The Sacred Valley, or Vilcamayo to the Incas, traces its astonishingly beautiful course from Pisac down towards Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and eventually Machu Picchu. Located about 30km from Cusco, it is a steep-sided river valley that opens out into a very fertile but narrow alluvial plain. The Incas exploited the valley agriculturally well. The river itself starts in the high Andes south of Cusco and is called the Vilcanota, the same name as the mountain where the river emerges from. From here on down the river is known as the river ‘Río Urubamba’, an energetic and magnificent river which flows right down into the jungle where its merges with other major headwaters of the Amazon.
Pisac constitutes one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. It is located about 30 Km. (18.6 miles) to the northwest of Cusco. There is also a colonial town named Pisac in the lower part of the valley, established as a consequence of the famous "Indians Reductions" by which the scattered indigenous people were forced to live in small towns. The Inca site was built taking advantage of the dry and rocky mountain; even more, its location provided protection on the way to Antisuyo (Amazonian part of the Inca Empire). Today there are two possible ways to get to the archaeological site from the colonial town.
Located 97 kilometers from Cusco, Ollantaytambo was an administrative, social, religious and agricultural centre in Inca times. The site, and the town of the same name, is a must-see amongst the many sites of interest along the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The valley runs along the banks of the Urubamba or, in Quechua, "Wilcamayu" River. Its astounding natural beauty is further accentuated and embellished by the many pre-Hispanic ruins found all along its course.
Sacred Valley tour
You can visit the sacred valley by yourself from Cusco or take an organized tour. A quick way to see the highlights of the sacred valley is a one day tour from Cusco. On a 1 day tour you will visit the ruins of Pisac and the famous handycraft market of Pisac. You will have your lunch in the capital of the sacred valley of the incas: Urubamba. After the lunch you will visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo and the town of Chinchero with its beautiful church and streets. This tour to the sacred sacred of the incas includes transport, guide & lunch. Check the price of this tour >
Located towards the west of Cusco at an altitude of 3300 meters. (10824 feet), Maras looks over a plain that in prehistoric times was a huge plateau, from which it is possible to observe the Vilcanota mountains including the snow capped Weqey Willka (today "La Veronica", 5,682 meters., 18,641 feet) and " Chikon" (5,530 meters., 18,143 feet). It seems that in Maras there was a pre-Inca settlement with subsequent discontinued occupation. The salt pans close to Maras are worth a visit.
About 7 km. (4.3 miles) southwest of Maras is Moray, a unique archaeological site in the region. It can be reached by a dusty road and a path departing from the town. It consists of enormous natural depressions or hollows in the ground surface that the Inca used for constructing irrigated farming terraces. There is a surprising difference of average annual temperature between the top and the bottom of about 15°C (59°F) in the main depression which is about 30 meters (100 feet) deep. Moray, because of its climate conditions and many other characteristics, was an important centre of domestication, acclimatization and hybridization of crops that were modified or adapted for human consumption.
This is a National Archaeological Park located toward the east of Cusco; covering a territory of about 2200 hectares (5436 acres) in the Oropesa district, province of Quispicanchis. In order to get to the main archaeological monument there is a 5 km. (3 mile) dusty road from kilometer 18 (mile 11.2) of the Cusco-Puno road, towards the north wich crosses the "Watanay" rivulet. Most impressive is the irrigation system that is still used fpr agriculture and was made by taking advantage of an existing spring. It has carved stone channels, precisely calculated and sometimes with almost vertical falls that collectively constitute a hydraulic engineering master work. Likewise, there are some fountains that probably had ceremonial uses.
Pikillacta is a pre-Inca settlement that contains approximately 700 buildings, 200 "kanchas" (apartments) and 504 "qolqas" (storehouses) and different buildings. It must have had a population of about 10 thousand people. The site has a very harmonious and almost perfect geometrical design, divided in to straight streets. It covers an area of 3,421 hectares (8,453 acres), and is located in the Quispicanchis province, 32 km southeast of Cusco.
This town located 45 km southeast of Cusco, has a church with a humble external aspect that contains one of the most valuable jewels of colonial art in Peru, named the "Sistine Chapel of Peru." The interior of the Church of San Pedro reveals an explosion of Baroque art with a great quantity of decorations.