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My wife and I recently returned from a trip to the Sacred Valley / Cuzco Peru. Our main focus for the trip was visiting Machu Picchu, and I have already written my 5 things to bring to Machu Picchu and 4 tips for taking the train to Machu Picchu. During our time in the Sacred Valley, we also took several day trips to visit things like the salineras of Maras, Moray, and other architectural sites (SEE: 7 things to do in the Sacred Valley BESIDES Machu Picchu). We stayed for 5 nights at the Tambo del Inka hotel in Urubamba, and Urubamba itself was a very charming little town, so today’s post though is about 5 things to do in Urubamba Peru
Using Urubamba as a home base to visit the Sacred Valley
Urubamba is fairly centrally located in the Sacred Valley – about 2/3 of the way from Cusco to Ollantaytambo along the Urubamba River, which makes it a great base for exploring the Sacred Valley
While trips to Maras, Moray, Chinchero, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, etc. are all interesting and worth doing, today I will focus on things to do in Urubamba itself
Things to do in Urubamba – visit the plazas and churches
There are 2 plazas in Urubamba that you can stop by and visit – the Plaza de Armas and the Plaza Pintacha. Neither of them is something that I would go out of my way to visit, but if you’re spending time in Urubamba, they can be nice places to sit, relax, people watch, enjoy the view and/or enjoy a picnic or snack.
You can also visit the Iglesia de Torrechayoc, which is the main Catholic church in Urubamba. Senor de Torrechayoc is the patron saint of Urubamba and there is an annual festival celebrating him. We actually just missed it when we were there – it was starting the day after we left to go back to Cusco.
Things to do in Urubamba – cemetery and Palacio Huayna Capac
Another things to do in Urubamba that we did was visit the Palacio Huayna Capac, which is an Incan palace
There isn’t anything amazing about this palace other than it being an example of Incan architecture and it certainly pales in comparison to Machu Picchu or some of the other larger sites, but I found it interesting nonetheless. The Palacio Huayna Capac is also right next door to the cemetery, which I also found interesting and meditative to stroll through.
Both of these things to do in Urubamba are located on the Avenida Mariscal Castilla, which is the main north-south street in Urubamba. Just follow the avenue about 1 km north of the river and the cemetery and Incan palace will be on your right.
Things to do in Urubamba – visit the market
There is a small daily market in Urubamba, but it is mostly focused on the local people coming to do their daily shopping for food or other items.
I also saw that they have a bigger market in Urubamba on Wednesdays but again – it is not typically a touristy market, so there will likely not be many souvenirs or other items marketed at tourists. Again, this could be a plus or a minus depending on what you’re looking for
Cheap eats / restaurants in Urubamba
Now I should add that my definition of “cheap eats” is likely to be a lot cheaper than your definition of “cheap eats”, but in any case, Urubamba was great for just stopping in to a panaderia (bread store) to buy empanadas. They cost usually S/2 and you could get cheese, chicken or beef. We also bought supplies for sandwiches (bread / cheese / sauce / etc) at panaderias or other stores – they were all over town.
As far as restaurants go, we tried a few of the restaurants in Urubamba. Two that the hotel concierge recommended to us were Qanela and Huacatay. As it went with just about everything at the Tambo del Inka, I found those recommendations to be pretty pricey, and we did not try either of them. One restaurant that we went to twice was called Pizza Quinua, and the other escapes my memory but was labeled as a pizza place but sold a variety of foods. I had the lomo saltado, which came with rice and papas fritas
There is also a Chinese restaurant in Urubamba if Peruvian Chinese is your thing :-). I stopped by a few restaurants looking for cuy (guinea pig). I wanted to sample some since it is a common delicacy in the Sacred Valley, but the only places that sold it (that I could find) sold the whole guinea pig, laid out on a platter, and I wasn’t quite sure I was ready for that. I did have alpaca pizza though 😀
I didn’t even get to use my “tastes like chicken” joke as it tasted more like beef. That meal for 2 cost us about S/50 (~USD$15) and they did take credit cards.
A brief roadtrip to Yucay
Okay okay – I know I said that this was a post about things to do in Urubamba, but Yucay is really close to Urubamba. Yucay is about 2 miles to the east of Urubamba, which is definitely walkable, or you can take a mototaxi – it’s 3 Soles (or about USD$1) for a one-way trip. We walked there and taxi’d back
On the way to Yucay was the Museo Vivo de Yucay (Living museum of Yucay), on the south (river) side of the road, next to a restaurant.
We had not heard of this but since we were on foot, we decided to stop in and I’m glad we did. As you passed through, it was a group of folks who were making jewelry, cloth, ceramics, salt and other things. Admission was free but each of the merchants there had wares for sale. It is similar to some of the other places we went but there was not a hard sale at all. One of the women took us around to each of the different stations and explained what each of them were. It was mostly in Spanish, so if you don’t speak Spanish, you probably would not get as much out of it – personally I was very interested in hearing some of the explanations for how they crafted each of the different items.
We also walked up to what they called Las Andenes de Yucay, which was a series of Incan terraces. Again, these aren’t as famous or large as the ones at Machu Picchu or even at Pisac, but they were interesting to look at
Depending on your travel style, this list of 5 things to do in Urubamba may not be super exciting and glamorous. Personally, I was glad we spent time in Urubamba – it was a nice city to just relax and feel a part of the regular Peruvian life, as opposed to the heavy tourist-influenced places in the rest of the Sacred Valley
Have you been to Urubamba? What are some of your top things to do in Urubamba? Leave a note in the comments
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Meh, not much.to see in Urabamba that you couldn’t find in most places in Peru. Better to spend more time in Cusco and do a few day trips.
The ironic thing is you missed the best place to visit in Urabamba – Ceramica Seminario – world famous pottery maker that gives private tours in English and you can meet the artist, Pablo Seminario.
While not in Urabamba proper, a fantastic place to eat/visit relatively close-by is Huayoccari Hacienda and restaurant – one of the original Spanish Haciendas – feels like you’ve been transported back 200 years (creaky wood floors/musty). Has a small private museum with lots of Inca artifacts. Up long winding gravel road that’s hard to find. Need a local to get you there (it’s not marked from what I recall and you drive quite a distance – absent private tour gude/driver, pretty sure we’d have got lost). Don’t miss it and bring an apetite (and lots of cash no credit cards accepted)
Ah you’re right – we saw the Ceramica Seminario while we walked about Urubamba but didn’t get a chance to go in / take a tour. And I’d agree with you that Urubamba was a pretty typical Peruvian town – I think that was one of the things I liked most about it
Well, I found Huacatay to outstanding when I was there last month, so I would say that you missed out. And it was expensive for Peru to be sure, but $10-15 USD for an entrée isn’t that much for most Americans.
Yeah you’re right – I shouldn’t classify it as “expensive”, compared to what you’re probably used to. I should probably let go a little more on vacation 🙂
I just came across your blog and I find it really interesting! That you make travel affordable but mostly important, LOCAL 🙂
I’m peruvian from Lima and I’m in Cusco now for some months, until July and I’m doing everything as a local, I’m so happy cause what matters is being at peace, slow down, and enjoy! Thank you for this blog! Hope you’re good!!