5 Places To Visit In Sacred Valley Peru That You Did Not Know
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is timeless, simultaneously working hard to protect its heritage whilst promoting its native culture. Since the beginning of the Inca empire, the valley has been a key region in terms of agricultural experimentation. Currently, the area serves as a popular tourist hotspot, offering a glimpse into Peruvian history and allowing travellers to explore Inca fortresses that are just as spectacular as Machu Picchu. From Inca citadels to mountainside hotels, we bring you 5 places to visit in Sacred Valley Peru that you didn´t know.
1. Pisac Market
The pleasant little town of Pisac sits on the bank of the Urubamba River, about a 32-kilometer drive from Cusco. Along with its impressive ruins, Pisac is popular for its huge and colorful Sunday market, a good place to shop for local handcrafts. The market is a constantly moving kaleidoscope of brilliant colors, with stacks of fabric woven in intricate patterns of vividly dyed wools, and Andean villagers are dressed in their traditional clothing. The big day is Sunday, but there are smaller markets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and usually some sellers on any day. While you may not find the high quality that you’ll find in craft cooperatives in Cusco, you can be sure of a wide selection and lower prices, especially if you are prepared to bargain. The market spreads across the main plaza, where there is a beautiful old church. You will also see women dressed in their finest, usually with a colorfully dressed child; they are here to pose for photographs, and will expect money if you take their picture. Pisac has lodging and restaurants, and for those with time to spare it makes a good stopover point, definetely one of the most popular places to visit in Sacred Valley Peru
Tambomachay was an Inca place for storage and, above all, a place where the water was worshiped. Here, the Inca bathed, taking away the impurities of the mundane; it was his “spa”. Although the translation of Tambomachay into Spanish reveals that it could’ve been a military post, we can still see how water continues to travel through its canals and aqueducts. You’ll see that the Incas made two waterfalls out of one, and how, by putting a bottle of water in each waterfall, both fill up equally at the same time. That’s perfection. A visit to the hot springs nearby is a must.
3. Salinas de Maras
Other Inca infrastructures that are still used by the people of the Sacred Valley are the Salinas de Maras, or salt ponds of Maras. Here, each local family owns at least one of the 3,000 ponds built on a mountainside in the time of the Tahuantinsuyo (Inca empire). The pools are fed by a saltwater hot spring that the Incas diverted to flow through the salt pans. As the water evaporates, the salt crystallizes and is harvested. The salt accumulates in the pools until the sun evaporates the water and the salt is ready to collect. Depending on the stage of evaporation, the ponds can look red or white, looking like an ancient city in itself on the side of the mountain. Each pool can yield 150 kilos of salt a month, so they formed a tremendous asset for the Incas.
You can reach Salinas by either hiking up to it or approaching it by car from the top on a somewhat tortuous unpaved road that winds its way down the mountainside. A few stopping areas along the way provide great views over the thousands of salt pools, giving some perspective on how huge this site is.
4. Huchuy Qosqo
Between the towns of Pisac and Urubamba, near the village of Lamay, the Inca ruin of Huchuy Qosqo is considered the third most important Inca site in the Sacred Valley, although one of the least popular places to visit in Sacred Valley Peru. It means “Little Cusco.” In this archaeological complex are the vestiges of a citadel as important as Ollantaytambo and Pisac.
It was Inca Wiracocha’s favorite estate from where he could continue to govern. Its main attraction is a great Inca Hall, known as a kallanka, which measures almost 40 meters long. The two-story building has an adobe top, and outside the hall are Inca terraces, a gate, and some smaller structures.
There is a reason why so few tourists see Huchuy Cusco. It is reached by a three-hour hike from the village of Lamay to reach Huchuy Qosqo, a place that looks like it was once a majestic Inca palace, much of it uphill. But for those who make the effort, it is a memorable sight.
Qenqo is one of the most intriguing and intricate archeological sites in the Sacred Valley. The different interpretations of the place indicate that it was an amphitheater, an astronomical center, an underground chamber for secret rites and a mortuary hall. It’s believed to have been a place of worship to the Sun and the Pachamama, Quechua for Mother Earth.