the few street cabs we took were more than fine — and much cheaper. We did have a problem in Cusco where the driver dropped us off at the station instead of where the bus actually departed from. He just assumed (or maybe he knew) and then we had to get a second cab to drop us off a few minutes away (the tour bus left from the tour operators location).