Travel to Moray in the Sacred Valley of Peru
One of the most unusual ruins in the Sacred Valley
If you’re travelling to the ancient Incan capital Cusco, one of the most popular tourist destinations in South America, then it can be hard to get off the well-beaten tourist track. However, hard is not the same as impossible. There are plenty of spots in the Sacred Valley where you can get away from the crowds, reconnect with nature, and see some jaw-dropping Inca ruins that aren’t Machu Picchu. Moray is one of those places.
After buying the Boleto Turístico de Cusco, a ticket which allows you to see many archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley as well as museums in the city centre, it was one of the first places I had planned to visit and was most excited about. It didn’t disappoint.
Moray is one of the most unusual and interesting archaeological sites in the valley, and no-one is 100% sure what the purpose of the ruins was back in Inca times. However, it’s mostly agreed that the bowl-shaped terraces are an agricultural researcher’s dream. Due to the sunlight not being able to penetrate the ground in many parts of the valley, you’ll see terraces all over Peru. However, Moray is the only place where you’ll find this spiral-like pattern.
The shape of the ruins is speculated to be for experimentation with microclimates for growing crops, especially potatoes. The temperatures of the terraces here resemble those of sea-level farms. Amazingly, the difference in temperature would have been around 15 degrees Celsius from the top terrace to the bottom. This meant a lot of variation in the crops – in fact, in modern-day Peru there are over 2,000 varieties of the humble potato!
I really enjoyed walking around the site. There are a number of footpaths that give you different views of the spirals, and there are some great photo opportunities. I also loved the fact that there were plenty of shaded benches where you could get out of the sun. Even though it was cloudy and cool when I was there, I still came home redder than I’d left my hostel that morning.
As with a lot of the ruins in the Sacred Valley, there’s very little information at the site unless you hire a guide, which comes at an extra cost. Because I prefer not to be in a big group, I do my research online to find out what I’m looking at, and also to enjoy the peace and quiet of the site without having a time restriction.
I’d highly recommend visiting Moray. Although it’s tricky to get to, I’ve never seen anything like these ruins, not only in Peru, but anywhere. The only disappointment compared to other ruins is that there wasn’t an alpaca or llama in sight! But I guess they’re not needed as the beauty and intrigue of the ruins speak for themselves.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
Moray requires some effort and planning to get to, but it’s well worth it. Take a colectivo (minibus) towards Urubamba or Ollantaytambo from Cusco. You’ll be able to find the minibuses on Calle Pavitos, outside of Cusco’s historic centre. From there, you should pay around 6 soles to get to the turnoff for Moray. It’s imperative that you tell your driver you want to go to Moray.
From the turnoff, which is about 10km before the town of Urubamba, you’ll need to get a taxi to Moray. It should cost 20PEN each way (just under £5), or alternatively, you can wait until more people show up in colectivos and split the cost. It won’t take long, and it’s worth waiting for 5 – 10 minutes to save yourself a little cash.
The journey is around 50km and should take roughly 2 hours.
If this sounds too difficult, many travel agents in Cusco offer day trips to the Sacred Valley, and they often include Moray as it’s one of the more unusual and interesting sites. There are even quad bike tours to the site.
Do – Activities & Attractions
Stay – Accommodation
A common way of seeing the ruins at Moray is by doing a day trip from Cusco. However, the town of Maras is only 9km from the ruins and staying here will give you an opportunity to see the popular salt pans of Maras too. Staying in nearby Urubamba is an option too.
According to Booking.com, there are 2 accommodations in the town of Maras – Casa Campo Tiobamba and Pakareq Tampu.
Eat – Restaurants
There are some small eateries next to Moray where you can buy typical Peruvian street food such as choclos con queso (corn with cheese), and lomo saltado (stir fried beef). In Maras, there are also a few traditional restaurants where you can get a cheap almuerzo lunch.
If you’re doing a day trip from Cusco, there are plenty of great restaurants in the city if you can hold out until the evening.
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
Luckily, there’s more than one great time to visit Moray. If you’re coming for great weather, the sunniest skies are between April and October. Just be sure to bring sun cream.
The rainy season (November – March) isn’t a bad time to come to Moray either. At this time of year the Sacred Valley is a beautiful lush green, and you’ll get some stunning photos of the stone terraces.
Safety – Possible risks
Moray is a well-managed site and safety risks are minimal here. The biggest risk is that you may overpay for a taxi on the way here or back. If you’re alone, expect to pay 20PEN for a one-way journey, with this amount split if you take a colectivo (minibus).
As with many of the ruins in Peru’s Sacred Valley, take precautions against altitude sickness. Spend a few days in Cusco acclimatising first, and when it’s time for your trip, make sure you have plenty of water, sugary snacks, and medication (if necessary) with you.
Also, take regular breaks when walking around the site. There are plenty of shaded areas where you can take in the views of the spiralled stone terraces and surrounding mountains.
If you take a quad bike tour to the site, make sure that the company you book with offers you insurance and appropriate safety gear.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
Entering the ruins at Moray costs 130PEN (roughly £30) or 70PEN (around £16-17) for students. You can’t buy a ticket solely for entering Moray, and you have to get the Boleto Turístico de Cusco which allows you to visit 16 sites, including Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley and Cusco, as well as a number of city centre museums.
If you only want to visit Moray, you can buy a 40PEN ticket (just under £10) which gives you 2 days of access to only the archaeological sites.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Moray is beautifully maintained and has a number of paths that give different views of the ruins. There are clear signs warning against going on the prohibited areas, so please pay attention to the signs as you risk damaging the site and injuring yourself too.
It’s also a great place to take a picnic. Just remember to take your rubbish with you if you fancy a spot of lunch here.
Reality Check – Be Aware
Moray is definitely worth a visit, but it’s a headache to get to. If you’re not a confident Spanish speaker, it’s probably best to do this in an organised tour from Cusco.
You’ll need to know the turn off for Moray, which is on the road between Chinchero and Urubamba. There, you can get a taxi. However, beware that some of the taxis will pick up and put together passengers who want to go to both Moray and the Maras salt pans, which are in completely different directions.
http://cosituc.gob.pe – the website for getting information on the Boleto Turístico, including prices and which attractions are included in the ticket. The site is operated by the Peruvian government, and you can buy your ticket through the website.
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