The Sacred Valley of the Incas is one of the most important destinations in South America. It houses beautiful traditional towns settled since colonial times like the Maras community. There the Incas built ancient citadels such as Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. They also cultivated a great diversity of agricultural products on terraces such as Moray. Today, all these places are very attractive tourist attractions for visitors, before or after the visit to Machu Picchu.
- Where is the Sacred Valley of the Incas located?
- What is the Sacred Valley of the Incas like?
- History of the Sacred Valley of the Incas
- All the places you can visit in the Sacred Valley
- All the sports you can do in the Sacred Valley
- What do I need to go?
- Tips for your visit
- Image gallery of the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Where is the Sacred Valley of the Incas located?
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located in the Urubamba province in Cusco, Peru. It is located 15 kilometers northeast of the city of Cusco . You get there by paved road from the city of Cusco. A car trip through one of the nearest towns will take around 40 minutes. From there you can move around the other towns in the valley. It is also possible to arrive by train. This trip ends in the town of Machu Picchu.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas
What is the Sacred Valley of the Incas like?
This valley was a sacred area for the Incas since it included an extensive territory that was very productive for agriculture. The main products grown by the Incas were: corn, potatoes, olluco, quinoa and coca leaves, considered a sacred plant . Today, agriculture continues to be one of the main activities of the inhabitants of this valley.
Due to the vast agricultural activity in the valley, the Incas decided to build their main temples and cities there. The most important urban centers were Pisac, Yucay, Chinchero and Ollantaytambo. Even a little more in the jungle, Emperor Pachacutec ordered the construction of a beautiful citadel to serve as his resting place and limit with the jungle towns: Machu Picchu .
The Vilcanota river runs through all the main towns in the valley. The Incas believed that this river was the earthly representation of the Milky Way. The Salkantay and Verónica mountains (considered gods by the Incas) crown the beautiful landscape. Today, the river, mountains, and land are still considered sacred by the people of Cusco who inhabit these lands . Many tourists come to the Sacred Valley to learn about its history and beauty.
History of the Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Sacred Valley was inhabited by small Andean communities until the conquest of the Incas (mainly under the emperor Pachacutec from 1438 to 1471) . Then, a period of important constructions of platforms, temples and cities such as: Ollantaytambo, Moray and even Machu Picchu began.
During the Inca civil war (1529 – 1532), the settlers of the valley remained loyal to Huáscar’s army . With the arrival of the Spanish, the rebel Inca Manco Inca fled through the Sacred Valley, burning Chinchero and settling in Ollantaytambo, where he fiercely fought the invaders. Before his imminent fall, he settled in the inaccessible jungle and established his reign in Vilcabamba.
With the conquest, the fertile territories of the valley were distributed by the Spanish. The main temples were destroyed and Christian churches were built in their place. Today many parts of Inca archaeological sites are in disrepair, either because of the weather or the damage caused by the Spanish. Even so, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is a highly visited tourist destination. The inhabitants preserve many of the ancestral traditions, even from the Inca period .
All the places you can visit in the Sacred Valley
– The town of Pisac is located 33 kilometers from the city of Cusco (it is known as the door to the Sacred Valley). It is world famous for its artisan market and its impressive archaeological remains, located in the upper part of the town. This town is important for its location and fertile land. Its Inca and colonial constructions are admirable. Furthermore, Pisac is famous for being an ideal place for spiritual retreats.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas
– Urubamba is one of the most important cities in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It was born during the colony and is considered the world capital of corn. This is possible thanks to the fact that it is watered by numerous rivers that are born in the peaks of the glacial mountains. All this territory was appreciated by the Incas due to the fertility of their lands. It is one of the best places to relax. There you will see many foreigners who decided to leave their countries and stay there.
– Ollantaytambo is located 97 kilometers northeast of the city of Cusco. During the Inca period it was a fortified city with temples, defense walls as well as urban and agricultural sectors. It is known to have served as an administrative checkpoint. It is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Peru and South America.
Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas
– The town of Chinchero is 28 kilometers from the city of Cusco. It is one of the points in the valley located at the highest altitude: 3,772 meters above sea level (12,375 ft). There was the palace of Emperor Tupac Yupanqui, which was destroyed by the Spanish. In its place they built the colonial church of Nuestra Señora de Monserrat. This church built in the 17th century includes canvases from the ‘Escuela cusqueña’. The town is also famous for its artisan market where you can still barter .
Chinchero in the Sacred Valley of the Incas
– The town of Maras is famous for its proximity to the hundreds of salt shafts that form a spectacular landscape. There you will see more than 5 thousand salt extraction pools built in the time of the Incas. A saltwater spring and the slope of the Qaqawiñay mountain were used for its construction. The Maras salt mines are one of the 4 places in the world where you can get pink salt . Villagers market this salt in the main markets of Cusco.
Salt Mines in Maras – Sacred Valley of the Incas
– The town of Moray is located 74 kilometers from the city of Cusco and houses the famous Inca circular platforms. This set of concentric circular platforms give the feeling of being an artificial crater . This place was one of the main ‘agricultural research centers’ of the Inca empire. It was dedicated to experimentation and planting of crops from different places. The different climates and altitudinal floors were built with the intention of making possible the sowing of products from the coast and jungle in cold climates.
Moray in the Sacred Valley of the Incas
– This quiet town is located 55 kilometers by road from the city of Cusco. In Inca times, the fertile lands of this place were used mainly for agricultural production. Emperor Huayna Cápac had a series of platforms and palaces built there . During the colony, the Yucay lands were distributed by the Spanish rulers who ordered the construction of churches and houses on the ancient Inca buildings. Today, it is a welcoming place for visitors interested in history since they still have Inca walls and platforms.
All the sports you can do in the Sacred Valley
– One of the most popular adventure sports in the Sacred Valley is the route that connects Chinchero, Maras and Moray by Quad bike. During the route, the tourist will be able to visit the Moray and Salineras de Maras platforms.
– There are several hiking trails in the valley. Perhaps one of the most popular of all is the Inca Trail, a route that begins in a section of Ollantaytambo and ends in Machu Picchu, after 39 kilometers of Inca trails.
– The via ferrata or rock climbing is practiced in the Pachar sector in Urubamba. It uses ropes, staples, handrails and nails to provide security to the visitor during the ascent to a high rock. It is one of the most extreme sports that can be practiced in the Sacred Valley.
– The zip line is practiced in the Maras area, close to the famous salt mines. The circuit consists of 4 cables, the longest is 1250 meters. The tourist can travel the 4 cables or the one that seems best to him. At the top you can enjoy all the scenic beauty of the valley.
– Boating takes place on the famous Vilcanota River, considered sacred by the Incas. The start of the adventure is between the towns of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo. There are different levels, depending on the visitor’s experience. The river tour takes between 1 to 2 hours.
– The starting point of the adventure is at the ‘Abra Málaga’, located 4,316 meters above sea level (14,160 ft). From there it descends for several kilometers until it reaches Ollantaytambo, located 2,792 meters above sea level (9,160 ft).
What do I need to go?
In addition to airfare and lodging in Cusco, it is important to get a tourist package to the Sacred Valley of the Incas or, if you are coming on your own, the Tourist Ticket of Cusco
which includes the main attractions of the valley.
Go with a tour package
– There are two tourist packages to the Sacred Valley: a) the Full Day Sacred Valley tour (includes Pisac, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero) and b) the Maras, Moray Half Day tour (includes the Maras salt mines and the Moray circular platforms) .
Go on your own
– If you are traveling on your own, it is important that you acquire the Tourist Ticket of Cusco Circuit 3 that includes admission to Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero and Moray . Transportation can be obtained on the ‘Pavitos’ street near the historic center of the city of Cusco.
Tips for your visit
Bring a rain poncho
– The Sacred Valley of the Incas is recognized for its temperate climate. However, rains can occur at any time. Carry a rain poncho at all times. Especially from January to March, when rains are more frequent.
If you travel without a tour, buy your Tourist Ticket
– Tourists who travel on their own, can buy the entrance to the archaeological site of their choice at the door of the place. However, the most economical option is to acquire the Cusco Tourist Ticket, which includes income to all parts of the valley: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero and Moray.
If you can, get lodging in the Sacred Valley
– Although most people decide to stay in the city of Cusco; the towns of the Sacred Valley offer quality options. And, above all, they offer a better climate (at a lower altitude) than the city of Cusco. For example, in the town of Urubamba there are hotels of all levels, including 5 stars.
Image gallery of the Sacred Valley of the Incas
Advice from people who have been there
“I recommend the way to Pisac for lovers of landscaping“
“Without a doubt, the best place to take photos is on the way to Pisac. You admire a beautiful landscape of crops that the ancient Incas appreciated for the benefits of Mother Earth. It is worth taking a few dozen photos in this place (not to exaggerate); It is very extensive, but in my opinion it is one of the best places for landscape lovers“
By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, May 22, 2020