In a land far far away from home, where the sanctity of nature was given the utmost importance, I enjoyed the first week of what I am now referring to as phase 4 of my life.
At the time I didn’t really think about it like that but now that I look back on how it has worked out, I couldn’t have hoped for a better start to this new phase.
Sacred Valley was the home of the Incas before they were destroyed and consumed by the Spanish. I am going to resist the urge to try and draw cheesy parallels between incas and how their isolation from other societies led to their downfall and my personality and how I looked at one aspect of my personality as isolated from others and all that…You don’t want to read that shit!
Back to the post about the Valley itself. Now, in the valley the most common way to travel would be through private driver and guide and I would highly recommend that. You could skip it and do it all on your own if you are constrained by budget and/or if you are the kind who feels that being guided from one spot to the next is not the ideal experience. You could take public buses from one town to the other if you have the luxury of time.
And of course, if you are the hiker then the 3-4 day hiking to Machu Pichu can be quite an exhilarating experience. I guess the choice boils down to whether you choose to spend more leisure time in the valley, which was our choice. Or you want to really get up close and personal with the absolute serenity of the valley.
As somewhat avid travellers, we like the experience of both. But I also think each experience lends its own something to the travel. So we usually mix up things in our travels. And coming from being burnt out, I just wanted to not have to worry about anything. And given that we were travelling a long way from home and didn’t have too much time in our hands, we chose to experience the valley as whole.
Considering one could you easily spend weeks in the valley, our one week (6 nights, 7 days) itinerary was obviously not very elaborate. But it wasn’t a mad rush either though a few more days would have been ideal! We made our own itinerary, which was pretty standard for a week in the valley and decided where we wanted to stay and which towns we wanted to go but we did get a private taxi and guide to take it from there.
It reads like this
Day 1: Land in Cusco > taxi drive via Chincheros to Ollantay <stay overnight at Ollantay>;
Day 2: Train to agua calientes, evening visit to machu pichu <stay overnight at aqua calientes>;
Day 3: Morning visit to Machu Pichu, trek to the sun temple and/or Huyana Picchu, back to Ollantay by afternoon train, drive to Pisac <stay over night at Pisac>;
Day 4: Spend the morning roaming the lovely market of Pisac, visiting more ruins reach Cusco by the evening <stay overnight at Cusco>;
Day 5: Take the early morning bus Lake Titicaca <stay in the floating island of Uros>;
Day 6: Next day take a cruise to island and back to town to fly out to Lima <stay overnight at Lima>
One pretty much experiences what one sees in photos in Peru. A sense of lightness envelops you as you drive through the rolling hills, to the peaceful valley, dotted with ruins and a few Alpacas grazing. A sense of timelessness and serenity seeps in without trying. Whether it is chatting with our soft spoken English speaking guide or laughing/smiling at our drivers wisecracks in broken English, or listening to the exotic andean music that our driver would play to complete the feeling of being in the Andes. Being on those roads, the cool fresh air, the bright blue skies, greenery and the quiet, you could be in a resort getting a massage, if you closed your eyes.
Food, well it wasn’t a wow factor for me in Peru, considering I am a vegetarian. But it wasn’t a disaster either. I particularly enjoyed food in Pisac in the valley and I have heard others say the same. Cusco obviously is the capital and has lot more options. As vegetarians, you can survive quite easily and even find interesting cafes and decent food.
However you do miss out on the national favourite, Cuy. We drove past Lamay, the village most popular for this delicacy and the place to try it whilst in the valley. Chica Morada is another local delicacy, a drink made of purple corn. And then of course you always have the very refreshing, very south american Pisco Sour! And the chocolates in Pisac are another story!
The whole week in the valley was an amazing experience. If peace or serenity is high on your list, then I would highly recommend Sacred Valley. If I were to however list my top 5 from the week it probably would be
1. Pisac: I loved this town! The art, the psychedlic cafes, the colorful market amidst the quiet of the valley. The verdict on Pisac in the travel blogs and forums is quite divided and we were in two minds about going there. But I am glad we decided in favour. It is very unique its own quirky way!
2. Machu Pichhu: Cliched maybe, but the strikingly set up settlement of Machhu Pichhu is well worth a trip. Whether you hike your way to it or you simply take the train! The setting is everything!
3. Moray and Maras were interesting sites in the valley enroute Ollantay.
4. Cusco: Despite being busier than the rest of the valley, Cusco, the capital has its own merits and you can’t help but be charmed by this capital
5. The idyllic Taquile island on Lake Titicaca was a nice picnic trip after our overnight stay at Uros.
Here’s to your trip to this some what under rated gem of South America!