Urubamba Travel Guide

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View of the Chicon Valley and glacier, right above the pueblo of Urubamba

View of the Chicon Valley and glacier, right above the pueblo of Urubamba

Evan Hoffbuhr

Urubamba is a quaint town of roughly 18,000 people, although you wouldn't know it by driving through.  About an hour north of Cuzco, this small pueblo is a cultural hotspot, inhabited mainly by Quechua-speaking Peruvians.  From the food to the dress, it is apparent that Urubambans continue to follow the traditions of their ancestors, and are always happy to tell you about their Incan heritage.  Urubamba is situated on the bank of el Rio Vilcanota (also referred to as el Rio Urubamba).  Although the water has been heavily contaminated in recent years, the town is cradled in the magnificent Andes and sits below the towering snowcapped Chicon Glacier which rests at about 15,000 feet.  Areas of Urubamba to see are the cemetery and the very traditional pueblo within Urubamba called Chichubamba. To access the cemetery, walk toward the mountains on the main road until you reach the point just before it becomes a dirt road...the cemetery will be on your right.  Once at the cemetery, ask locals how to get to the Inca Wall (a well preserved wall and series of small buildings from pre-Incan times).
  As for Chichubamba, there are several entrances off of the right side of the main road...but they are hard to find so ask a local for directions.  Another great site to explore is the town/forest/valley of Chicon located several miles up the main road.  Ask a taxi to take you there.  At this location, there is a small traditionally-built, ecotourism casa created by the local volunteer organization called ProPeru.  This organization has roughly 10 ongoing projects within the Urubamba Valley and has been a great help to the locals.  Because of the presence of this organization, do not be surprised to see an occaisional American or English university student making their way through town.  There are several other volunteer organizations within the town, the most well-known being TAPA (an English organization).  Other great places to see in Urubamba include La PLaza de Armas which is the meeting/resting place for many locals.  There is a large fountain in the middle of the park, surrounded by palms and jacaranda trees.  On one side of the plaza is the Catedral...built over century ago, but under construction until 2006.  I believe tourists are now allowed inside again.  Another beautiful church is La Iglesia de Senor de Torrechayoc located on a street with the same name.  If you take a left on the road that runs in front of the church and walk about one minute down the dirt road until you come to a wooden door on the right surrounded by a pinkish orange wall, you have reached the ProPeru headquarters.  Stop by and see what volunteer projects they have initiated within the valley.  Other locations that are a stone throw away from Urubamba are the ruins of Ollantaytambo (30 minutes west), Pisaq (45 minutes east), and Chinchero (20 minutes south).  During many bus trips to Ollantaytambo where tourists begin the hike to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail, the bus makes a brief stop in Urubamba to use the restroom and buy a snack.  But PLEASE, take some time to explore the town, as it has SO much to offer: beauty, history, culture, character, and charm.  Recommended restaurants in Ururbamba include The Muse (Australian owned...great salads), La Esquina and La Esuina 2 (locally owned....great empanadas), and Pintachas (locally owned...great pizza/dessert).  If you ar elooking for some hoppin' nightlife...Urubamba probably isn't the place for you.  However, there is one disco called Tequila that is often filled with ProPeru volunteers

I hope this has persuaded some of you travelers to check out this jewel of a town that is oftentimes overshadowed by its larger and more famous counterparts within the valley. 

Contributors

July 31, 2006 change by giorgio

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