Located around a forty-minute drive from Cusco, the Sacred valley of the Inca´s is one of the most beautiful Valleys in the world. Surrounded by the Andes towering above, that are most of the year covered in snow, the valley is home to a variety of people from many different nations around the world. Attracted by the laid back lifestyle and the warm climate, the valley is a melting pot of culture, ruins and tourists which make it an interesting place to spend a few days, but be careful you may not want to leave!
In Inca times, the Inca´s spread themselves in the valley between Pisaq and Ollantaytambo and for 300 years before, that the Tahuantinsuyo culture flourished creating agricultural canals and terraces, still in use today. In Inca times, the valley was used to feed the Inca Capital of Cusco. It was here in the town of Ollantaytambo, that the Inca King Manco Inca, held off the Spanish for around fifty years. The area is dedicated to growing corn and if you get a chance, try the large, tender tasty, grain with a piece of the local cheese, it makes for a great mid morning snack sold everywhere in the Sacred Valley. There are many fascinating towns to discover, starting with Pisaq; the first town you will encounter when you leave Cusco. About a ten-minute drive from the town of Pisac are the impressive Pisac Ruins on top and down the side of the mountain, these ruins are truly a magnificent sight and are definitely not to be missed. With impressive agricultural terracing from the south and east of the complex, with graceful curves that hug the mountain, the ruins are a sight to behold from top to bottom. Included at the site, are a ceremonial center, temples, working water channels and ceremonial baths, these ruins are amazing to explore on your own, but if you wish, a guided tour will provide you with the additional benefit of the history of the ruins and the Inca´s. Back in the town of Pisac, is the famous Pisac Market, Local people descend from the mountain villages to sell their wares and the Plaza de Armas is full of colorful rugs, jumpers and many other handicrafts all waiting to be purchased. The local people also sell their produce so there are more than enough photo opportunities to be had, there are also many great little restaurants close to the plaza to enjoy lunch, but if you want to try the local food, the market have ovens where you can taste the empanadas freshly made and still hot from the ovens.
Moving on from Pisaq, is the Sacred town of Urubamba, underrated for its history, Urubamba is more commonly used as a base for people wanting to visit the Valley and Machu Picchu. Urubamba has many beautiful hotels and restaurants and the climate is sunny most of the year. There are many companies that offer horseback riding to the surrounding mountains of Urubamba, a lovely way to spend an afternoon in the Sacred Valley.
Further along the road is the grand Inca town of Ollantaytambo, where many start the famous Inca Trail. Also here there is the train station to Machu Picchu which makes the town a starting point for many travelers. But the most impressive thing about Ollantaytambo without a doubt is the Inca Ruins. Ollanta (as it is known by the locals) is dominated by the ruins and the view of the valley from the top of the ruins is quite incredible. The ruins include a ceremonial center at the top, and the terrands were constructed from stone bought from six kilometers away, the Incas diverted the Urubamba river to bring the stones to the site. Again with a guided tour you will be able to learn the history of the ruins and of the fierce battles that took place here. The town of Ollantaytambo itself is a magnificent example of Inca architecture and the town planning is the best surviving artifacts anywhere in Peru. The streets of Ollantaytambo are an impressive maize of babbling irrigation channels and cobblestoned streets giving visitors the impression of stepping back in time. Ollantaytambo is always full of tourists in the morning with full tourist buses, but later in the afternoon the town becomes calmer and more pleasant to visit, with many good little restaurants and bars to enjoy a few drinks and lunch.
There are many other small towns in the Valley with other interesting sites to see, the valley has a great climate all year round making it a pleasant place to spend a few days, and the quality and quantity of hotels grows every year giving endless choices to the every traveler and their budget.
Don’t overlook the Sacred Ollantaytambo, it is a beautiful place to visit on your trip to Peru and Cusco.