The charming town of Urubamba is enveloped by tall Andean peaks in the heart of the Sacred Valley. Unlike Ollantaytambo and Pisac whose Inca ruins are the main draw, the appeal of Urubamba is the surrounding natural beauty and its laid-back vibes. The host of beautiful hotels are the perfect place to disconnect and treat yourself to a luxurious spa treatments. Adventure-packed sports and tours are just a short ride away!
Table of Contents:
- Things to Do
- Where to Eat
- Travel Tips
- Plan Your Trip
As the largest town in the Sacred Valley, Urubamba is an important hub for travel in the area. Many visitors spend some time here either to acclimatize to the altitude or as a stop-off on their way to a Machu Picchu tour. The town is home to many of the best hotels in the Sacred Valley, and offers a number of excellent restaurants as well. Its central location also makes it a convenient base for exploring the myriad archaeological sites of the Sacred Valley such as Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
During the reign of the Inca Empire, between the 14th to mid-15th century, the kings ruled over their far-reaching lands from Cusco. Fertile fields in the Sacred Valley yielded bountiful crops so the great civilization never went hungry. To increase crop varieties that grow at different elevations, the Incas ingeniously dug agricultural terraces along mountainsides. Unlike Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero, the town of Urubamba was not a site where the Incas constructed a religious temple of outpost.
Francisco Pizarro and his Spanish troops overthrew the Inca Empire in 1531. Despite their organized resistance, the Incas were unable to regain power. The impact of colonization throughout the Sacred Valley is echoed in the colonial-style buildings now lining the streets of Urubamba. Over the centuries, the town grew and earned the reputation as the hub of the Sacred Valley. The church in the town’s central plaza, completed in 1866, is an ode to the spread of Christianity throughout the region.
Plaza de Armas
Locals and travelers mix and mingle in this town’s inviting Plaza de Armas lined by small shops, hotels, and municipality buildings. San Pedro Church (or Iglesia San Pedro in Spanish) dominates the eastern side of the square. Completed in 1866, the colonial church of red sandstone bricks features an altar of wood and silver detail decorated with floral motifs.
Enjoy leisure time in Urubamba on a park bench in the main plaza. The shade of tall pisonay and palm trees offer relief from the strong sun and a beautiful mountain skyline peeks over the surrounding buildings. Activity picks up on the weekends with cultural and gastronomic fairs. When hunger calls, several great restaurants and the local market are just a few blocks away.
Train Station in Urubamba
Urubamba is one option for catching the train to Machu Picchu. The private train station at Tambo Del Inka Hotel in Urubamba offers exclusive railway service (operated by PeruRail).
- The train ride from Urubamba to Machu Picchu (Aguas Calientes Station) takes about 2.5 – 3 hours.
- The Belmond Hiram Bingham train does not run on Sundays.
- Departure and arrival times for the Urubamba Train Station are limited. More railway options are available at the Cusco and Ollantaytambo stations. Talk with your travel advisor about the best train schedule to fit your customized itinerary.
Location: Av. Ferrocarril, Tambo Del Inka Hotel, Urubamba
Hours: Daily, 06:00 to 10:00 hrs and 16:00 to 20:00 hrs
Seminario Ceramics is a privately owned creative studio and workshop in Urubamba. Artists Pablo Seminario and his wife Marilú Behar work as a duo to mold, shape, and paint one-of-a-kind pieces influenced by designs from pre-Hispanic cultures of Peru. On a tour, you can meet Pablo Seminario and learn about his creative process using ancient molding, clay rolling, and sculpturing techniques. Several local artists have been trained by Pablo and Marilú and now work on-site at their workshop. There are a variety of ceramic pots, plates, and vases available for purchase that make for high quality souvenirs that are truly local.
Location: Av. Berriozabal 405, Urubamba
Hours: Daily: 08:00 – 19:00 hrs
The small farming town of Yucay is a 10-minute drive from Urubamba. Santa Apostal Church, which stands prominently between two open plazas, was the first Catholic church built in the Sacred Valley. Yucay is also home to the archaeological site Palace of Sayri Tupac (or Palacio de Sayritupac). The palace belonged to the last Inca, Sayri Tupac 1350-1558. Scholars believe it was used as an Inca astronomy center aid with the changing seasons and agriculture. Design features and unique structural design features include mural painting in the niches, a clay oven that was used by the Incas to finish pottery, and the representation of an Andean Cross (or Chakana).
Location: 2.5 mi (4 km) from Urubamba (between Urubamba – Pisac)
Things to Do
Enjoy the Scenery
The beautiful landscapes and luxurious lodging in Urubamba orchestrate an an idyllic Andean getaway. Escape the bustle of Cusco and treat yourself to a night (or two or three) at a lavish resort or small boutique hotel. Let a relaxing spa treatment and the sound of the Urubamba River coax you into the slower pace of the Sacred Valley. Stare in wide-eyed amazement at the beautiful mountain vistas lounging by the pool of your hotel and enjoy the serenity of the moment. Our recommended Sacred Valley hotels have been hand selected for their first class amenities and opulent properties.
A variety of adrenaline packed tours can be arranged from Urubamba. Which activity answers your call to adventure?
Tackle the rapids of the Urubamba River with your travel companions and speed past spectacular views of terraced mountainsides. Afterwards, eat lunch by the river. Popular rafting routes in the Sacred Valley run between Urubamba-Ollantaytambo and Vilcanota-Urubamba. These sections of the river have class 2-3 rapids appropriate for first timers rafters and kids.
Explore the extensive network of dirt trails between Pisac and Ollantaytambo on a biking tour. Many routes involve hills, so be prepared for the physical effort. Alternatively, you can rent a bike in Urubamba and leisurely explore the town streets independently. Some hotels even have bikes their guests can use for free.
Saddle up for a high altitude adventure on a horse through Andean terrain. A popular ride near Urubamba goes up to the Maras Salt Pans and circular terraces of Moray.
Note: Ask your travel advisor for a more information about the adventure activities listed above. Private or group tour may be available.
Where to Eat
The flavor diversity of Peruvian cuisine is celebrated around the world. In the Sacred Valley, the best variety of traditional and Andean-international fusion food can be found in Urubamba. The kitchens at hotel restaurants are hidden oases of culinary goodness. Other great dining establishments are just a few blocks from the town’s main plaza.
The culinary term Novo Andean is associated with many restaurant menus in Urubamba. It’s a style of cooking that aims to rediscover authentic local ingredients and cooking customs in the Andean region of Peru from pre-colonial times.
The following are a few of our favorite places to eat in Urubamba. Ask your travel advisor for additional recommendations, or search online restaurant guides, such as TripAdvisor, for trending opinions.
Hotel Restaurants in Urubamba
Pukawi Gourmet Restaurant (Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel)
Overview: Traditional Andean and Novo Andean fusion; Dishes include pasta, meat, or fish paired with fresh garden ingredients; Cellar with an exclusive wine collection
Location: Huayllabamba-Urubamba (15-minute drive from Urubamba)
Pricing: Main Dish 40-55 Soles; Desserts 20-30 Soles
Kusi Pisco & Sushi Bar (Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel)
Overview: Japanese and Peruvian fusion; Tapas, sushi, sashimi, tempura, and maki options; Specialty cocktails with pisco (including the famous pisco sour) as well as other spirits.
Location: Huayllabamba-Urubamba (15-minute drive from Urubamba)
Pricing: Tapas 20-50 Soles; Cocktails 30-40 Soles
El Huerto Restaurant (Belmond Rio Sagrado Villas & Spa Hotel)
Overview: Traditional Peruvian with international zest; Options include salads made from fresh garden veggies and meat (lomo, chicken, lamb, cuy, fish) paired with quinoa or potatoes.
Location: Km. 75.8, Highway Urubamba-Ollantaytambo (15-minute drive from Urubamba)
Hours: Daily, 06:00-20:00 hrs
Pricing: Salads 45-55 Soles; Main Course 65-90 Soles
Killa Wasi (Hotel Sol & Luna)
Overview: Local Peruvian fusion; Menu varies with the season using organic ingredients by in-house chefs; Fine dining in romantic setting with fireplace.
Location: Km 74 Highway Cusco -Ollantaytambo, Fundo Huincho Lote A-5, Urubamba (5-minute drive from main plaza of Urubamba)
Hours: Daily, lunch (12:00-15:00 hrs) and dinner (18:00-22:00 hrs)
Hawa Restaurant (Tambo del Inka Hotel)
Overview: Novo Andean and Peruvian fusion; Signature Andean dish is lamb loin cuts topped with sauce smoked in hickory leaves served with quinoa in a champagne soufflé; Casual atmosphere with indoor seating by fireplace or outside.
Location: Avenida Ferrocarril, Urubamba (4 blocks from main plaza of Urubamba)
Hours: Daily, breakfast (05:30-10:00 hrs), lunch (12:30-15:00 hrs), dinner (18:30-21:00 hrs)
Inkafé Restaurant Bar (Sonesta Posadas del Inca Yucay Hotel)
Overview: Peruvian, Novo-Andean, and international cuisine; Specialty dishes include pasta salad with chicken and maracuya dressing, spaghetti with cream aji sauce and prawns, and chef’s Lomo Saltado; Breakfast and lunch served buffet-style, dinner a la carte.
Location: Plaza Manco II 123, Yucay (About 10 minutes from Urubamba)
Hours: Daily, 04:30 – 22:00 hrs
Overview: Creative fusion Peruvian, Mediterranean, and Asian flavored cuisine; Specialties include Alpaca carpaccio flavored with tomato, sesame seed, and cilantro, etc.; Indoor and outdoor seating; Warm ambiance with Andean decorative accents.
Location: Jr. Arica 620, Urubamba (3 blocks from main plaza)
Hours: Mon-Sat (12:30 – 21:30 hrs ), Closed Sunday http://www.elhuacatay.com/
Overview: Peruvian fusion and international; Dishes include traditional dishes, pastas, and pizzas cooked in a wood burning oven; Cozy atmosphere on second level.
Location: Av. Mariscal Castilla #640, Urubamba (5 blocks from main plaza)
Hours: Tues-Sun (13:00 – 21:00 hrs), Closed Monday
Overview: Traditional Peruvian; Specialty dishes include lomo saltado, lasagna stuffed with ají de gallina, alpaca steak, trout tiradito, and wide range of soups; Relaxing ambiance with courtyard and garden.
Location: Calle Grau 654 Urubamba, Cusco (2 blocks from the main plaza)
Hours: Daily, 12:00-23:00 hrs
Age-old traditions weave together with 21st century conveniences in the tourist-frequented towns of the Sacred Valley. The wide range of luxurious hotels and must-eat-at restaurants in Urubamba have introduced facets of modernity to daily life, such as WiFi and demand for English speaking employees. But at the root of the town’s service-based industry is a celebratory respect for Andean tradition, from the decor of hotel rooms to the food menus at local restaurants.
Andean Design Influences
Typical to Andean-style decor, many Urubamba-based hotels and restaurants pull from a palette of rich earth tone colors and splashes of vibrant oranges, yellows, purples and blues. Paintings, ceramic pieces, and alpaca weavings used for decorative purposes often depict Inca iconography. Built into the design of many structures are large windows and outdoor spaces for travelers to soak in the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains.
Food and Drink
The culinary boom of Peru has made its way to the Sacred Valley – more specifically in Urubamba. Chefs blend international flavors with Andean favorites, such as alpaca, llama, and cuy, and cook with locally grown corn, quinoa, and potatoes. The diverse restaurant menus are filled with traditional, Novo Andean, and fusion options. Ask your travel advisor what dishes they recommend.
You’re likely to encounter the word Quechua while visiting the Andean region of Peru. The term Quechua encompasses many cultural elements of language, music, dance, dress, and food that are staples of Andean life. The Quechua people are often referred to as the descendants of the Incas.
Day to day business in Urubamba is conducted in Spanish. But listen carefully and you may also hear the Quechua language spoken by some locals. Many lodging, dining, and spa establishments have Quechua names. The Killa Wasi restaurant at Sol & Luna Hotel is a shining example. Killa Wasi is Quechua for “House of the Moon”. The Mayu Wilka spa at the Belmond Rio Sagrado translates to “sacred river”.
Hotel representatives and restaurant staff often speak English. All of our tour guides speak excellent English.
The town of Urubamba is about a one-hour drive northeast of Cusco. The two-lane highway climbs in elevation from Cusco to a high plateau and passes exits for Chinchero and Maras and Moray before descending into the Sacred Valley to Urubamba. Urubamba is located on the valley floor along the banks of the Urubamba River about halfway between Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
Distances from Urubamba
Here are the distance of Urubamba from other important cities and towns in the area:
- Cusco, 30 mi / 50 km
- Pisac, 25 mi / 40 km
- Ollantaytambo, 12 mi / 20 km
- Chinchero, 11 mi / 18 km
The town of Urubamba is located at 9,420 ft (2,870 m) above sea level. This is about 1,700 ft (500 m) lower in elevation than Cusco (11,120 ft/ 3,400 m). Urubamba sits in the shadows of Chicon mountain that towers to an elevation of 18,143 ft (5530 m).
When you first get to Cusco, staying the first couple nights at a lower altitude in Urubamba, instead of Cusco, will help you acclimate better.
Altitude sickness is a condition caused when you travel from a low elevation to a higher elevation with less air density. Severe reactions to the altitude change are rare and hard to predict. Many travelers only experience minor side effects, including shortness of breath, nausea, headache, and loss of appetite. Before you travel, ask your doctor about medications that are available to prevent altitude sickness.
Dry Season Vs. Rainy Season
Similar to other towns in the Sacred Valley, Urubamba experiences a dry season and a rainy season.
Dry season (April to October) – Days are usually sunny with little chance of rain. Nights get very chilly, so make sure to bring a warm jacket, mittens, and hat.
Rainy season (November to March) – Mornings are generally cloudy with light showers and afternoons and evenings can bring heavier rains. Night temperatures drop, but are not as cold during the rainy season.
Protected by towering mountains, the town of Urubamba experiences a rather temperate climate located on the Sacred Valley floor. Daytime temperatures average 68-72ºF (20-22ºC). Nighttime temperatures average about 45ºF (8ºC) in the rainy season and dip down to about 35ºF (1ºC) in the dry season.
Best Time to Visit Urubamba
The luxurious hotels and delicious dining options in Urubamba can be enjoyed any time of the year, come rain or shine. Peak travel season in the Andean region is during the months of June, July, and August, when the weather is usually clear and dry. Low season in the months December, January, February and March sees slightly fewer visitors. Occasionally, the Urubamba River floods and can cause traffic delays and road closures. Make sure to learn more about the best time to visit Peru if you’re planning a trip to multiple regions.
Other Attractions near Urubamba
Make sure to visit these other nearby towns and attractions during your stay in Urubamba:
- Town of Pisac (: Hilltop Inca fortress; Bustling local market; Great souvenir shopping
- Town of Ollantaytambo: Impressive Inca fortress and town; Ollantaytambo train station; Visit an Andean community
- Maras and Moray: Ancient Maras salt pans are still in operation; Large circular terraces of Moray were one an agricultural testing ground to the Incas
Follow these tips for getting to Urubamba and getting around once you’re there:
- Cusco to Urubamba: The drive from Cusco to Urubamba (30 mi / 50 km) takes about 1 hour. Hiring a taxi or taking private transport (which your travel advisor can arrange) are the quickest and most convenient ways to get there. Public transport (shared vans or buses) is the cheapest option.
- In and around Urubamba: Many restaurants, shops, and the town’s local market in and around the central plaza are easily navigated on foot. Hotels in Yucay are just a 10-minute taxi ride away.
- Urubamba to Inca archaeological sites: Urubamba is centrally located in the Sacred Valley; halfway between Pisac and Ollantaytambo and a short taxi ride down the mountain from Maras and Moray. By staying a Urubamba hotel, you eliminate the round trip from Cusco and maximize the time you spend at your favorite attractions.
- Urubamba to Machu Picchu: There is a private train station at Tambo Del Inka Hotel that offers railway service to the famous Inca citadel.
What to Pack
Make sure to take the following items with you for your trip to Urubamba:
- For a day tour: Temperature and weather conditions can change quickly in the Andes. Dressing in layers is key. Your packing list should include t-shirts, long-sleeve tops, a fleece jacket, and lightweight pants. Hiking boots are ideal for walking up to and around any of the nearby Inca archaeological complexes, but any comfortable pair of shoes with good traction will do. Don’t forget your hat, glasses, and sunblock for sun protection. If rain is expected, pack an umbrella or poncho.
- For a nice meal: Restaurant option in Urubamba range from casual to fine dining. While dress codes at fancy restaurants aren’t strictly enforced, it’s nice to retire your hiking pants and shoes for one evening. Save room in your suitcase for a nice pair of clothes and shoes.
How much should I tip my tour guide?
Tipping your tour guide is a nice way to show your appreciation. It’s always up to your own discretion how much you leave as a tip. The suggested tip ranges listed below represent a total amount that varies on the number of people in your tour and can be divided amongst everyone.
- Half Day Tour: 10-30 Soles per person
- Full Day Tour: 20-60 Soles per person
Is Urubamba included in a typical Sacred Valley Tour?
A full-day Sacred Valley tour usually departs from Cusco. Pisac (market, Inca ruins) is the first stop. Groups stop for lunch in Urubamba and then visit Ollantaytambo (Inca fortress, train station). Book a private tour if you want to stick around Urubamba and explore the attractions of this Sacred Valley hub.
What is a Cusco Tourist Ticket? Do I need it in Urubamba?
A Tourist Ticket (or boleto turistico in Spanish) is an official paper document which gives you access to a variety of museums and Inca ruins in Cusco and the surrounding Sacred Valley. There are not any attractions in the Urubamba that require a tourist ticket. However, entrance to nearby archaeological sites at Moray, Pisac, and Ollantaytambo require the ticket.
Plan Your Trip
Britt is a California native who now calls Peru home. She is a traveler with a passion for all things outdoors, scuba diving, and capturing memories with her camera.