The Sacred Valley of the Incas is one of the most important destinations in South America. It houses beautiful traditional towns settled since colonial times such as the community of Maras. There the Incas built old citadels like Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. They also cultivated a great diversity of agricultural products on terraces such as Moray. Today, all these places are very attractive for visitors, before or after the visit to Machu Picchu.
Where is the Sacred Valley of the Incas located?
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located in the Urubamba province in Cusco, Peru. It is located 15 kilometers northeast of the city of Cusco. You get there by paved road from the city of Cusco. A drive through one of the nearest towns will take around 40 minutes. From there you can move around the other towns in the valley. It is also possible to arrive by train. This trip ends in the town of Machu Picchu.
Sacred Valley Altitude
The Sacred Valley altitude is 2,800 meters above sea level, with a temperature that ranges between 19 ° and 24 °, which allows tourists to adapt to the mountainous climate and avoid the páramo disease that usually affect them in the imposing city of Cusco, in case that is their destination, which exceeds them by about 600 meters in height and is at a distance of 32 kilometers from Písac, their closest town.
History of the Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Sacred Valley was inhabited by small Andean communities until the conquest of the Incas (mainly under the mandate of Emperor Pachacutec from 1438 to 1471). Then, a period of important constructions of platforms, temples and cities such as: Ollantaytambo, Moray and even Machu Picchu began.
During the Inca civil war (1529 – 1532), the valley’s inhabitants remained loyal to the Huáscar army. With the arrival of the Spanish, the Inca rebel Manco Inca fled through the Sacred Valley setting fire to Chinchero and settling in Ollantaytambo where he fought fiercely against the invaders. Before his imminent fall, he settled in the inaccessible jungle and established his reign in Vilcabamba.
With the conquest, the fertile territories of the valley were divided by the Spanish. The main temples were destroyed and Christian churches were built in their place. Today many parts of the Inca archaeological sites are deteriorated, either by time or damage caused by the Spanish. Even so, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is a highly visited tourist destination. The settlers conserve many of the ancestral traditions, even from Inca times.
Sacred Valley Facts
Here are 12 interesting Sacred Valley Facts that you should know:
- The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located between the southern Andes of Peru in the province of Urubamba, in Cuzco.
- The Sacred Valley has a large number of archaeological monuments in Peru. There are more than 350 places, among the most renowned and the least known.
- The valley is a territory highly appreciated by the indigenous people, for its geographical and climatic qualities that favor agricultural production.
- Its agricultural platforms are still used by the inhabitants of the area.
- In addition, the Sacred Valley was used by the Incas for religious rituals and the rest of the royalty.
- The Sacred Valley was part of the great Inca empire in South America. This ran from southern Colombia, through Peru and Bolivia to central Chile and northern Argentina.
- The Empire of the Four Regions of the Sun, or Tahuantinsuyo, was created in the 15th century by the Incas Pachacútec and Túpac Yupanqui. And it was connected by an impressive road network of 40 thousand kilometers.
- The court of the Incas and capital of the empire was Cuzco.
- In the Sacred Valley of the Incas there are a great number of towns that mix the Spanish influence with the indigenous one.
- The towns of Chinchero with their weavers are located there, and with their market where barter is still practiced. Ollantaytambo, its fortress and its living Inca people. Tambomachay and its channels and waterfalls that demonstrate the Inca hydraulic advances. Sacsayhuamán and its archaeological center of limestone rock constructions. Yucay and its Inca palace. Maras with its salt mines. Urubamba and its adventure sports. Moray with its circular stone constructions. And Písac and its artisan fair and the remains of the pre-Columbian cemetery.
- The magnificent complex of Machu Picchu, the most important legacy of the Incas. It is currently declared a Cultural and Natural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
- Machu Picchu would have been one of the rest residences of the Inca emperor Pachacútec. It is believed that it was also used as a religious sanctuary.
Things to do in Sacred Valley, Perú
The Sacred Valley of the Incas offers you a glorious start on your visit to Cusco and Machu Picchu; Sublime climate, overwhelmingly beautiful landscapes, colonial towns, ancient Inca settlements and very friendly people, reflect why so many people travel thousands of kilometers to visit this valley. These colonial cities inhabited mostly by artisans, artists, farmers and people fed up with the bustle of the city, is one of the best places to visit not only in Peru, but in South America. There are a lot of Things to do in Sacred Valley, Perú.
The ruins of Pisac
The ruins of Pisac are a must-see on your way through the Sacred Valley, ignorance of these ruins makes many of the people who visit the town of Pisac overlook this spectacular excursion; however, this “inadvertent” gives you the opportunity to explore something unique that not many people know about. If you visit Pisac, be sure to include the Pisac ruins in your itinerary, it can be the start or the highlight of your trip through Cusco and Machu Picchu. The ruins are located above the town of Pisac an hour from Cusco, and it is one of the best archaeological sites in Peru.
The Pisac market
40 minutes from Cusco at the eastern end of the Sacred Valley is the small town of Pisac. Visited in most cases for its many Inca ruins, but also for its market. Why is it so popular and what can be found there? It is known that in the time of the Incas, Pisac was a place of great agricultural importance, used to plant corn, quinoa, potatoes, kiwicha, etc.
The ruins of Ollantaytambo
In the VX century, the Inca Pachacútec conquered and began to rebuild Ollantaytambo, the old Inca administrative center and gateway to the “Inca Trail” that led to Machu Picchu. The city became the residence of the Inca nobility; after the death of Inca Pachacutec, Manco Inca used the city as a refuge against the Spanish; originally built for religious purposes, it would become a fortress to repel the attack of the invaders. The main attraction of the city of Ollantaytambo is the Ollantaytambo fortress, it is located in the place known as the Temple of the Hill; It is also the most common starting point for people who walk the Inca Trail.
The town of Chinchero
The small rural town of Chinchero is located between Cusco and Urubamba, at 3,762 m.a.s.l .; 350 m above Cusco. There is a great display of Inca architecture, ruins and megalithic carved rocks. Chinchero is also known as the home of Peruvian weaving and has a colorful market, much smaller than Pisac, but which will give you the opportunity to barter and acquire beautiful souvenirs, handicrafts, fabrics and others. It is thought that the Inca Tupac Yupanqui, ordered the construction of numerous aqueducts and agricultural terraces, many of which are still used today. The soil of Chinchero is one of the richest and most fertile in the Sacred Valley
The ruins of Moray
50 km from Cusco you can see the impressive Inca ruins of Moray, in a remote area of ??the Sacred Valley. The circular terraces rising from the valley floor are believed to have been an agricultural research laboratory. Its depth, design, and orientation relative to the sun have a specific purpose. Each of the terraces has a temperature difference of 15 ° C (27 ° F). So it is believed that the Incas used the terraces and the different temperatures to test crops and experiment with them. They experimented with hybrid species, adaptation and improvement of crops for human consumption.
The salt flats of Maras
Located in the middle of mountains, they look like snow with the sun reflected on it; the Maras salt flats are a true hidden beauty in the valley. Depending on the time of year you travel, you can see pools of water in each section of the salt fields, shining like mirrors. Admiring the white salt rocks against the green background of the mountains is a spectacle that you will not be able to see anywhere in the world.
The ruins of Tipón
The town of Tipón is located 30 minutes from Cusco and is famous for its traditional dish, “el cuy” (guinea pig), but it is also home to beautiful Inca ruins. The Tipón ruins represent the most impressive architecture on the south side of the valley; It is on the Cusco – Puno highway and is relatively free of visitors. The state of conservation of the terraces of Tipón is very good, you will also find finely designed fountains and water channels.
How to get from Cusco to Sacred Valley?
All the towns of the Sacred Valley of the Incas are accessed, through a paved road, from the city of Cusco, where the closest airport is located, the “Alejandro Velazco Astete”.
A little more than half an hour takes the trip from Cusco to Sacred Valley, the closest town is Písac, from where there is ground transportation to the rest of the towns.
If you want to visit the most important attractions in Cusco, including the Sacred Valley, the Cusco Peru vacation packages are the right tour for you.
There are several modes of transport to get from Cusco to Sacred Valley, depending on the economic availability of the visitor and the comfort you want. The cheapest are the buses that leave throughout the day from Calle Puputi in Cusco and take around 45 minutes to an hour to Písac.
Collectives or taxis
They also work small cars or minivans that leave once they are full and have a solidarity price. Pavitos Street in Cusco is one of the points where they can be located.
Taxis are the fastest means and have the advantage that they are available to the client, in terms of the speed of the transfer and the places that they are interested in knowing.
Likewise, from Cusco to Sacred Valley, tours are organized that cover the entire Valley and have expert guides who comment on the history, names and tourist attractions of each of the towns.