When planning a trip to Machu Picchu, you might be uber-focused on, well, Machu Picchu. As anyone remotely interested in the world around them can tell you, images of Machu Picchu are in abundance. Prior to arriving at the epic site, I knew what the grounds looked like, I knew where to snap the best photos, I knew how glorious the site would look in the sunlight with mist swirling in the distance.
When I arrived in Machu Picchu, it certainly lived up to expectations, but it wasn’t exactly a surprise.
Perhaps because I had so many expectations — all of which were met, I might add — there was no element of surprise in my trip to Machu Picchu.
Thankfully, I had Peru’s Sacred Valley to knock me off my feet.
I knew relatively little about the Sacred Valley prior to my arrival, but took a day tour to visit the main sights. I also planned to spend to nights in the sweet town of Ollantaytambo, which is home to some of the more breathtaking ruins I visited in Peru.
Day tours around the valley are pretty ubiquitous. If you’re thinking of embarking on one, be sure it hits the main sights including Ollantaytambo (unless, of course, you’re staying there — in which case, you can walk to the ruins); Pisac market and the otherworldly ruins of Pisac; the Moray agricultural terraces in Maras, and the Salineras salt mines.
With so much of the trip’s focus centered around Machu Picchu, I was astounded by how deeply moved I was by the rest of the Sacred Valley — far more so that I was at Machu Picchu, and perhaps that was thanks to my surprise and glee that the sites were as extraordinary as they are.
Travel lesson learned:
Look past the obvious, the big glittery jewel of a destination. Tucked into the cracks, the side roads, the small towns nearby lie the less conspicuous gems.
Pause to capture these moments and places — on film, in your heart, on paper. They will come to define your trip. They will be your small joys.
Here are a few more of mine: