Peru was made for adventure. With the snow capped peaks of the Andes Mountains, the abundant wildlife in the Amazon Rainforest, the Pacific ocean, numerous rushing white water rivers and the world’s deepest canyon, you’ll never fall short of things to do. The Sacred Valley, located just outside Cusco, is no different than the rest of the country. As one of the main regions tourists flock to (given that it’s the gateway to Machu Picchu), adventurous activities abound. You’ll never get bored in this action packed valley so be sure to give yourself a few days to explore when you visit!
1. Zip-lines & Via Ferratta
What better way to explore the Sacred Valley that from the sides of its high rock walls! The term “Via Ferratta” comes from the Italian and means “iron road”. It consists of iron bars and ladders that have been drilled into the rock wall, allowing adventurous souls to scale cliffs without needing to know how to actually rock climb. Safety gear includes a climbing harness, rope, helmet and usually gloves to protect your hands.
Nature Vive has the only operation in the valley and offer round trip transport to and from Cusco (approx. 1.5 hrs each way). You have your choice of hiking up the cliff side or ascending by Via Ferratta. Once you’re at the top of the 300 m high cliff, you get to take 6 zip-lines all the way back down!
If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can book yourself into one of the Sky Lodge pods. These unique “hotel rooms” hang off the side of the Sacred Valley walls and you can spend the night here suspended in mid-air.
2. Horseback Ride on an Authentic Peruvian Paso
Horseback riding is always a great way to explore the outdoors. In Peru, you can do this on an authentic Peruvian Paso! What’s a Peruvian Paso? It’s a breed of horse authentic to Peru. Centuries ago this horse was brought over by the Spanish and has since evolved into its own unique breed. What’s even more unique about this breed is that they are one of only a handful of horse breeds in the world to have 5 gaits (most horses only have 4). This extra gait is called the Paso Llano. It feels like a very smooth trot and easy to sit to.
There are a few places in the Sacred Valley who offer such an experience. Salineras Ranch (Cusco For You) is located in the valley that caters to all levels and ages of riders and offer varying lengths of rides. Pero Chicho is a wonderful ranch near Urubamba that specializes in multi-day rides for advanced riders.
3. Mountain Bike on Old Inca Trails
Given the wide open terrain, the Sacred Valley is a mountain bikers dream. Bike trails wind their way all over the Sacred Valley and some even take you for a ride along old stones roads built by the Incas. Mountain biking is a great way to explore the countryside, get some exercise and discover old Inca roads and ruins!
There are a plethora of companies that will take you mountain biking and many use the same trails. Any travel agency in Cusco will be able to set you up. Gravity Peru in particular caters to all levels and is one of the best companies around.
4. Go for a spin on an ATV
Feel like taking it up a notch? Most every tour company in Cusco offers ATV exploration of the Sacred Valley and some will even stop at some Inca Ruins along the way. ATV’s are a fun way to zip around the Sacred Valley rather than in the back seat of a car. They allow you go off-roading and explore a bit of the beautiful countryside.
5. Hike To Inca Ruins (That aren’t Machu Picchu)
There are so many Inca Ruins scattered around the Sacred Valley and many you can get to by car. Seeing as there are so many Inca Ruins, there are still a few that you can only access by foot. Some require multi day trekking to reach but there are still a few within easy reach of town.
Ollantaytambo has a very impressive Inca Ruin right in town. But if you want to get a bit more of a workout, there are a few you can hike to. Perched high on the side of the valley walls you’ll find the Pinkuylluna Ruins that you can reach on foot. Not only will you avoid vendors and touts trying to sell you trinkets, but you’ll get to enjoy spectacular views of the Sacred valley. There are a few other hikes you can do from Ollantaytambo as well.
In Cusco you can hike to 5 different Inca Ruin sites right from town (these ones you can also drive to). Beginning in the Plaza de Armas, walk uphill to San Cristobal Church and enjoy a wonderful view of the city. From there, the incredible ruins of Saqsaywaman are only about a 10 min walk away. Continuing north along the road you can also stop to visit Q’enqo, Puca Pucara, Tambomachay and Chukimarka.
Peru is full of adventure pretty much anywhere you go. Many people make their way to Cusco for the Inca Ruins and to access Machu Pichhu. With the Sacred Valley so close by it’s worth spending an extra few days exploring and adventuring. You won’t be disappointed!