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Best base in Cusco/Sacred Valley area?

Best base in Cusco/Sacred Valley area?

Old Apr 26, 2014, 3:52 am
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Best base in Cusco/Sacred Valley area?

I'm putting together the final pieces of a trip to Peru for September this year and can't decide on where to base in the Cusco/Sacred Valley area. Myself and the BF arrive into Cusco on a Saturday morning and then on Tuesday begin our inca trail trek, which we get picked up for in Cusco so need to be based there on Monday night. As for Sat-Mon, I'm undecided.

The most important thing for us to visit is Ollantaytambo, but I know there are various other things to see, like Moray, Maras Saltmines and Pisac markets/ruins. I've read Pisac markets are best on Sunday so maybe visiting then would be good, but at the same time I hate touristy markets and generally try to avoid them on my travels. Are they as touristy on a sunday?

I'd originally considered heading straight to Ollantaytambo on arrival in Cusco and stay the night, seeing the ruins there on Saturday afternoon. I've read that this helps with altitude sickness compared with going straight to Cusco. From there we could head to Cusco on Sunday via the one or multiple of Pisac/Moray/Maras, arrive Sunday evening in Cusco and spend Monday exploring Cusco itself. That seems the best idea in my head, the only thing is that I would quite like to stay put for the 3 nights and not have to move after the first night - which would mean basing in Cusco and just doing a day trips out on Sunday.

Any words of advice on what the best setup would be is welcome, plus any other thoughts/tips on where to stay and what to see are welcome. Cheers!
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Old Apr 26, 2014, 5:19 pm
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I'm not an expert on the subject, by any means, but I had friends that did the Inca trail and they acclimated in Cusco beforehand. I know most people like to go the Sacred Valley route prior to Cusco, but I think since you are doing the trail, you need to bite the bullett and get acclimated ASAP. Maybe consider staying at a hotel in Cusco that has oxygen in the rooms just for a little extra help.
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Old Apr 26, 2014, 7:58 pm
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Originally Posted by wombattoo
I've read Pisac markets are best on Sunday so maybe visiting then would be good, but at the same time I hate touristy markets and generally try to avoid them on my travels. Are they as touristy on a sunday?
I stayed in Pisaq which was a great little town for a few days with some nice walks and eateries. The market only really gets busy in the afternoons when they bus people in from Cusco so aim to visit the market in the morning, walk to las ruinas in the afternoon when the crowds are in town, then come back in to town for eats when everyone has gone home. (If you stay there of course)
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Old Apr 27, 2014, 8:25 am
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Originally Posted by SuperDudley
I'm not an expert on the subject, by any means, but I had friends that did the Inca trail and they acclimated in Cusco beforehand. I know most people like to go the Sacred Valley route prior to Cusco, but I think since you are doing the trail, you need to bite the bullett and get acclimated ASAP. Maybe consider staying at a hotel in Cusco that has oxygen in the rooms just for a little extra help.
I think it will have to be Cusco for sake of not moving between hotels. Thanks for the tip on oxygen, I wasn't aware that would be an option, will look into it. (Though will feel a bit like cheating if we have to use it!)


Originally Posted by JohnnyColombia
I stayed in Pisaq which was a great little town for a few days with some nice walks and eateries. The market only really gets busy in the afternoons when they bus people in from Cusco so aim to visit the market in the morning, walk to las ruinas in the afternoon when the crowds are in town, then come back in to town for eats when everyone has gone home. (If you stay there of course)
Will head to the market first thing then from Cusco, cheers. Given time, we may need to skip the ruins in Pisaq and head straight to Ollantaytambo from the markets. I hate rushing but we don't have much time there.
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Old Apr 27, 2014, 7:40 pm
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We visited the Pisac market on a Saturday and it seemed like it was definitely only open for tourists. It wasn't busy when we were there, and everyone was nice. I wouldn't recommend it at all, though, for someone who wanted anything more than a place to buy souvenirs or take a picture with a baby lamb. I did hear from our guide it was different on Sundays.

There is a thread about the Tambo del Inka in the Starwood forum that has lots of good info on the area in general.
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Old Apr 29, 2014, 11:41 am
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I'll second the suggestion to read the TdI thread, lots of good info.

I think you're probably on the right track with the idea to stay in Cusco if that's where you start your trek, as you'll waste a decent amount of time packing up and shuttling around when you probably don't need to. Olly is pretty dead in the evening, so there isn't much to do besides rest up for the next day.

The ruins in Olly take 2-3 hours to see with a guide at a fairly leisurely pace (lots of stairs to climb), so if you get in early enough on Saturday, I would drive out there as soon as you get in, see the ruins, grab some lunch, and then see Moray and Maras for ~90 minutes each on the way back. That leaves you with all day Sunday to see Pisaq and anything else you want to squeeze in.

I also agree that the Pisaq market is fairly touristy, although you can find a few gems mixed in with the tchotchkes. I would make the ruins there your primary destination (2-3 hours), with a stop at the market a secondary affair.
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Old Apr 29, 2014, 12:13 pm
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Depending on your budget, I stayed at the Hostel Wara Wara in Cusco and I quite enjoyed it. Staying in a hostel was a new experience for me, but they had private rooms/bathrooms, but I enjoyed the common areas, I ran into a few really fun people while I was there. It is run by a young family with good English skills who would probably be very useful in connecting you with things to do in the area.
I did not find the altitude to be a huge problem, I just had to slow down. The first thing you will want to do is drink some Coca tea, I felt that it made a huge difference. I don't know how much supplemental oxygen will help you get acclimated to the altitude, I would imagine it would almost make it a slower transition.
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Old May 3, 2014, 1:19 am
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Thanks for the tips, I've read through the TdI thread and there's definitely some useful info in there.

We actually arrive into Cusco about 9.30am, so do have near enough a full day. But given we're coming from London via Madrid and Lima, I figured we'd need some rest time and maybe explore Cusco in the afternoon, rather than hope in a cab straight to Sacred Valley. It may be better to just see how we feel when we get there and make a call.
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Old May 8, 2014, 6:02 am
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Originally Posted by linglingfool
I'll second the suggestion to read the TdI thread, lots of good info.

I think you're probably on the right track with the idea to stay in Cusco if that's where you start your trek, as you'll waste a decent amount of time packing up and shuttling around when you probably don't need to. Olly is pretty dead in the evening, so there isn't much to do besides rest up for the next day.

The ruins in Olly take 2-3 hours to see with a guide at a fairly leisurely pace (lots of stairs to climb), so if you get in early enough on Saturday, I would drive out there as soon as you get in, see the ruins, grab some lunch, and then see Moray and Maras for ~90 minutes each on the way back. That leaves you with all day Sunday to see Pisaq and anything else you want to squeeze in.

I also agree that the Pisaq market is fairly touristy, although you can find a few gems mixed in with the tchotchkes. I would make the ruins there your primary destination (2-3 hours), with a stop at the market a secondary affair.
Sounds like you got to see a lot in the area. What would be your top 3 if you only had a short time in the area?
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Old May 8, 2014, 4:35 pm
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Originally Posted by Xelint
Sounds like you got to see a lot in the area. What would be your top 3 if you only had a short time in the area?
Really depends on the schedule. Olly is easy if you have a few hours on the way to/from MP, and I found the guides there explained a lot that the MP guides glossed over that helped us understand Incan culture better.

Pisaq was definitely a highlight, but given where it is in the Valley you have to dedicate the better part of a day to see it. In your case, I would probably only go if it was on one of the big market days.

Moray, Maras and Chinchero are basically all in a straight line into or out of Cusco, so if you're going to do one of them, you're going to do all of them. I liked them because they're a little bit of a change of pace from the other ruin-y sites, and you only need a half day to see them.

Doesn't directly answer your question, but hopefully helps you make a better-informed decision.
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Old May 11, 2014, 6:27 am
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If you want to stay most of the time in Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo is a good option but the best location would be Urubamba, it's kind of equidistant to Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero/Moray and other places. And there are several hotel options.
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