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Exploring the Sacred Valley

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 24-04-2023

 

The Sacred Valley is a beautiful region, approximately one hour's drive from Cusco. Peru's Sacred Valley is also the gateway to Machu Picchu. Explore the stunning archaeological sites of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, and Chinchero, on this magical one-day Sacred Valley tour from Cusco and dive into Inca history as well as see how the local communities still live in the traditional way, to this day.

 

Found in between Cusco and Machu Picchu lies the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This is a region that epitomizes the heart and soul of Peru. With its impressive landscapes, rich history, and living culture, the Sacred Valley offers a unique blend of adventure and tranquility. Visit when you travel to Cusco Peru!

Children in The Sacred Valley

 

Pisaq

 

The Pisaq archaeological site guards the southern entrance to the Sacred Valley. Very little is known for sure about the site, including when and why it was built. The Killke culture occupied Pisac in the Late Intermediate Period, from 900 - 1200 AD as ceramics were found during the excavation and during the expansion of the Incas in the 1400s, Pachacuti, the ninth Inca king, ordered the site's construction.

 

Pisac is famous for its colorful artisan market and impressive Inca ruins. It is perfect for a Sacred Valley tour from Cusco. The market is a feast for the senses, with stalls selling colorful textiles, pottery, and jewelry. The Pisac archaeological site, above the town, offers amazing views of terraced hillsides and ancient ceremonial buildings.

Pisaq Terraces

Pisac was an important center for agriculture, trading, and a religious site during the Inca Empire's height. The Incas built the large Pisac complex, including temples, farming terraces, storage buildings, and homes for the nobility. Pisac is located at the intersection of the Sacred of the Incas, The Amazon, and the South of Cusco. Due to its strategic location, Pisac was also an important military center, as it served to control the neighboring regions. One theory is that it was built by Inca ruler Pachacuti, to commemorate his victory over the Cuyos people. Another possibility is that Pisac was constructed to protect Cusco from attacks by tribes from the Antis nation.

 

The Pisac Archaeological Site provides a fascinating glimpse into the Inca civilization. With its impressive terraces, detailed stonework, and stunning panoramic vistas, it is a highlight of any Cusco day trip to the Sacred Valley. Exploring this ancient site allows you to develop a deeper understanding of Incan construction techniques and spiritual beliefs.

Pisaq Archaeological Site

 

Regardless of why it was built, there’s no doubt that Pisaq ruins occupy a strategic location. Perched high on a mountain ridge above the village of Pisaq, there’s a clear view of the surrounding valley. The ancient city is also protected by a plunging gorge. Pisac was grouped into sections, so the archaeological remains are spread apart but accessible by pathways. There was an agricultural zone, military sector, urban quarters, ceremonial center, and a cemetery. Qantus Raccay, was one of Pisac’s residential areas. It consists of a group of Inca baths, possibly used for religious purposes, and some other urban buildings. One of the things Pisaq is most famous for is the magnificent terraces that reach as far as the eye can see. Q’alla Q’asa is the highest point of the archaeological site and although itInca may not have top-of-the-line construction techniques, it still has some impressive engineering. Most of the buildings are built onto the side of a rocky cliff, making the most of the few areas of flat land and blending in nicely with the surroundings. The Incas also had running water here. One thing is for sure, the Pisaq ruins are one of the principal archaeological sites to visit on a  Sacred Valley tour from Cusco.

 

Buying textiles on your Cusco tours directly from the weaving communities of Pisac is one of the main reasons to visit the Sacred Valley. Not only does it give you an authentic souvenir, but also supports the local economy. Fairtrade practices ensure that local artisans receive a fair price for their work, helping to sustain their traditional way of life.

Pisaq Weaver

 

Ollantaytambo

 

Nestled in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo is home to some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in Peru, and some of the most extensive and fascinating Incan ruins you’ll find anywhere. Ollantaytambo is also the most common starting point for the famed four-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu, perhaps the most well-known trek in the world. Many visitors spend just an hour or two at the Ollantaytambo Ruins or skip it entirely on the way to Machu Picchu, which is a reason why you should visit this remarkable archaeological site on your Sacred Valley tour from Cusco.

 

Strolling through Ollantaytambo is like taking a step back in time on your Cusco tours. The small adobe houses, which have been inhabited since Inca times, provide a glimpse into authentic Andean life. The town market offers local crafts, textiles, and fruits and vegetables allowing visitors to engage with the locals and support the community.

Ollantaytambo Street

 

Ollantaytambo was an important Incan city in its time and the royal estate of the Incan Emperor Patchacuti. Upon the arrival of the Spanish, it was the site of the Battle of Ollantaytambo in 1537, led by Incan resistance leader Manco Inca against the conquistador Hernando Pizarro. Today Ollantaytambo is one of the most important destinations in the Sacred Valley. The ruins at Ollantaytambo are some of the most visited in the Sacred Valley of The Incas.

 

>On your Peru tour packages, one of the most important structures in Ollantaytambo ruins is the Ñusta's Bath. This ceremonial fountain showcases the Inca’s sophisticated hydraulic engineering. The water channels and fountains throughout Ollantaytambo highlight the importance of water in Inca society.

Ollantaytambo Ruins

 

This charming village boasts picturesque cobblestone streets lined with Inca canals that still flow with water. Walking along the narrow alleyways has a way of transporting you back in time when this was not only a strategic center, but a ceremonial hub of the Incas. Offering a rich history and the absolute sheer beauty of the Urubamba River Valley, there are endless things to do in Ollantaytambo Peru. For a geographically small area, Ollantaytambo boasts both Pre-Inca and Inca ruins, worthwhile hikes, and treasures scattered among the mighty snow-capped mountains. The perfect inclusion for a Sacred Valley tour from Cusco or the perfect stop off on any Machu Picchu vacation package.

 

Ollantaytambo on your Peru vacation packages, stands out due to its extensive agricultural terraces that stretch up the mountainsides. These terraces were designed to prevent erosion and maximize arable land. They also showcase the Inca’s advanced agricultural techniques.

Ollantaytambo Ruins

 

Chinchero

 

Chinchero was the royal estate of Topa Yupanqui, the tenth Inca king and son of the great Pachacuti. He built this estate during his reign in the late 1400s. Most of the buildings have either been lost or incorporated into the church or other structures, all that’s really left are the terraces. But what terraces they are! Their restored condition is excellent and they dramatically overlook a sharp ravine. In the near distance, the mountains of the Sacred Valley rise, and beyond them stand the high peaks.  in addition to the terraces, Chinchero has three sets of large wak’a or shrines carved in large rock outcrops. The first on our walk, Titicaca, lies down from and north of the large main plaza and west of the main terraces. It is a huge split boulder with each section as large as a house. It has a couple of sets of stairs carved, a large niche, as well as other modifications.

 

Chinchero, or the "Birthplace of the Rainbow," is a picturesque Andean village in Peru's Sacred Valley. It can be found just 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Cusco on your Sacred Valley tour from Cusco. This charming high-altitude village is renowned for its quaint colonial church, vibrant traditional markets, and impressive Inca ruins.

Chinchero Village

 

The ancient town of Chinchero comes alive on a Sunday when it is market day. The market is one of the most authentic traditional markets in The Sacred Valley with plenty of vendors, and local women in their traditional dress, food, and drink. Although you can buy authentic souvenirs, this market is not just for tourists. Many stalls sold fresh fruit & vegetables, bread, and cheese for the folks living in Chinchero and the surrounding villages. The food is delicious with local delicacies such as fried trout, chili relleno, chicha, and fermented corn beer, scooped from a bucket. Some chicha called Frutillada has strawberries in it, so it is sweeter and pink in color.

 

Chinchero is famous for its skilled weavers who use traditional techniques. Visitors can participate in weaving demonstrations on their Peru culture tours and learn all about the natural dyes, patterns, and symbolism that are integral to Andean textiles. The weavers are eager to share their knowledge and stories, providing a deeper appreciation for this ancient craft.

Chinchero Weavers Center

 

A stunning Adobe church and a colorful market will tell you that you're in the small town of Chinchero. By now, you might have understood that there are way too many things to do in the Sacred Valley, which is probably why the site of Chinchero is a little bit overlooked. The ruins at Chinchero consist of a series of nested terraces built for farming and agricultural purposes, and some are still in use today. This is a lesser-visited site but one that you should visit on any Sacred Valley tour from Cusco.

 

Visitors to Chinchero on Cusco Peru tours can observe the weavers in action. The process begins with spinning and dyeing the wool to create intricate patterns on traditional looms. Purchasing directly from the artisans supports the local economy and helps preserve these ancient traditions.

Chinchero Weaver

 

If you want to visit the astounding Sacred Valley tour from Cusco on a one-day trip, then ask us here for more information about our remarkable Exploring The Sacred Valley tour.

 

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