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Exploring the Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley

Blessings by shamans and horseback riding – a recap of the amazing, spiritual journey through Peru’s Sacred Valley.

In the heart of the sacred valley, a group of people are gathered around a campfire at night.

If you told me a year ago that I would be blessed by a shaman the evening before I would go horseback riding through the Sacred Valley in Peru and then taking a train to Machu Picchu Pueblo, I probably would have said that you were crazy.

No.  “Crazy” probably isn’t even the right word.  I probably would have just told you, “that isn’t my life.”

Until I found myself kneeling before a shaman as he poured a fragrant liquid over my hands and showed me how to cast evil spirits and negative thoughts away.  As I placed my hands together as I would in prayer, he called upon the beliefs of his people, the grace of Mother Earth, the sun and the stars, and asked me to send an intention from my heart out into the universe – and I had to mean it.  At that very moment, I meant it.  He kissed my forehead, whispered ancient words into my ear and sent me on my way.  I went to bed refreshed, happy, enlightened.  There couldn’t be a more defining moment for me to feel in tune with the beauty of Peru.  Until I woke up to this:

A grassy sacred valley in front of a house.

Little did we know that those massive mountains had been surrounding us the previous evening!  What an amazing view!

A brown horse standing next to a stone wall in the sacred valley.

Afterwards, we all piled back into our coach with day bags in hand, as we weren’t allowed to bring our giant suitcases with us on to the train to Machu Picchu.  Then we were divided into two groups:  whitewater rafting and horseback riding.  I went with the horseback riders and away we went.

We arrived at the stables and met with our guide from Etnikas, a local group that helped to arrange our horseback ride through the valley.  Each person donned a helmet and the guides assigned us each a horse – Peruvian horses that had a different gait and walking style than horses we would be used to in the US.  They had an easygoing gait which made it easy to navigate them and guide them through the trail.  Mine was a black and white horse that I nicknamed “Cow” as I never caught his actual name – he enjoyed grazing on grass in his idle time, thus the nickname.  The lead horseman took us through the local towns, as children ran out and yelled “Hola” as we passed.  It was a beautiful and hot day, and we ascended the roads above the valley and saw breathtaking landscapes all around.

A person riding a horse in the sacred valley down a dirt road.

After our wonderful horseback riding trip, we had lunch at Inkalicious.  This was our view:

A man is walking down a path in the sacred valley with a red mountain in the background.

After lunch, we explored one of the old cities in the town, Ollantaytambo.  I love taking long alleyway shots, and so this town was perfect – cobblestone streets, tiny shops, and this wonderful cafe known as ‘Living Heart’ where many our of Contiki travelers found refuge from some downpour that greeted us later on.

A van parked in front of the majestic sacred valley.
A person is walking down a cobblestone street in the sacred valley.

Then we hopped on a coach to the train station and made our way to Machu Picchu Pueblo, settling into our hotels before the early morning trek to the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu!  From Ollantaytambo, the train ride is approximately 90 minutes.  Reservations for the train and for the actual entrance into Machu Picchu have to be made months in advance as they have limited the number of people allowed into Machu Picchu to 2500 per day.  The landscapes on the way to Machu Picchu Pueblo were some of the most amazing I’ve ever seen by train.  We arrived at Machu Picchu Pueblo, had dinner at a great restaurant called Toto’s and turned in early to wake up early to see the sun rise over Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu, the fabled ancient city nestled high in the Andes, holds a special place in history and is often referred to as the

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