Horseback Riding

Embark on a horseback ride on a Peruvian Paso Horse, passing adobe homes and farms as you ride through the Sacred Valley.

Inca Trail

This legendary trek to Machu Picchu, considered one of the top five treks in the world, usually takes four days and three nights of hiking. The twenty-six mile route wends up into the Andes, through cloud forest, over Dead Woman’s Pass and ends with a sunrise arrival at Machu Picchu. There are actually numerous routes, some more difficult than others. The most popular one, which even attracts families with one- or two-year-old children in backpacks, starts at Kilometre 82 and offers group departures daily. The one with the most spectacular scenery requires seven days of hiking, ascends to very high passes and begins near Mollabamba. The easiest route can be done in only two days and begins at Kilometer 104. Permits are required for all treks. To be paired with an excellent local outfitter—they range from backpacking groups to high-end operators who provide porters, cooks and even proper portable bathhouses—contact the Indagare Bookings Team. The best time for Inca Trail treks is between May and September when the trails are driest. Other times of the year, when there is more frequent rains, the hikes can be quite muddy and unpleasant.

Indagare Tour: Community Visit

Awamaki is a Peruvian NGO based in Ollantaytambo that operates a weaving project with impoverished Quechua women weavers. The group works with a remote indigenous community about an hour from Ollantaytambo, and they will do community visits there with tourists, which include seeing the weavers at work, a demonstration of different stages of the weaving process, a visit to a traditional Quechua home, and the opportunity to buy directly from the weavers. This is a half-day tour, though they can arrange weaving lessons for the afternoon to make a day of it. They also have a fair trade weaving store in Ollantaytambo where they frequently have weavers at work. The store is part of the non-profit and all sales there support the project. The Awamaki store hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., every day. Contact the Indagare Bookings Team to arrange for a guided visit.

Indagare Tours: Cultural Attractions

Those interested in cultural immersion should visit the Sunday Market in Chinchero (altitude 12,000 feet) where Andean kechuas (thought to be descendants of the Incas) sell their crops in traditional garb. The nearby Balcon del Inka, where ketchua weavers demonstrate their trade, is a fun, but a very touristy show. Art lovers should not miss Chinchero’s church, widely recognized as one of the most beautiful Spanish churches from the colonial period. Contact the Indagare Bookings Team to arrange for a visit.

Aerial View - Machu Picchu,Sacred Valley, Peru

Machu Picchu

You will arrive by train in Aguas Calientes, the outpost named for its hot springs, at the foot of the mountain upon which Machu Picchu sits. Whether you come on the fancy Hiram Bingham or on The Backpacker, you end up at the train station and pass through a vendor’s markets to meet the buses that take you up to Machu Picchu. If you are afraid of heights, don’t grab a window seat, as the hairpin turns on cliff-clinging roads will surely terrify you. The ride takes about thirty minutes, and there are some spectacular views of the gorge, the cloud forest and Machu Picchu.

Remember: Bags are restricted to an eleven-pound bag or backpack. Anything larger must be checked for a fee of $5 a day. If you use a camera with a lens larger than 200mm, you may have to pay professional rates, which are reportedly as high as $300; tripods are also not allowed, but these rules are not strictly enforced. Also, you are no longer allowed to bring plastic water bottles to Machu Picchu; metal canteens are allowed.

The best times to explore are dawn and dusk. The site opens at 6 a.m., and lines begin forming at 5 a.m. (Only 400 people a day are allowed to climb Huayna Picchu, “Young Mountain,” the peak facing the site, and it’s on a first-come basis.) Mornings can be quite cold, so pack gloves and dress in layers. The site stays open until 6 p.m., and most day-trippers leave by four, so later in the day, when the crowds have cleared out and headed back down the mountain, is also a more tranquil time to explore. One of the best spots to see the sunrise is from the terrace of the stone hut, and another is from the Sun Gate. It used to be that guests staying at the Sanctuary Lodge had access to the site before and after day-trippers, but that is no longer the case. The only people who can enter the site before the park gates open are those who make the trek along the Inca Trail and descend into the site from above, and after the hard days of hiking they have to do to complete that journey, they have earned the privilege. Advises Indagare member Carroll Pierce: “Don’t try to visit Machu Picchu in one day. There are too many opportunities for glitches, as evidenced by our outbound train delay. Many of the travelers in the station were day-trippers and we could sense their anxiety. A leisurely guided tour of Machu Picchu is what the site deserves.”

For those who want to visit with an expert guide, historian or archaeologist who can recount the Inca story as well as the ruins’ rediscovery with insight and passion, contact the Indagare Bookings Team, and we will recommend the right escort.

Indagare Tip: There are no facilities inside the Machu Picchu complex, so take advantage of the restaurant and restrooms at the entrance, and carry plenty of water. Admission tickets do allow multiple reentry, however, so you can return for a coffee or lunch break.

Editors' Picks

Machu Picchu Hikes

Indagare's favorite Machu Picchu hiking options, from KM 104 to Huayna Picchu to Inti Punku/Sun Gate hikes.


The last living Inca village, Ollantaytambo is also the Sacred Valley’s gateway to the Inca Trail, because it is the last major town on the train from Cusco before Aguas Calientes, the town at Machu Picchu. In addition to its centuries-old Inca houses and streets, Ollantaytambo features the ruins of a massive temple where the conquistadores lost a great battle. You can climb up to the fortress in the so-called sacred district and the Temple of the Sun and the Royal Hall, two incredible Inca monuments. On the other side of town, there is a wonderful hike up a hill to the Inca granaries, which offer a view over the town and to the temple and have many fewer visitors. The market at of the fortress offers typical Andean trinkets, jewelry and weavings. A more interesting shop is found at Awamaki, a nonprofit textile collective a few blocks away where you can see traditional examples, watch weavers work and learn about community projects in the village. (The shop is open everyday 10 a.m. to7 p.m.) A good place to stop for a snack or drink in town is Hearts Café, on the main square, which was opened by Sonia Newhouse, a Brit who donates all the café’s proceeds go to education and healthcare programs for children in the Sacred Valley.

Ollantaytambo Town & Fortress

Explore Ollantaytambo Town with your expert guide, meeting locals and getting to know the inner workings of this living Inca Village in Peru's Sacred Valley. Then, head to the historic Inca fortress, Ollantaytambo, for a guided tour of the site.

Sacred Valley Bike Tour

Biking is a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with the Sacred Valley in Peru, and cyclists of all fitness levels and backgrounds will enjoy the tranquil, three-hour journey through the villages of Taray, Qoya, Lamay and Calca.

Shamanic Offering

Surrounded by a seemingly endless landscape of clouds and mountains, travelers can partake in a traditional Shamanic Healing Ceremony in Peru's Sacred Valley.

Trains to Machu Picchu

The Hiram Bingham, named after the U.S. archaeologist who rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1910 and brought it to world attention, is the famous train to the site. The historic engine, part of the Belmond train collection, pulls out of Cusco (Poroy) station at 9 a.m. every day but Sunday and arrives at Aguas Calientes, the village at the base of Machu Picchu, just after noon. The return train departs from Machu Picchu daily (except Sundays) at 5:45 p.m., allowing day visitors a good four hours of exploration (not counting the half-hour bus ride from the village to the site entrance), and included in the cost of the train ticket are the services of an official guide who accompanies each small group, as well as tea at the Sanctuary Lodge, brunch on the way to the site and a four-course dinner preceded by cocktails on the way back. Each passenger is assigned a seat in one of the antique-style dining cars, where tables are set with flowers, heavy linens and silverware. Extravagant meals are served on each journey, and many passengers choose to spend non-meal times in the observation car (just behind the bar car), whose large windows permit great views of the passing scenery. As the tracks wind through the Sacred Valley, past small villages and farms and finally into the cloud forest before Machu Picchu, you are treated to a view of mesmerizing landscapes that progress from dramatic mountains to rushing rivers to lush valleys, to jungles with waterfalls, to orchids and even glimpses of ruins.

The cars of the Hiram Bingham are the plushest in which to travel these train tracks, but there are other fine options. For instance, the Vistadome train, named for its panoramic windows, departs several times daily; though not gleaming or outfitted with uniformed waiters, it is perfectly comfortable and is at least a quarter of the price of the Hiram Bingham. It also has more departures, so those who have stayed at the Sanctuary Lodge, for instance, and may not want to spend another full day at Machu Picchu but would like to explore other sites in the valley (the Vistadome stops at Ollantaytambo) can leave earlier. An Indagare editor notes that on her trip on the Vistadome, the train played traditional Andean flute music loudly for the entire ride and also had the staff perform a fashion show dressed in native garb. The Hiram Bingham and the Vistadome trains do NOT return directly to Cusco, but to Poroy, so if you’re staying in Cusco, you’ll have to take a car or taxi back into town. There’s also a budget train service operated by Peru Rail called The Backpacker.

Tip: None of the trains allow large duffle bags or suitcases on board. Be sure to bring smaller carry-on sized luggage, which you can pack the night before and send the rest of your luggage on to your next destination (another reason an Indagare arranged itinerary is key).

Via Ferrata

A thrilling highlight of many trips to Peru, the Sacred Valley’s only Via Ferrata invites travelers to climb high above the Urubamba River.

Visit to Maras & Moray

Maras and Moray, two of the most culturally significant (and visually striking) sites in the Sacred Valley in Peru, are just 20 minutes apart from one another and make for a perfect pairing.

Visit with Chinchero Weavers

Art, home décor and fashion devotees should head to a local weaving community in the Sacred Valley, known as the breadbasket of Peru, to pay homage to an incredibly impressive and time-consuming Quechuan art form.

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Indagare employees walking up stiars

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