The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a must for anyone who visits Cusco because of its picturesque towns, indigenous terracing, ancient archaeological sites from the Inca culture, vast fields of corn, and beautiful weather.
The terracing system is still in use and is combined with today's hydraulic engineering and systems to grow the best corn in Peru.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located 16.5 miles northeast of Cusco along the banks of the Vilcanota River, whose name changes to the Urubamba River farther downstream.
It stretches between the towns of Písac on one end and Ollantaytambo on the other.
Just a one hour journey from the city of Cusco will take you to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and its incredible archaeological sites, such as Ollantaytambo.
Sacsayhuamán: The name Sacsaywaman or Sacsayhuamán is derived from two Quechua words: “Sacsay,” which means satiate and “wamán," which means hawk; together they mean “eat your fill, hawk” This puzzling meaning is a reference to the fact that the birds were divine protectors of the Incas and the military battalions.
Qenko: The Qenko, or Kenko, archaeological complex lies approximately 2 miles from Cusco.
This ceremonial center has a 20-foot-tall monolith at its center that is shaped like an animal, an enormous stone, a semicircular amphitheater and a group of rocks with mythical images hewn into them in praise of Mother Earth.
Tambomachay: 4.5 miles northeast of Cusco stands Tambomachay, At 12,350 feet above sea level, the architecture of this Inca bath consists of a group of structures built with precisely cut stones.
Water from nearby streams runs through the site in aqueducts and small cascades.
Pisac: At 9680 feet above sea level and 20 miles from Cusco on a paved road lies the village of Písac, a picturesque place near important archaeological sites. The main square is a lively spot, full of color and with various handicrafts for sale.
This town is known for its astronomical observatory. Its structures have huge walls erected with impressive blocks of polished and perfectly symmetrical stone, showing the complete mastery and architectural prowess of the Incas.
Moray: Moray is 4.5 miles from the town of Maras and 39 miles from Cusco. The main feature that impresses travelers is its system of circular agricultural terraces, which are up to 330 feet deep. They are build using retaining walls connected by an irrigation system.
Moray can be considered a crop lab– they used the terraces to create micro-climates and grow various products.
Maras: The salt mines, or the famous "salt pools" of Maras are located in the rural community of Pichingoto.
This site is highly recommended for photography lovers because of its impressive landscape that stretches out in all of its splendor.
It is also perfect for hikers and mountain bikers since this trail connects the salt mines with the villages of Tarabamba and Pichingoto.
Ollantaytambo: 48.5 miles by paved road from Cusco is Ollantaytambo, a lovely village that preserves the designs of Inca buildings located at an altitude of 9160 feet in the province of Urubamba.
One of the most impressive attractions is the ceremonial temple in the worship of water and a fortress that guarded the entrance to the valley to repel any invasions.
Chinchero: A village 19 miles from Cusco. Near the village stands the 18,140-foot Chicón, a glacier-capped mountain with a summit that offers sweeping views of the landscape, punctuated by the Vilcabamba and Vilcanota ranges.
Chinchero means "brave man" and is unique for its Spanish buildings and its past as an important agricultural center during the Tahuantinsuyo (Inca Empire).
This classic Sacred Valley tour begins at 7:30 am from your hotel in Cusco, your guide will pick you up in our private vehicle and drive towards the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
After driving about 45 minutes we will stop at Alpaca Farm or Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary (to visit and observe some animals that are not easy to see in the Andes).
Now serving as a shelter for wild species (some even in danger of extinction), the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, will give you the opportunity to appreciate some rare species including the Andean Condor (the largest bird in the Andes), pumas, vicuñas, alpacas among others.
Then, we continue to the famous lookout point of the Sacred Valley, where we´ll be able to see Wilcamyu (Sacred River of the Incas) and gain some insight into the Inca history.
Continuing on, we will drive towards one of the largest archaeological sites of the Sacred Valley that is Pisac. It is located on the hillside of the mountain with temples, farming terraces, and water fountains.
After exploring Pisac, we will drive back to the town of Pisac to stop at the bustling handcraft market.
After that, you can spend some time walking around the colorful local market.
Next, we will drive along the Urubamba River towards the town of Urubamba to have lunch.
After lunch, we will continue driving to reach to the unique archaeological site of Ollantaytambo. We will tour the magnificent site, and explore the Temple of the Sun made by giant stones.
Finally, we start the return trip to Cusco. On the way back, we will stop at the Andean textile center of Chinchero. After finishing the visit, we head back to Cusco where we will drop you off at your hotel.
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