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Moray: in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas

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As majestic as it is mysterious, Moray is an archaeological site nestled in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Follow the guide!


Accommodation, flights, transport, excursions …
You’ll find all the Captain’s suggestions in the section
Captain Ulysses’ favourites at the very end of the article!

Brief history of the archaeological site of Moray

While etymology can often throw light on the origins of archeological sites, there remain some doubts as to the semantic origin of Moray. Indeed, Moray could derive from two Quechua words: “Amoray” which means “cornfield” or “the month of harvest”, the sixth month of the Inca calendar (around May), or ” Moraya “, which means “dried out potato”.

One thing is certain, Moray is all about agriculture and botany. Well, that’s what archaeologists think anyway! Moray seems in all likelihood to be a former agricultural research center, where the Incas carried out various experiments on crops and plants (especially vegetables).

The archaeological ensemble was discovered in 1932 during the expedition led by Shirppe Johnson. The archeological site of Moray is organised around three sets of terraces formed by several levels of concentric circles, which are reminiscent of Ancient Greek and Roman amphitheatres.

Overview of the archeological site of Moray

The main circle consists of twelve 2 metre-high terraces built on a stone floor covered with sand and topsoil. Moray has an irrigation system consisting of canals fed by a large basin located on the heights of the site.

Moray, a botanical laboratory?

Moray is absolutely spectacular to behold, but that’s not all of it! The site also offers incredible insights into Inca culture. Archeologists believe that the 12 terraces created micro climates, thanks to the difference in temperature at each level. The depth, design, and orientation with respect to wind and sun of each terrace were responsible for significant temperature differences between the top and the bottom of the ensemble. A difference of nearly 5 ° C can be observed between the innermost and the outermost terraces.

Moray Terrace

Thanks to these micro climates, over 250 species of plants were grown in Moray, including Amazonian plants suited to milder temperatures. Archeologists believe that Moray was some sort of botanical laboratory, much like a seeding nursery for the entire Inca Empire.

Visiting Moray in Peru

You can visit Moray on your own, opt for an organised day tour from Cusco, or even a muti-day hike in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. To each their own!

Moray Peru

Visiting the archeological site on your own

Not interested in mingling with other tourists? No problem, getting to Moray is quite easy. Several options:

  • buses: take the bus from Cusco to Urubamba, then a taxi from Urubamba to Moray.
  • Colectivos: this option is more flexible. Take a colectivo from Cusco to the Maras – Moray paradero. From there, you’ll be able to take a taxi to Moray.
  • Taxis: this is quite obviously the most expensive option, but it is a time saver. Fares revolve around 80 soles for the return trip.

Once in Moray, you’re free to explore the site at your own pace. However, make sure you have the (full or partial) boleto turistico before your visit. You can purchase it in Cusco or at the entrance to the sites. Please note that to this day, the boleto turistico still cannot be purchased online. Take a moment to take in the view: the site is quite simply spectacular. After exploring Moray, the Captain highly recommends visiting the Maras Salt Mines, which are easily accessible from Moray (≈ 20 minute taxi ride).

View from Moray

Opting for a day trip to Moray

Several agencies offer tours from Cusco, most of which include a stopover at the Maras Salt Mines:

  • Thrill seekers will most definitely opt for a Quad Bike Tour!
  • Biking enthusiasts might on the other hand preferthis bike tour from Cusco.
  • But there’s nothing wrong with going simple either and opt for a ‘classical’ tour to Moray including the services of a guide and transportation. Captain Ulysses recommends 2 tours in particular: find out more here and here.

    In any case, you will have to purchase the boleto turistico for Moray and the entrance ticket to Maras (which is not included in the boleto turistico to date).
The Maras Salt Mines
The Maras Salt Mines

Stopping at Moray during a multi-day hike

If you’d like to further explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas, you can also opt for a multi-day hike. The Captain has selected 5 options which are excellent value for money:

Starting with 3 hikes reserved for walking enthusiasts who are in good physical condition:

  • A 15-day tour (10 days of hiking) including stops at Machu Picchu as well as the Vinicunca Rainbow.
  • A 21-day tour, including 15-day trek during which you’ll explore the Apurimac Valley, Machu Picchu and the Choquequirao Archaeological Park. The tour ends on the shores of Lake Titicaca.
  • Another 21 day tour, including a 10-day trek in the Cordillera Blanca, before heading to the Sacred Valley.
Vinicunca mountain
Vinicunca mountain

If you’d like to take your time and are more into “strolling” than “power walking”, the Captain recommends:

  • A 15 day trip in southern Peru. You’ll get to explore Nazca, the Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca before heading to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.
  • A 15-day tour from the Andes to the Amazon, ending with a day in the Amazon rainforest.

Best time to visit Moray

The climate in the region of Moray is a tropical mountain climate. The temperatures can vary quite significantly between day and night, but are generally stable throughout the year (around 20°C / 68°F). The level of precipitation on the other hand depends on the seasons. While it barely rains at all during the dry season (April to October), the wet season (November to March) is chracterized by heavy rains. Traveling during the dry season is overall (obviously) quite pleasant, but you should know that Moray is even more spectacular during the wet season, when the landscape displays infinite variations of green. Up to you !

On October 8, hundreds of natives of the surrounding communities gather in Moray to celebrate Moray Raymi, festivities in honour of the Sun including folk dances and spiritual offerings.


Captain Ulysses’ favourites in Moray

🛏️ ACCOMMODATIONS
To book your accommodation in Cusco, Captain Ulysses highly recommends Booking.com on which you’ll find a wide selection of hotels, hostels and apartments. If you’re budget is tight, the Captain recommends 2 hostels in particular: Blacky Hostel and Tucan Hostel . As for midscale options, the Captain recommends three guest houses: Luna House Cusco , Killaly Inn and Llipimpac Guesthouse. Finally, if you want to treat yourself to a very nice hotel, you should definitely consider the Palacio del Inka.

🎟️ ACTIVITIES
As for visits and activities, Captain Ulysses recommends the online booking platforms Musement and GetYourGuide . Guided tours, sport activities … there’s plenty to choose from!

🚐 TRANSFERS
Here are all the transfers to travel to Ollantaytambo. And if you want to get to Puno, here are the transfers.

✈️ FLIGHTS
Captain Ulysses warmly recommends Skyscanner to book your flights to Cusco. You’ll be able to compare countless offers to find the best deal. If your dates are flexible, you can also compare prices over several months to find the cheapest flights possible.

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Moray: in the heart of the sacred valley of the Incas

Credits:
Eduardo Zarate Cadu Tavares Christine olson Geraint Rowland David Pierre Pouliquin

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