Surprising Cities – Urubamba, Peru

It’s day four of Surprising Cities. I’m cheating on this one slightly. It wasn’t just this city that surprised me, but the whole area. The town of Urubamba was quite interesting, and the Sacred Valley as a whole was even more intriguing.

Why I went: As a jumping off point to visit Machu Picchu.

What I expected: Nothing of the town/valley itself. Truly, at least when it was first included in the itinerary, it was a means to an end.

What I found: In addition to discovering one of the best hotels I?ve ever stayed at (Tambo del Inka), Urubamba and the surrounding area have more culture and history in a few miles than some countries have between their borders. Without the hotel, you?d never know that a tourist has ever visited. I could have sat and watched people going about their daily life for hours ? farmers walking cattle down the street; local diners going in and out of eateries that have probably been run by the same family for generations; three wheeled taxis (think tuk-tuk style) traveling down the main road just as impatiently as they would in any North American city; mothers carrying their babies, wrapped in traditional Peruvian blankets, on their back. Colors abounded everywhere – the houses, the clothing, the cars, the signs were all in bold color. Scenery wise, the valley is tough to beat. The mountains rise to one side, while the Urubamba river runs, and sometimes races, along the other. It truly looks like something you’d see in a movie about authentic life in Peru.

How much time to spend: You must give yourself at least two nights. While it’s not particularly difficult to access, you do fly into Cusco and then get a transfer into the valley (the transfer takes just over an hour). Take this first day to get adjusted to the altitude – even though it’s a Valley, it’s still at about 8,000 feet. If you’re heading to Machu Picchu, which is why most people visit, you’ll need a full day for that. Getting there involves a train to the equally fascinating town of Aguas Calientes, and then a van transfer for approximately 30 minutes, so the day trip to Machu Picchu is a busy one. You can also add another day to spend time seeing the rest of the Valley. Though not as famous as Machu Picchu, the region is known for its salt flats, which travelers that have some extra time like to visit.


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