Sacred Valley Travel Guide: A 3 Day Peru Itinerary

When researching and planning for our Peru trip, I kept reading about altitude sickness. When we usually travel I’m not too worried about stuff like this. Grant brushes his teeth with the water in Mexico, we eat the street food in Thailand, I had a Costa Rica home birth, and I battled a staph infection while backpacking across Europe! Oh ya and there was that time Grant’s face swelled up in the Galapagos and we’re still not sure why… possibly Zika!?

Basically, we walk a fine line of being tough and getting lucky. And we usually turn out fine without additional precautions. But now we have another little traveler in our midst. This was our first big adventure with Baby Marin! (Who’s counting Baja and Costa Rica?) Now that we have our beloved offspring and his not-so-developed immune system to look out for, I am a little wary of things like altitude sickness.

A few solutions to prevent altitude sickness in Peru:

  1. Take medicine
  2. Eat coca leaves
  3. Acclimate slowly

I’m a little granola (re: home birth) and didn’t want to give Marin any medicine so option 1 was out. Option 2 seemed fine at first as I was thinking cacao like natural chocolate from Costa Rica. I soon found out it was coca meaning cocaine leaves! (Note: They are completely benign with zero effects of cocaine. Grant was chewing them on our hike to Machu Picchu. We jokingly referred to them as the CBD of cocaine!) But still not giving it to our baby. So option 3 it was! And that’s how we ended up in the Sacred Valley.

People usually take a day trip from Cusco to visit The Sacred Valley, but we hunkered down for 3 nights to acclimate slowly before our trek to Machu Picchu. What I thought was going to be a semi-boring place to chill and work before our hike ended up being one of the highlights of the trip and was packed with fun! Oops, we didn’t get much work done!

Getting to The Sacred Valley

Like I mentioned, most people visit The Sacred Valley on a day trip from Cusco. You’ll see posters all over the tour shops with pictures of Moray and Maras alongside Rainbow Mountain and the Amazon.

We flew to Cusco from Lima and rented a car from Sixt. After a quick lunch in Cusco we drove down to the Valley. And right in time! We were starting to feel the altitude creeping in after lunch and were feeling a little weird. (Marin decided to sleep away the altitude sickness!)

We knew we were going to be spending a few days there so we wanted a car. Grant has no fear and actually loves driving in other countries! His claim to fame is that he “learned to drive in the Fez Medina.” Driving into the valley at dusk was beautiful. It reminded me of Todra Gorge on our Moroccan road trip!

I suppose you could take a bus from Lima to The Sacred Valley as well. With limited time and baby Marin in tow, we took the convenience of flying.

Getting around The Sacred Valley

We drove everywhere in our rental car and it was super easy to navigate. I didn’t see many taxis so if you’re staying in the area I definitely recommend renting a car.

Where to Stay in The Sacred Valley

We stayed at the Tierra Viva Valle Sagrado in Urubamba. I LOVED our hotel. I initially booked it because there were supposed to be alpacas on site and I thought Marin would get a kick out of that. But when asked, the front desk lady got sheepish and her answer didn’t make sense in English or Spanish. Either the alpacas got Covid or they ate them because of Covid… sketchy! Regardless, I totally recommend the hotel. It was gorgeous and the service was great. They even had a bonfire fit where we socialized with some fellow travelers!

How to Spend 3 Days in The Sacred Valley

Day 1: Pisac Market

First up, the Pisac market! (Side note: Grant laughed every time I said it because my inescapable Southern accent was saying “pee-sack”!) I am constantly taking notes on the Notes App in my iPhone. I write down everything. When planning our trip I saw that I had a note from a few years ago about the Pisac market. I don’t recall where I met him, but this guy said you have to go to the Pisac market. Thanks man! I love a good market and wanted to stock up on alpaca wool clothing for our camping trip. Plus a perk of not backpacking is that you can shop!

Funny story: We passed so many guinea pig statues on the side of the road on our drive to Pisac. We were confused at first until we saw them roasting on sticks! It was so gross! I said, “Yuck! I would never.” Flash forward to a few days later and I was eating guinea pig off the bone in Ollantaytambo!

When we first arrived to the Pisac Market we were a little disappointed. We were expecting Chichicastenango, but instead got a small touristic looking artisan market. (Don’t worry, we later got our crazy market fix in Cusco!) The handicrafts were lovely and I racked up on bags, ponchos, and beanies.

We were about to leave when we saw a cultural event begin. A group of people in traditional outfits paraded into the market and did a crazy dance where they were jokingly whipping each other! It was so much fun to watch!

The best part of Pisac = the animals! We petted so many adorable llamas, alpacas, and lambs (for a small tip of course!). Note: We have mixed views on animal tourism. We’re not fans of the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai or the Mexican Whale Shark Tour, but we loved the elephants at Patara. These animals seemed well taken care of so we figured a selfie or two (hundred) didn’t hurt. There are Pisac ruins as well but it was nap time for the little guy so we didn’t make it.

On our way out we grabbed lunch on the square at the Pisac Inn. It was unexpectedly delicious! Marin especially loved the guacamole!

The drive home was the perfect amount of time for Marin’s nap so we decided to swing in the Sacred Valley Brewing Co. This place was awesome! It was right on the Urubamba River and had blankets and a bonfire. Such a cozy vibe! It had plenty of room for Marin to run around and we stayed for a while and chatted with some locals. A must-visit!

Day 2: Maras Salt Mines and Moray

Maras Salt Mines

On Day 2 we set out for Maras and Moray. We visited Maras first (after stopping to chase some side-of-the-road alpacas) to check out the salt mines.

It looked eerily similar to the tannery in Fez. We assumed the salt mines were built in the early-mid 1900s and that people just visited them for the ‘gram so we were shocked to find out they were built by the Incas. Way cooler than expected! We even bought a salt grinder souvenir!


We took a wrong turn on the way to Moray (Grant later said he figured it was wrong, but was down for the thrill of exploring!) and ended up in another town. Turns out it is the Mismunay Community and people pay to visit them! We re-routed and made it to Moray (after stopping to play with some side-of-the-road sheep..are you seeing a trend here?!)

We didn’t want to hire a full tour but did want to learn about what we were looking at so we paid a guide to share some fun facts with us. We learned that the Incas used the terraces to create microclimates for farming. It is very impressive!

Afterwards we grabbed some incredibly delicious chicharron and Inca Kola. (It’s as gross as it looks, but I had to try it!)

On the way to our hotel we stopped at a side of the road spot (This is when having your own car is great!) to grab a beer (better than the Inca Kola!). It had an amazing view and even more amazing owners. This friendly Peruvian couple loved Marin and even gave him a little doll!

Day 3: Ollantaytambo Ruins

This was technically day 5 for us. We trekked Machu Picchu on days 3-4 and then returned to our same hotel in The Sacred Valley. We visited Ollantaytambo on our way back to Cusco. Read our full Peru Itinerary here.

The ruins at Ollantaytambo were so rad. We almost skipped over them because I had read that the town was super touristic, but we thought it was super cute. But seriously, don’t miss these ruins. They are so impressive and fun to explore. And this is coming from people who did Machu Picchu the day before! They town also had a great market and shops. Be sure to grab some fresh squeezed OJ.

Afterwards we grabbed lunch at one of the restaurants on the square. This is where I ate said guinea pig! Not bad to be honest. I did however order it fried and in half. I don’t think I could do it whole on a stick! First we tried to eat lunch at a little local spot. Turns out the lady didn’t have any food but she gave Marin some bread and we had a beer and chatted with her! These unplanned moments are always the best.

The Sacred Valley was amazing and is a must-do on a Peru itinerary. Rent a car, grab a guinea pig, and go for it!

It’s sacred for a reason,


Note: We visited Peru in August 2021

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