SACRED VALLEY OF THE
Sacred Valley of the Incas
The area of the valley between Pisac and Ollantaytambo is known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is a long narrow valley which, in the southern region, goes back up to Urcos and towards the north, crossing Ollantaytambo before it finally reaches the citadel of Machu Picchu. Over the years, the power of the Incas became more and more firmly implanted. The terraces are a testimony of the vast production of food, and the Ollantaytambo ruins reflect the ambitious plans of the leaders of Cusco. The best time to visit is April-May or September-October; the high season is June-August. The rainy season, from October to March, is cheaper but still pleasant enough.
Pisac and its Citadel
Pisac is approximately 32 kilometers from the city of Cusco. This area features traditional walls of carved stone, large homes (casonas) and ritual buildings, with a complex structure of terraces and irrigation channels. Pisac is well known for its crafts markets that are only open on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The trek to the ruins begins from the plaza which crosses the terraced gardens. The beauty of the scenery is spectacular. When you climb to the central part of the ruins, you will reach The Temple of the Sun, the Temple of the Moon and the carved stone referred to as Intihuatana. All of these structures express evident astronomical concerns. The area reserved for what could be called storehouses or granaries demonstrates the importance the Incas granted to the conservation of the crops.
Pisac to Urubamba
From Pisac, following the Vilcanota River towards the west, the narrow route between the river and the hills passes through the towns of Calca, Yucay and Urubamba before arriving at Ollantaytambo. Yucay is associated with some important events in Incan and colonial history. In the spacious Plaza de Armas, you will find a beautiful, impressive tree, the pisonay, whose leafy branches and beautiful flowers grant the town an air of festivity and elegance. The ruins of the Palace of the Inca Huayna Capac can also be found in this area. Urubamba is not located far from here. Like many places along the valley, Urubamba is in a fine setting with snow-capped peaks in view. The nearby White Mountain range provides the area with scenery of extraordinary beauty. It has many restaurants and pleasant dining areas with reasonable prices. The town offers the visitor a wide range of possibilities for rest and lodging, and includes a number of hotels and similar lodging options.
The town of Ollantaytambo is located on the opposite end of the Pisac Valley. The flights of terraces leading up above the town are superb. Likewise, the curving terraces following the contours of the rocks overlooking the Urubamba are impressive. This was one of the last areas in which construction was performed by the Incas before the arrival of the Spaniards. Many of the buildings begun in pre-Hispanic times were left unfinished. The abandoned stones and unfinished walls remain as testimonies of the battle in which Manco Inca faced when the Spanish conquistadors arrived. Overcome by the invaders, the Incas fled to the Vilcabamba jungle, an area that served as a final refuge for what remained of the political legacy of the Incas.
Chinchero is located between Urubamba and Cusco. This area is well known for its ruins and for the lovely church where one can find many paintings from the Cusco school. The church houses works of art and mural paintings by Diego Cusi Guamàn, as well as several canvasses by other artists. The main altarpiece is from the seventeenth century and represents the Virgin of Montserrat, to whom the church is dedicated. It is also an appropriate region to view the splendid snow-capped peaks in the surrounding area.
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