Everyone has heard of the Sacred Valley. It has a whole host of big name sites to visit, has nice accommodation and is on the way to Machu Picchu. But have you heard of The South Valley?
For most people as Cusco South Valley day tour would be in addition to the Sacred Valley. If you want to get a bit deeper into the real Peru, and do not want to travel the tourist trail, then this is perfect. Slightly less spectacular perhaps than the Sacred Valley but it has a more restrained beauty.
- Very few tourists
- Very authentic
- Great variety of sites
- Less driving from Cusco
The furthest point, Andahuaylillas, is only one hour from Cusco. Compare that to a Sacred Valley tour, where you reach Ollantaytambo, which is two hours from Cusco. Altitude is about 3100/10,000 feet, except Tipon at 3500m/11,500ft so a bit lower than Cusco.
Here is our itinerary for this great Cusco day tour:
South Cusco Valley tour: The valley to the South of Cusco is largely unexplored by tourists but has some wonderful places to visit. It is a great way to get into the heart of the real Peru.
First you visit the Inca complex of Tipon an elaborate set of terraces and water channels. It is thought to have been used as a ceremonial centre to worship water. The town below is also home to various roadside sellers on the weekends, when Cusqueñeans come to enjoy guinea pig on a stick, or roast in a clay oven.
Driving on through Oropesa, known as the bread capital of Peru due to having over forty bakeries, you soon arrive at the pre- Inca ruins of Pikillaqta.
This is vastly different to the Inca site and is the only pre-Inca site in the Cusco area. This adobe complex was built by the Wari culture who once dominated the central highland and coastal regions of Peru. Widely considered the first culture to make use of mass agricultural terraces, many of the Inca administrative practices can be traced back to the Wari civilisation.
You can then take a short walk down to the lake of Huacarpay. This wetland has been declared a Ramsar site, as a wetland of international importance due to the vast number of migratory birds that stop here. Each October birds migrate down from the Northern hemisphere to avoid the harsh winter. Then in April they stop over on their way back up to Northern summer. Apart from that, there is a more localised form of migration when the cold weather comes to the Peruvian altiplano, birds migrate down here to stay at a lower altitude and enjoy warmer temperatures. This is a beautiful place to enjoy your lunch.
Finally you hop back in the bus and drive twenty minutes out to the “Sistine Chapel of the Americas”, in Andahuaylillas. Situated in a beautiful, quiet plaza, this baroque church is famous for its incredible artwork. It has many fine examples of paintings completed by the Cusco Religious art school (Escuela Cuzqueña).
On your way back to Cusco you can stop in the town of Saylla to get a chance to sample traditional Cusco fare of pork crackling or pork chicharrones.
Included: English-speaking guide, transport, entrance fees, lunch
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