Peru’s famous Scared Valley is one of the best places to chase outdoor adventures. Easily accessed from near-by Cusco, you will most assuredly pass though this valley on your way to Machu Picchu. Many people spend a few days enjoying the sites in and around Cusco, exploring ancient Inca Ruins and trying out a few of the outdoor adventures. One of the best ways to really experience the Sacred Valley is to climb it!
Nature Vive has an incredible via ferrata and zip-line course set on the towering walls of the Sacred Valley. Not only is this a fun activity, but the views of the valley from the top of the course are like nothing else.
The How & The Where
Natura Vive runs the zip-lining and Via Ferrata adventures as well as The Sky Lodge, which offers overnight accommodations. (If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you can even spend the night sleeping in a pod suspended on the sides of the Sacred Valley, 300 m up!).
I signed up for my adventure online ahead of time but had to visit the Natura Vive office in Cusco to pay and confirm my reservation. This was easily done on the day I arrived in Cusco as their office is conveniently located right off the Plaza de Armas.
Nature Vive does pick-ups from any hotel/hostel/accommodation in Cusco. The actual zip-lines and via ferrata course are located in the Sacred Valley, about mid-way between the towns of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. If you’re staying in one of these towns, you can easily reach Natura Vive by taxi or collectivo (about 10-15 min from each town). The drive from Cusco takes about 1.5 hours and the scenery is gorgeous.
The course is located right along the main (and only) highway through the Sacred Valley so you might have some curious on-lookers while you climb the valley walls. Once you arrive at the base of operations (basically a small storage container for the gear, basic washrooms and a covered sitting area), your guides will direct you to your climbing gear. All safety equipment is included such as helmet, gloves, climbing harness, zip-line pulley, carabiners. Trained guides will outfit you appropriately and make sure you gear fits properly. You’ll also be handed a snack bag to take with you up the mountain. Backpacks are allowed so you can bring along the necessities for the day (see below).
After signing wavier forms and listening to the safety briefing, you’ll follow a trail to the base of the valley wall. From here its straight up on the via ferrata course! There’s a mix of iron ladders and walking along narrow cliff edges. You will be attached to a safety line from start to finish so you can ignore your fears of accidentally falling off a cliff.
About a third of the way up you’ll have to cross a cable bridge suspended over the valley floor (super fun!).
Once at the top of the course, you’ll walk along a narrow trail just above the Sky Lodge. You can have a glimpse into these suspended pods and, if you’re staying here overnight, this will be the end of the day for you (you zip-line back down in the morning). If you’re continuing, the trail will lead you to the start of the zip-line course.
Taking a break here, you can enjoy the incredible views of the valley while refueling on snacks. When everyone is ready to go your guides will direct you to the 7 zip-line course back down to the valley floor.
The zip-lines range in length from 150 m to 700 m. A few have short walking trails linking them while some pick-up where another zip-line ends.
Once safely back on the valley floor you can enjoy a drink of water under the shade while the guides collect the climbing gear. If you’re lucky, a local vendor just might magically appear, selling cold beer and water.
Once everyone has had a chance to relax you’ll board the bus and be driven back to your accommodations in Cusco. Return time is usually between 4 – 5 pm which gives you a chance to shower and relax before heading out for dinner.
What To Bring
Footwear: I suggest wearing comfortable running shoes or light hikers. Stay away from sandals or slip on shoes (you might loose one over the edge!). You want your feet to be protected and shoes with good tread will provide better traction on the rock walls.
Clothing: Even if it’s hot, where capris or long pants to cover your knees. While climbing my knees rubbed up against the rough walls and would have left me with abrasions had I not been wearing leggings.
Clothing should be comfortable and allow for lots of movement as you’ll be reaching every which way during the climb.
Dress in layers so you can layer up or layer down depending on the temperature. In the morning it tends to be cooler but by mid-day you’ll want to be in a t-shirt.
Food & Water: You’ll be out there for about 5 -6 hrs so bring a bottle of water and some snacks. The company will also give you a small snack bag which you can enjoy at the top of the course before you zip-line back down.
Camera: For obvious reasons! There is no professional photographer to take pictures of you climbing or zip-lining like some operations offer. It’s up to you to get the shots you want, though the guides are more than happy to snap a few pictures of you when appropriate. I carried my GoPro on a selfie stick which I was able to attach to my backpack, making it easily accessible. I also had my phone that I slipped into the pocket of my leggings.
Sunscreen: It gets hot and sunny in the Sacred Valley! Even if you wear a long sleeve top and pants your face will likely get burned without sun screen.
Backpack: I recommend bringing along a small day pack for everything mentioned above. Make sure the backpack is comfortable to wear and stays tight to your body. I strongly recommend a backpack with a waist strap. The waist strap allows for the weight of the backpack to rest on your hips rather than your shoulders and allows for greater movement. While climbing you’ll be reaching up above you and the last thing you want is a heavy backpack pulling your shoulders down.
Last tip: Bring a good attitude and a sense of adventure!
With these tips, you’ll be ready to conquer Natura Vive’s via ferrata and zip-line course. Peru was truly made for adventure. What better way to experience the Sacred Valley of the Inca’s than by climbing its walls!