The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a valley of the Urubamba River. The valley starts 15 km north of Cusco and stretches about 100 km between two then important Incan cities – the Cusco City and Machu Picchu. The place had a special meaning to the Incas as the sacred river of Urubamba represented a reflection of the cosmic Milky Way in their mythology.
The Urubamba River originates in mountains of the Puno region and its upstream is called Willkanuta, which means the “House of the Sun” in Aymara native language, it was later hispanized to Vilcanota. The river then flows north-west for 724 km and it changes its name to Urubamba in the Convencion province. Sometimes, you can also hear the river is called Willcamayu which is its Quechua name.
The valley was highly appreciated by the Incas also because of its geographical and weather qualities. It was one of the main production places because of fertility of its soil. The valley is a place where the best Peruvian corn is cultivated!
The Sacred Valley possesses an idyllic atmosphere inviting everybody to visit it and stay there. There can found several excellent Incan archaeological complexes such as Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero or Moray as well as nearby pre-Incan salt mines of Salineras, etc.
Also, there are numerous marvelous colonial villages, many of them have been involved in rural and experience tourism projects offering visitors quite different experience.
The valley was a personal possession of the Inca´s rulers!
Pisaq (2,715 m.a.s.l.) – is located 33 km northwest of Cusco. There can be found two attractions: the Incan citadel and the colonial town with its traditional handicraft market. The authentic Incan city is seated on a precipitous mountain above the current Pisac town. This impressive citadel extends to 4 kilometers. The citadel involves ceremonial (spiritual) centre with Inti Watana (Sun Clock), temples showing perfect stone masonry, several water canals, ceremonial baths, military zone, residential zone as well as loads of Inca´s tombs placed in holes on a cliff. The entire citadel is surrounded by agricultural terraces placed on steep slopes.
Urubamba (2,870 m.a.s.l.) – is a lovely city and an unofficial capital of the Sacred Valley. Urubamba abounds with lovely weather which is the warmest of the entire valley. The city is also rich in many lovely tourist restaurants offering buffet lunch consisting of typical Andean cuisine.
Ollantaytambo (2,000 m.a.s.l.) – is the last still alive Incan town! The town has been continuously populated for over 700 years. Its streets are paved with cobblestones and you can see many authentic water channels all across the town. The biggest highlight of the town is its Incan complex that served once as a temple as well as a fortress. The complex is surrounded by precipitous terraces that had also a protecting purpose. On the top of the complex, a ceremonial area can be found, which represents an amazing example of Inca´s architecture. The ceremonial area involves three really huge stones that perfectly fit to each other. The complex witnessed one of the most important battles when Spanish conquistadors were defeated by the Incan ruler Manco Inca.
Chinchero (3,160 m.a.s.l.) – is a small town just 28 km far away from Cusco. It is surrounded by the snowy peaks of Salkantay, Soray and Veronica. There can be found ruins of the palace of Tupac Yupanqui (an Inca´s ruler) destroyed by Spaniards in 1607 to be built a colonial church called Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Monserrat on its top in order to demonstrate their dominance. This entire site is surrounded by many Incan agricultural terraces. Chinchero can also pride in beautiful and fine weaved textiles having typical designs of the site. The textiles as well as other handicraft can be found in their daily typical market.
Moray (3,500 m.a.s.l.) - is an archaeological site 50 kilometres northwest of Cuzco and just a short distance west of the village of Maras. This is a very extraordinary Inka's site consisting of many huge terraces formed by circular depressions. The largest of them is around 30 metres deep. The purpose of these depressions was to create different temperatures that enabled to the Incas to study effects of different climatic conditions on crops and after that, its cultivation. For that reason, Moray is considered to be an Inca´s agricultural experimental site as well as a prototype of the first greenhouse. Moray has got a complicated irrigation system too.
Salineras (approx. 3,200 m.a.s.l.) - are salt mines that have been used since pre-Inca times. Salt comes from a subterranean salty mineral stream that springs on a hill above the salt mines. The flow of the stream runs into a complicated system of tiny canals that irrigate a huge number of small salty pools. There are about 3,000 salty pools. Apart of that, the salt mines offer overwhelming view when seeing from above access road.