The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a must-see place when you visit Cusco, not only because you will pass through when you visit Machu Picchu but also because of its history, tradition, numerous Inca sites, Urubamba river, local villages, the food, the farming terraces, and many more reasons. You will find all the information you need to know about the Sacred Valley of the Incas on this page.
Location of the Sacred Valley in Peru
The Sacred Valley is located north of Cusco city; the closest town is Pisac, about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) away. Stretching from Pisac to Ollantaytambo, this fertile valley is irrigated by the Urubamba River, a tributary of the largest river globally, the Amazon river.
The Sacred Valley is the most important agricultural area of the Cusco region, where maize is produced. The biggest towns are Pisac, Calca, Yucay, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo, located on the right bank of the Urubamba River.
Machu Picchu is located further down from the Sacred Valley; although it is not part of the Sacred Valley, it is still part of Urubamba Valley, located 100 km (62m) from the town of Pisaq.
History of Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Incas were the largest empire in South America in the 15th and 16th Centuries; they started in the Cusco valley and soon conquered the nearby regions. The Sacred Valley was incorporated into the Inca Empire somewhere between 1000 to 1400 AD.
The Sacred Valley was the preferred getaway place of the Inca Kings due to proximity to Cusco, lower altitude, warmer weather, and fertile lands where maize was produced widely from Pisaq to Ollanataytambo.
The Incas built agricultural terraces on the hillsides flanking the valley floor; today is possible to see this advanced agricultural engineering all along the valley from Pisaq to Ollantaytambo.
In January 1536, the battle of Ollantaytambo took place between the forces of Manco Inca and the Spanish Conquistador Hernando Pizarro. Despite the victory of the Incas, Manco’s forces retrieved further down to the Valley of Machu Picchu and Vilcabamba, and the Spaniards occupied the Sacred Valley.
On June 24th, 1969, the Land Reform in Peru replaced the Latifundio and Minifundio system with rural land redistribution to the Campesinos organized in cooperatives and agricultural organizations. This reform eliminated a centuries-old system of debt peonage from the Colony.
Best places to see during the Sacred Valley Tour
Located 35 minutes from Cusco city, Ccochahuasi is a private organization dedicated to rescuing wild animals such as the Andean Condor, Puma, Spectacled Bear, deers, and many other local animals and birds from the area. By visiting Ccochahuasi, you will enjoy seeing these amazing creatures very close and help with this project to keep rescuing endangered animals.
Awanacancha was established in 2014 as the first interpretation center of South American camelids. You will be able to see in situ the llamas, alpacas. vicuñas and guanacos. Learn the history, differences, their fiber, and uses of these handsome creatures.
The lookout point of Taray is a must-stop place when you are exploring the Sacred Valley. After driving through the mountains of Cusco, you will arrive at Mirador Taray, from where you will have an amazing view of the mountains, the Sacred Valley, and the Urubamba River.
Pisaq Archaeological Site
Located right above the town of Pisaq, this spectacular place is located on top of a mountain at approximately 3500 meters. Pisaq is one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley. You will be able to see farming terraces, religious sites, urban areas, and the largest ancient Inca cemetery with more than 10,000 graves.
Pisaq is famous for its local handicraft market; hundreds of visitors will bargain with local art and crafts every day.
During the Sacred Valley tour, you will pass by Urubamba, the less touristic place in this group. Urubamba is a perfect place to have lunch. Most restaurants offer buffet meals with fresh local products such as quinoa, potatoes, beans, cuy, trout, corn.
The Last Living Inca Citadel, Ollanatyatmbo, has been continuously inhabited since the 15th century. Explore the original cobblestone streets and visit the double Jamba doorways of the buildings where the locals live in the same building where the Incas lived 500 years ago.
Ollantaytambo also has an amazing Inca Site. The fortress of Ollantaytambo was under construction when the Spaniards arrived.
The circular terraces of Moray are located 38 km north of Cusco. This stunning archaeological site consists of 4 Roman amphitheater-style circular terraces located in huge holes in the ground with a depth of 30 meters. Although the purpose of these terraces is not clear, it is believed that these terraces were used for agricultural experiments and adaptation to different crops.
Located at 3376 meters, Maras is a picturesque district located in the upper of the Sacred Valley.
Maras was inhabited during the colony to harvest the salt in Salineras located in the lower part of the town. We can find narrow streets with beautiful doorways.
Salineras de Maras
Salineras is located near the town of Maras, with more than 3,000 salt ponds. Villagers in Maras harvest salt here using the evaporation system, irrigating the ponds every day for a month with salty water from the mountains. Once the salt is thick enough (about 10 cm), its harvested and shipped to the local market, each member of Maras village owns a certain number of ponds, and together they created a local company called MARASAL.
Located at 3760 masl, it’s famous for its local market, colonial church, and farming terrace.
The residents of Chinchero are dedicated to agriculture, mainly growing potatoes and textiles using Andean designs, natural colors, and ancient traditional tools to produce the best fabrics in the area.