Exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas

If you are heading to Cusco or Machu Picchu, be sure to carve out a day to head out to the Sacred Valley. It is the agricultural bread basket for Cusco and filled with Inca ruins. We took a day trip from Cusco and made three stops in the valley.

Chinchero , known locally as the birthplace of the rainbow, seemed like a good first stop. We checked out some ruins and a local farm where we learned about the local customs  (a bit touristy, but it was quick). At the farm, the local women showed us how llama wool is made into yarn, how it is dyed using local plants as well as the beautiful textiles that these women make.  Chinchero also has a gorgeous Spanish church that dates back hundreds of years. Roughly 75-80% of Peruvians practice the Catholic religion now, and it only took about a hundred years of torture, massacres and other persuasive techniques by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries to make everyone see “the light”.



Natural dyes for llama wool


El Dinner! Cuy (guinea pig) is a local dish for special occasions
Good luck charms found on most homes to ward away the earthquake spirits.


High above the Urubamba River

Next stop was the town of Ollanaytambo .  This is the gateway town for those taking the train to and from Machu Picchu, but it also has an impressive set of ruins.  It is definitely worth a few hours to explore the town and ruins.  Ollanaytambo has storage houses built by the Incas for the produce from the Sacred Valley strategically located where the temperatures are lower.  The Incas also built an irrigation system that is still used today by the town of Ollanaytambo and folks that live in the town do not pay for water to the local government thanks to the Incas’ amazing engineering.  Manco Inca, the  emperor that fought the Spanish conquistadors in the 1530’s ,also stayed here for a period of time after fleeing Cusco when the Incas lost hold of Cusco to the Spanish.


Inca expansion joint


Quinoa still being grown among the ruins


The three steps (Inca cross or Chakana) are everywhere in “Incaville” and represent the three locations of life- upper world, middle world, and lower world.

Pisac was our final stop. It is another small market town with some ruins. The views from above were quite dramatic.  The ruins include the largest known Inca cemetery, a residential settlement and ceremonial baths. The ruins are surrounded by agricultural terraces which were actually used by the local farmers until about the 1980’s.  Most of the porters working on the Inca Trail also live in a small village near Pisac.


Look closely, you will see holes where grave robbers and pillaged ancient Inca burial sites on near vertical mountain walls.

2 thoughts on “Exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas

  1. Pingback: Some Speed Bumps on the Road – Go Circa Mundi

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