Sacred Valley of the Incas

So often when planning a visit to Machu Picchu, my clients initially think they will simply take the train from Cusco straight to Agua Calientes. That is of course until I insist that they include at least one night in the Sacred Valley along the way. To this date, no one has ever complained!

The Urubamba Valley, better known as El Valle Segrado de los Incas (Sacred Valley of the Incas) winds itself leisurely between the sacred bookends of Cusco and Machu Picchu. The Incas built several of the empire’s greatest estates, temples and royal palaces along the banks of the Urubamba River as rest points for the ancient travellers. It’s an incredibly beautiful stretch of small villages and ruins spread across the broad plains and mountain slopes northwest of Cusco.

The Rio Urubamba held great significance for the Incas. They believed that it was the earthbound counterpart of the Milky Way and a direct conduit to the constellations above. To this day it still serves as the “bread basket” of the region with flourishing agricultural crops and textiles.

The Valley inspires the photographer in all of us with incredible vistas of ancient ruins, bustling traditional market places, terraced agriculture land and mind boggling mountain-side carvings that rival Mount Rushmore! Although the area is becoming increasingly more popular with the international tourist, the daily lives and traditions of the local Quechua-speaking residents has remained relatively unaffected.

It has also become an area for those of us who prefer an active-style holiday. River rafting, hiking trails and mountain bike tours abound! The serene beauty and peacefulness of the Valley also lends itself to many wellness and yoga-style retreats in which to re-connect to the ancient mystics. In fact, the Urumbamba Valley is well known for its abundance of country-style hotels which range from simple farmhouse accommodations to luxurious resorts and unique boutique hotels such as the beautifully restored historical monument of the Monasterio de la Recoleta. This was definitely the highlight of my visit to the Sacred Valley.

There are a number of local operators which run day tours to the infamous marketplace of Pisac as well as the awe-inspiring ruins of Ollantaytambo but if you’re the independent sort, the local buses also run a daily loop between the roughly 60 km loop between the two.

Truly, you’re not doing yourself or the region a favour by rushing through this spectacular piece of country. Take a day or two to soak up the area’s immense history, peaceful character, huge sky and stunning scenery. Search for a local chicheria and sample the region’s fermented corn drink called “chica”. Wander the local streets, play soccer with the curious children and find that perfect keepsake in a bustling marketplace.

The Sacred Valley...truly a place worth stopping for.

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About the Author

Joy has long been a believer in the art of travel: the belief that a vacation is something to be anticipated savored and then long remembered as one of life’s great adventures. 
Website: thejoyoftravel.ca

You can contact Joy at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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