After leaving Cusco, we’re on our way to the Sacred Valley, a long and in some places a narrow valley formed by the Urubamba River, The Urubamba rises in the Andes to the southeast of Cusco and flows NNE joining other rivers until it eventually flows into the mighty Amazon. Coming from sea level at Lima to Cusco’s 11,000 feet, the drive to the Sacred Valley at around 9,000 ft. makes it more comfortable for those that are feeling the effects of altitude. Many guides and experienced travelers recommend 2 nights here at the Sacred Valley to relax and become more accustom to the altitude before engaging in more active days at Machu Picchu. It’s surprising to many that Machu Picchu is located at 8000 feet elevation, actually lower than the Sacred Valley and much lower than Cusco.
About half way along our journey to the Sacred Valley we stop at Awana Kancha, a breeding center for South American Cameloids (member of the camel family) – Llamas, Alpacas, Guanacos and Vicunas. Here not only can you view the animals, but you can feed several members of both the Llama and Alpaca family. After the animal viewing area, we learned about the dying and weaving techniques used to turn the animal wool into gorgeous garments and wall hangings. The animal area is fun, the dying and weaving demonstrations are educational and the gift shop, full of local artisan clothing and art work is amazing. A beautiful wall hanging that incorporates painting with the dyes used in the garments, strands of alpaca wool, and an abstract of one of the Nazca Lines was purchased here.
After this stop, we continued on for about another hour before arriving at Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel and Wellness Center. Just as at the airports, A&K has the hotel check-in procedures reduced to a few quick steps of a signature, collection of luggage and picking up a room key. The grounds of the hotel are beautiful groomed grassy areas, ponds of water lilies and gardens set among groups of white washed buildings with red tile roofs in the shadows of Andes. All in all a great day and a perfect place to relax and anticipate our upcoming journeys.