The Sacred Valley of Peru in the Andes mountains, also known as Urubamba Valley, is between Cusco and Machu Picchu. A place of stunning landscapes, ancient archaeological sites, and traditional villages, the Sacred Valley is home to a rich indigenous culture. The region is regarded as sacred because of its unique geographical features, fertile land, and spiritual connections to protective deities. In the belief systems of the Andean cultures, Pachamama, or Mother Earth, is seen as a nurturing mother figure who provides sustenance and life to all living beings. She is seen as the feminine soul of nature and the provider of everything in life and is associated with fertility, agriculture, and the cycles of nature.
The Sacred Valley of Peru is an ideal place for regenerative travel opportunities. At the heart of it, regenerative tourism is a responsible approach to travel that aims to leave a positive impact on the environment, local communities, and cultural heritage of the destination while offering visitors enriching experiences.
Read on to learn more about the fascinating cultural and agricultural history of Peru's Sacred Valley and how you can visit it through regenerative travel experiences, preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the destination for future generations to come.
The Cultural Significance of the Sacred Valley
The Inca Empire, which flourished from the early 15th century until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century, considered the Sacred Valley to be a place of great spiritual and agricultural importance. The Incas were renowned for their advanced agricultural practices, and the Sacred Valley held immense cultural, agricultural, and spiritual significance for the Inca civilization, which is why it earned the name "Sacred Valley.”
The Incas also believed that the Urubamba River, which flows through the valley, was a sacred river with spiritual properties. The river was revered for its life-giving properties, as it provided water for irrigation and agriculture, sustaining the Inca people and allowing them to flourish in this region.
The valley's natural landscape and its surrounding mountains were believed to have spiritual connections and considered to be inhabited by protective deities. The Incas built many of their most important agricultural and religious sites within the Sacred Valley, including the fortress of Ollantaytambo, the agricultural terraces of Moray, and the salt mines of Maras.
Photo credit: Global Family Travels
Today, the Sacred valley is still revered by locals alike, from farmers, artisans, and indigenous peoples who call this valley home, and who are resilient in the face of environmental and the challenges of food scarcity. Visiting this Sacred Valley of Peru offers opportunities to explore its rich history and ancient ruins left behind by the Inca civilization.
Regenerative Travel Experiences in Peru’s Sacred Valley
Here are some regenerative travel experiences we recommend in Peru's Sacred Valley that support the cultural heritage, archaeological sites, and natural beauty of the destination:
1. Conservation of Archaeological Sites and Ancient Civilizations:
The Sacred Valley is dotted with impressive Inca ruins, including Machu Picchu. These archeological sites are pre-Hispanic, displaying the deep culture and traditions that have been passed down through generations. Here are a few sites in the Sacred Valley we recommend to put on your list to visit:
Ollantaytambo is home to impressive Inca ruins, which include a massive stone fortress and temple complex, that combines history, culture, and natural beauty. Unlike many other Inca ruins that are purely historical sites, Ollantaytambo is a living Inca town where locals still reside and maintain their traditional way of life. Walking through its narrow cobblestone streets and interacting with the friendly inhabitants can provide insight into the contemporary Andean culture. The town is also a gateway to Machu Pichu, and from here, you can take a scenic train ride to Aguas Calientes, the town located at the base of Machu Picchu, or embark on a multi-day trek along the famous Inca Trail to reach the ancient citadel.
The Incan citadel in Pisac is not only a stop for breathtaking views it offers a deeper experience into Peru’s history. Admire the ancient architecture and intoxicating natural vistas when visiting this site surrounded by mountains. From ceremonial centers, temples, and Incan tombs, to crisscrossing footpaths and bird sightings, this destination has something that appeals to everyone!
Machu Picchu, also known as the "Lost City of the Incas," is one of the most famous and well-preserved archaeological sites in the world. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the site provides valuable insights into the architectural, engineering, and cultural achievements of the Inca civilization. Its mysterious history and breathtaking beauty attract millions of tourists from around the globe each year, however, the site faces challenges related to sustainability and preservation and efforts from Peru’s national protected areas system help limit visitor numbers and protect the site from environmental and human impact.
Photo credit: Global Family Travels
2. Supporting Local Communities in Peru’s Sacred Valley through Regenerative Travel Experiences:
Besides the Inca, the Sacred Valley is home to many other civilizations including Chanapata, Tiwanaku, Killke, Wari, and Qotacalla! An important part of regenerative travel is to engage with local communities in a responsible manner that fosters respect for the traditions, customs, and heritage of the indigenous peoples while providing opportunities for travelers to learn and appreciate the local way of life. This also means supporting local businesses, artisans, and cooperatives, and seeking out authentic cultural experiences that provide direct benefits to the local people.
Through our Learn, Serve & Immerse framework, Global Family Travels is honored to work with several non-profit partners that support local communities and highlight the cultural traditions of the peoples in the Sacred Valley. Such community-based tourism initiatives also allow for authentic and meaningful cultural exchanges between visitors and locals:
Weaving in Peru’s Sacred Valley has a rich cultural and historical significance, and it plays a vital role in sustainable tourism in the country. Peru is renowned for its traditional textile arts, and weaving has been an integral part of Andean communities for thousands of years. On all of our Peruvian adventures, we support the good work of Awamaki, a non-profit social enterprise that empowers Andean artisan weavers from the Sacred Valley by teaching them skills-based education, and connecting them with access to the global market so they can earn an income, support their families, and help transform their communities. Awamaki achieves this through women’s artisanal fair-trade crafts cooperatives and sustainable tourism. The group works with nearly 140 women in five different communities.
Photo credit: Awamaki
Potato Park is a 35-squaremile (90-square km) biocultural territory dedicated to the conservation of biological and cultural diversity in the Andes mountains near Pisaq, Peru, and a highlight of our regenerative experience in the Sacred Valley. Travelers have the opportunity to enjoy an immersive visit to Potato Park which is administered by the five Indigenous communities of Amaru, Chawaytire, Pampallacta, Paru Paru and Sacaca, with the support of the Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES). ANDES and community members of the Potato Park are our hosts as we learn about their work and participate in the daily routines of the Indigenous peoples. Learn more about Potato Park here and watch our short video recently taken at the park:
3. Preservation of Natural Resources and Agricultural Practices:
Agricultural success in the Sacred Valley relies on water and the Incas constructed an impressive system of terraces and irrigation channels to cultivate crops such as maize, potatoes, and quinoa. Regenerative travel places a strong emphasis on preserving the natural environment, such as supporting protected areas, conserving water resources, and promoting sustainable agricultural methods.
Given the agricultural significance of the Sacred Valley, there are many opportunities to engage in experiences to learn about the fascinating agricultural practices in the Sacred Valley influenced by the indigenous communities' traditional knowledge and methods. Below are ones not to miss!
Agricultural Terraces of Moray in Peru's Sacred Valley
The agricultural terraces of Moray are a fascinating archaeological site located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, near Cusco, Peru. This unique and impressive agricultural site is made up of concentric circular terraces carved into the earth. Dating back to pre-Columbian times, the site is believed to have been constructed by the Inca civilization and has been well-preserved over the centuries due to their sturdy construction and the region's relatively stable climate. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, recognizing its historical and cultural importance.
Photo credit: Andes and Global Family Travels
Visit to Potato Park in Peru's Sacred Valley
Potatoes have immense significance in Peru due to their deep historical and cultural significance. Peru is considered the birthplace of the potato and has played a crucial role in shaping the history, agriculture, cuisine, and the identity of the Peruvian people. Potato Park is dedicated to maintaining one of the world’s highest diversity of native potatoes, with over 1,300 varieties being reproduced by local experts. Global Family Travels immersive visit to Potato Park, which includes an optional homestay, gives travelers a good understanding of the important connection the locals have with potatoes.
This special park is dedicated to the conservation of the heritage of six indigenous communities that live here and hundreds of cultivated varieties but also related wild species, the landscape and its elements that also include knowledge, cultural traditions, innovations and the worldview of the more than 6000 inhabitants.
Photo credits: Andes and Global Family Travels
The Salt Mines of Maras in Peru's Sacred Valley
The Salt Mines of Maras, known as the Salineras de Maras, are a UNESCO Heritage site located near Cusco and comprised of about 4,500 salt wells. The wells which hold significant agricultural importance have continued to be operated since pre-Inca times and production is still done once a month. These terraced mines are an incredible piece of prevailing history nestled in the beauty of the mountains, and are not to miss!
Photo credits: Global Family Travels
Learn, Serve & Immerse on a Regenerative Adventure in Peru’s Sacred Valley
Leaning from knowledge passed down to us will give us the keys to help protect our planet for the next generation. Indigenous wisdom has long been an interwoven component of sustainability and environmental action. With this insight in mind, Global Family Travels has curated some unique regenerative adventures to Peru that both support local communities, and which awaken the cardinal senses, to help you learn how to heal our earth and empower women in Peru.
These unique journeys give travelers the opportunity to learn about the ancient Andean traditions that highlight the concepts of earth, culture, spirit, and nature, while supporting Peruvian communities. Each of our trips below also support our non-profit community partners, ANDES Potato Park and Awamaki, preserving Andean cultural heritage, economic systems, and Indigenous traditions.
Photo credits: Awamaki, Global Family Travels & Andes
Journey to Peru through the Lens of Chalay: Andean Culture & Connection to Food
On our 10–day journey to Peru through the Lens of Chalay, we visit sacred sites and learn about the art of food cultivation. Participants on this trip will also learn about Chalay, the ancient Andean practice of bartering, or trading goods without the use of money. Through alternative economic systems, chalay strengthens relations between friends and families from diverse agricultural zones where seeds and food are thought to be members of the family. This trip highlights the sacredness of food and culture, as connective tools to celebrate earth, or Pachamama.
Photo credits: Andes Association d Global Family Travels
Through this unique program, participants will see how food and culture are both inextricably linked to the food bearing process, from crop to plate, and how food is both celebrated, worshiped, and vital to the regeneration and growth of the communities who rely upon it. Learn more about this adventure here.
Peru: A Regenerative Journey for Mother Earth, Sacred Traditions and Divine Feminine Energy | May 17 – May 27, 2024
In May of 2024, Global Family Travels is pleased to offer a 10-day regenerative wellness journey to the charming country of Peru focused on ancient Andean traditions of the Sacred Valley, to learn how we can help heal our Earth and empower women. We will journey to discover traditional ceremonies that connect the divine feminine energy with practices that steward the earth and offer a deeper connection to oneself and the planet. You can find more information and register here!
In summary, regenerative travel is all about leaving a positive impact on the places we visit, fostering sustainable and respectful relationships with local communities, and preserving the natural and cultural heritage of the destination for future generations. By adopting such practices, travelers can help protect and enhance the unique beauty and cultural significance of Peru's Sacred Valley while contributing to the well-being of its people.