Named for being the main food supplier of the Inca empire, the Sacred Valley Cusco sits on the banks of the Urubamba River. This river in its beginnings has the name of Vilcanota, that comes from the Quechua word Wilcamayu or Sacred River. The Incas built archaeological centers, along their banks, that replicated the constellations that they knew of the Andean sky so this contributes, even more, to the beauty of this enchanting valley.
Location and climate of the Sacred Valley of the Incas:
Located in the heart of the Sacred Valley, Urubamba (2 871 masl), is located 78 km northwest of the city of Cusco on the route to Pisac (1 hour 25 minutes by car) or 57 km (45 minutes by car Cusco by the route of Chinchero). Its altitude is 2,800 m.a.s.l, which gives it a more benign climate. As it happens in the lands located at this height, its climate is marked by two seasons: rains and drought.
The rainy season occurs between the months of November to April. Then a downpour may break out in seconds and, unfortunately, it does not always enjoy a blue sky. But the rainy season also has its advantages, since the hills are covered with an intense green and the temperatures are usually mild. During the dry season the colors of the sky are bright, but the air is usually so dry that the skin seems to break. The night is usually very cold and can freeze at dawn. The starry sky is a real show during this season.
The Sacred Valley is, climatically speaking, an ideal place. This was recognized by the ancient Peruvians who came here to heal. Despite reaching high temperatures and being an area full of vegetation, the valley is free of mosquitoes because of the altitude at which it is located. In addition, it is difficult to suffocate, because always a fresh breeze blows.
Tourist attractions on the Sacred Valley Cusco
Pisaq Tour: Typical Andean village 32 km. southeast of Cusco in whose main square is held on Thursdays and Sundays the craft fair of Pisaq. In his old church, the Catholic mass in Quechua is celebrated every Sunday with the assistance of the mayors of the surrounding districts who typically wear and carry the “rod” or command scepter for which they are called “Varayocs”.
A few kilometers from the town and on a mountain, there is the Archaeological Center of Pisac, made up of numerous squares and neighborhoods, among which is an enclosure or temple where there is a solar calendar or “Intiwatana”. The Inca constructions of Pisac are admirable for their polished stone structures, perfectly assembled; they are surrounded by watchtowers or points of observation and defense, as well as by a large number of terraces.
Urubamba Tour: 78 km. northeast of Cusco via Pisaq and 57 km. via Chinchero. It is located in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It has a healthy climate, extraordinary landscapes highlighting Chicón and the picturesque countryside. It was one of the main agricultural centers of the Inca Empire. The climate conditions are so favorable that in the 18th century, the well-known naturalist Antonio León de Pinelo, maintained that this place was the biblical paradise. In the rainy season there are many fruits of the valley. Urubamba offers different alternatives for the practice of adventure tourism: hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
Town of Chinchero (3 772 masl): 28 km northwest of the city of Cusco (45 minutes by car). Stresses the church built during the years of the colony, which can see beautiful canvases of the Cusquenian School. On Sundays there is a fair in which merchants and farmers exchange their products, even using barter (exchange). In the area there are important archaeological remains.
Town of Maras: 48 km northwest of the city of Cusco (1 hour by car). It was an important town during the viceroyalty; this is demonstrated by the church and the houses that still conserve the shields of indigenous nobility in their facades. Currently its main economic activity is agriculture.
Town of Yucay: 68 km north of the city of Cusco (1 hour 30 minutes by car). According to the legends, it was the personal property of the Inca Huayna Capac. Since ancient times it was considered a very important center of hydraulic technology and agricultural production. In this town you can see the Inca Manco Sayri Tupac Palace.
Maras Salt Mines: 10 km from the town of Maras (30 minutes by car or 2 hours on foot). Also called Salineras They are salt mines whose exploitation is as old as the Tahuantinsuyo. The inhabitants channel the saline water that emanates from the ground – from an eye of water called “Qoripujio” – to pools where, due to the effects of the sun, it evaporates leaving salt on the surface, which is then treated for sale in the local market . The view of the set of approximately three thousand pools is spectacular. The villagers show visitors their ancestral techniques and allow them to intervene in the collection.
Archaeological site of Moray: 9 km northwest of the city of Maras (25 minutes by car). It is made up of 4 slightly elliptical galleries, which the settlers call “muyus”. The main gallery has a depth of 45 m and the average height of each platform is 1.80 m. It is considered that the place was an important center of agricultural experimentation during the Inca period. Through the use of concentric platforms and because the temperatures in each level are different from each other, they would have reproduced all the ecological floors that the Tahuantinsuyo empire encompassed.
The Inca Fortress of Ollantaytambo: 97 km northwest of the city of Cusco (2 hours and 30 minutes by car). It was built during the Inca period as a fortified area that includes a temple, platforms and an urban sector. Two sectors can be distinguished: one denominated “Araqama Ayllu”, zone linked to the cult and the religion; and the second “Qosqo Ayllu”, a group dedicated to housing. Ollantaytambo was an important administrative center that probably also fulfilled military functions, as its walls and turrets show. There are also traces of ancient roads and aqueducts. The town of Ollantaytambo is called “Live Inca Town”, because its inhabitants maintain very old customs and practices. From Ollantaytambo you can visit the town of Willoc, whose inhabitants, of Quechua language, are distinguished by their red clothes that identify them as members of a unique ayllu and different from the rest of the region.
The cultural tour through the Sacred Valley
The tour through the sacred valley will take you through a markedly traditional route, you will meet Quechua-speaking residents, wearing traditional costumes, working your fields in a traditional way; It will pass through villages built during colonial times, by ancient Inca settlements; It will travel through markets, temples and city squares that took it a few hundred years ago, in the middle of a valley that was sacred to the Incas. However, to visit the main archaeological remains of the Sacred Valley, you will need to buy the Cusco tourist ticket.