Exalted by local inhabitants and visitors alike, the Urubamba River Valley is one the most enchanting places in all of the Americas. Known as the “Sacred Valley,” this beautiful region once formed the heart of the Inca Empire and continues to be one of the most important regions for Andean civilization to this day. There is no place where the cultural, historical, and geographical grandeur of the Peruvian Andes is more evident than in the Urubamba River Valley.
Surrounded by the dramatic, snow-capped peaks of the cordillera Vilcabamba, the Urubamba Valley takes its name from the river that flows through it. Known as the “Vilcanota” in Quechua, the Urubamba River begins in the high altiplano to the south of Cusco, flows through the heart of the Sacred Valley past the mountain that hosts Machu Picchu, and then onward towards the Amazon.
Rural Andean VillagesDuring Inca times, the Urubamba River Valley was the most important agricultural area in the Andes, and the majority of the produce in Cusco’s markets was sourced in the Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley continues to exude its strong indigenous influences even to this day. The small villages along the Urubamba River are great places to experience Andean culture. From the Pisac Indigenous Market to the former Inca town of Ollantaytambo, the Sacred Valley abounds with indigenous culture and remains very traditional despite the recent influx of tourists en route to Machu Picchu. Here, travelers can meet Quechua artisans, tour rural potato-farming villages, and unearth extraordinary Inca archaeological sites.
Sacred Valley Practical Information:
Along with Cusco, the Sacred Valley is one of the two gateways to Machu Picchu, with many travelers choosing to travel to Machu Picchu via the train station in Ollantaytambo.
If you’re traveling to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and the Sacred Valley, we recommend immediately descending from Cusco upon arrival and staying in the Sacred Valley for the first couple of nights. At approximately 9,000 ft. above sea level, depending on where you are, the Sacred Valley is significantly lower than Cusco and staying here for the first couple of nights is a strategic way to help your body acclimatize.
We recommend spending a minimum of two nights in the Sacred Valley, and we believe that one of the biggest mistakes people make when traveling to Machu Picchu is not allowing themselves enough time to enjoy the Sacred Valley. On our Small Group Tours, we spend the first three nights in the Sacred Valley, allowing guests to fully acclimatize and using the #1 Lodge and Spa in South America as a base for exploration.