- Altitude; between 2800 and 2400 meters above sea level
- Dry season; April – Mid-November
- Wet season; End November – March
- Biggest town; Urubamba
- Pisac market is one of the best artisanal markets in South America
- It Ollantaytambo the Spanish suffered one of the biggest defeats against the Inca
- Ollantaytambo is the last station for the train to Machu Picchu
- 1 -1.5 hour drive from Cusco
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is located at about one hour drive from Cusco. The drive takes you over beautiful highlands surrounded by snowcapped mountains until you start heading down into the Sacred Valley. As the Sacred Valley is located approximately 800 meters lower than Cusco, this is also an interesting place to acclimatize to the altitude. The lower altitude also provides you with a milder climate than Cusco.
The Sacred Valley runs from the city of Pisac to the city of Ollantaytambo at about 50Km apart. Both of these cities are seen as entrances to the Sacred Valley and hence are protected with impressive defensive fortresses from both sides. The site of Pisac is quite extensive and besides a religious part also boosts large Inca terracing and great views of the Sacred Valley. In Pisac you can see the Urubamba River (some parts are called the Vilcanote River) snaking its way through the Sacred Valley. It is this river that provided the Inca with a large part of their crops. The river floods parts of the valley yearly, leaving behind very fertile soil. The Valley is relatively wide and flat, providing a lot agricultural valuable land. From Pisac the main road in the Sacred Valley takes you through small villages, many constructed during the Inca era, to the North West to the small beautiful village of Olllantaytambo, also called Ollanta by locals. This village is known for several reasons. First of all because of the impressive Inca site that towers over the village, the fortress protecting this northern side of the Sacred Valley.
It was at this site that the Inca had one of their few victories over the Spanish conquistadores. The second reason Ollanta is known is because it is the final starting point for Machu Picchu. As there are no more trains leaving from Cusco for Machu Picchu (only from Poroy and Ollanta Station), this station has become more and more popular. It gives people the chance to spend the night in the Sacred Valley after visiting the valley and taking the train from this station the next day. It is from Ollanta that the train ride to Machu Picchu becomes the most impressive. Another reason why Ollanta is worth the visit is the fact that this is one of the few villages that for a large part is still laid out in the old Inca urban planning. The city is made out of blocks with one entrance and several different houses around the central patio. The streets are very narrow and have a gutter on the side to divert the water to the houses. This gives Ollanta even more than other villages the impression that time stood still here.
Besides all these interesting sights, the Sacred Valley also provides travellers looking for some quiet time in the countryside. The lower altitude and warmer climate make this an ideal region to walk, bike or just relax in the comfort of one of the great hotels and Spa’s you can find in this tranquil valley located so close to Cusco.
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