Located around a forty-minute drive from Cusco, the Sacred valley of the Inca´s is one of the most beautiful Valleys on the planet. Surrounded by the Andes towering above, that are most of the year covered in snow, the valley is home to a variety of people from many different nations around the world, attracted by the laid back lifestyle and the warm climate, the valley is a melting pot of culture, ruins and tourists which make it an interesting place to spend a few days, but be careful you may not want to leave.
In Inca times, the Inca’s spread themselves in the valley between Pisaq and Ollantaytambo and for 300 years before that the Tahuantinsuyo culture flourished creating agricultural canals and terraces, still in use today.
In Inca times the valley was used to feed the Inca Capital of Cusco. It was here in the town of Ollantaytambo that the Inca King Manco Inca held off the Spanish for around fifty years. The area is dedicated to growing corn and if you get a chance, try the large, tender tasty, grain with a piece of the local cheese, a great midmorning snack sold everywhere in the Sacred Valley. There are many fascinating towns to discover starting with Pisaq the first town you will encounter when you leave Cusco.
About a ten-minute drive from the town of Pisaq are the impressive Pisaq Ruins on top and down the side of the mountain, this ruin is a truly magnificent sight and is definitely not to be missed. With impressive agricultural terracing from the south and east of the complex with graceful curves that hug the mountain the ruins are a sight to behold either from the top or from the bottom. Included at the site are a ceremonial center, temples, working water channels and ceremonial baths, these ruins are amazing to explore on your own, but if you wish a guided tour will give you the additional benefit of the history of the ruins and the Inca’s. Back in the town of Pisaq is the famous Pisaq Market.
Local people descend from the mountain villages to sell their wares and the Plaza de Armas is full of colorful rugs, jumpers and many other handicrafts all waiting to be purchased. Also the local people sell their produce and the photo opportunities are many, there are also many great little restaurants close to the plaza to enjoy lunch, but if you want to try the local food the market have ovens where you can taste the empanadas freshly made and hot from the ovens.
Moving on from Pisaq through the Sacred is the town of Urubamba, not really noted for its history, but Urubamba is more used as a base for people wanting to visit the Valley and Machu Picchu. Urubamba has many beautiful hotels and restaurants and the climate is sunny most of the year. Also there are many companies that offer horseback riding to the surrounding mountains, a lovely way to spend an afternoon in the Sacred Valley.
Further along the road is the grand Inca town of Ollantaytambo, where many start the famous Inca Trail. Also here there is the train station to Machu Picchu which makes the town a starting point for many travelers. But the most impressive thing about Ollantaytambo without a doubt is the Inca Ruins. Ollanta (as it is known by the locals) is dominated by the ruins and the view of the valley from the top is quite incredible.
The ruins include a ceremonial center at the top, terracing and was constructed from stone bought from six kilometers away, the Incas diverted the Urubamba river to bring the stones to the site. Again with a guided tour you will learn the history of the ruins and about the fierce battles that took place here. The town of Ollantaytambo itself is a magnificent example of Inca architecture and the town planning is the best surviving anywhere in Peru. The streets of Ollantaytambo are an impressive maize of babbling irrigation channels and cobblestoned streets giving an impression of stepping back in time. Ollantaytambo is always full of tourists in the morning with full tourist buses but later in the afternoon is calmer and more pleasant time to visit, with many good little restaurants and bars to enjoy a few drinks and lunch.
There are many other small towns in the Valley with other interesting sites to see, the valley has a great climate all year round making it pleasant place to spend a few days, the quality and quantity of hotels grows every year giving an endless choice to the traveler.
Don’t overlook the Sacred as a beautiful place to visit on you trip to Peru and Cusco.