The Urubamba Valley or ‘The Sacred Valley of the Incas’ is a large area of immense cultural interest and importance just outside of Cusco with a number of archaeological sites to explore.
However the valley also offers a huge variety of activities such as white water rafting, horse riding, birdwatching, mountain biking and some wonderful hiking.
- Practice your haggling at the vibrant artisan market in Pisac
- Wander around Moray’s mysterious concentric bowl-like terraces
- See the workers extracting salt in the remarkable salt pans of Salinas
- Meander around the ruins of the spectacular Ollantaytambo fortress
- Head out on horseback through the stunning Urubamba Valley
At Sacsayhuaman, it is the sheer size of the blocks of rock that the Incas carved and used in their construction that is so remarkable with some blocks weighing almost 130 tons and yet they still managed to fit them together with absolute precision. It has three great walls with 21 bastions along the way, so it was originally thought to be a huge fortress, but modern thinking suggests that in fact this is a temple to the Sun with an altar of solid rock. Priests’ graves have also been discovered here, which is another clue to its original purpose.
As you head further down into the valley the little town of Pisac is one of the first main towns you come to and where you can enjoy the fabulously vibrant and colourful market (daily, but main days are Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday).
Just outside Pisac the labyrinth of cultivation terraces is impressive enough and shows the great care which the Incas devoted to their system of agriculture and irrigation, but the ruins themselves are fascinating. The Intihuatana temples and rock outcrops are magnificent and were an important astronomic observatory for the Incas. Here you see the Reloj Solar (Sun Clock); palaces of the moon and stars; the baths and water channels and the solstice marker, which played a significant role in their lives.
The spectacular Inca ruins and terraces behind the little town of Ollantaytambo are an impressive sight and one not to be missed. The Bano de la Lusta (Bath of the Princess), the temple observatory of Inca Misanca and the irrigation canals cut out of the sheer rock face are fascinating. The huge flights of terraces that follow the contours of the rocks were successfully defended by the Inca warriors against Hernando Pizarro in 1536 and were shortly after turned into fortress walls, which are still clearly visible today.
Other sites of interest include the salt pans of Maras, the circular Incan terraces at Moray, Huilloc, as well as the old fort of Puca Pucara and there is a wide variety of activities available in the area such as white water rafting, horse riding, bird watching and excellent hiking.