Cusco, Peru was once the capital of the great Inca Empire. The Inca had great architectural and building knowledge, meaning that many of their sites still scatter the region today. Sacred Valley, or Urubamba Valley, is located just 20km north of Cusco. Its many Inca ruins make for a beautiful day trip, or longer visit, depending on your time.
Our first stop into the Sacred Valley was at a textile show. Here we learned about the entire process of creating traditional textiles in the region. There was a demonstration of how thread was made, spun, dyed and knit together.
Our next stop was Chinchero, a small village which the Incas believed to be the birthplace of the rainbow. Here you can witness panoramic views of the Sacred Valley below and the peak of Salkantay in the distance. Explore the colonial church, built upon the foundations of an Inca temple.
Entrance to Chinchero is included in a Boleto Turístico, which for 70 Soles includes entrance to Chinchero, Moray, Ollantaytambo and Pisac.
Mara Salt Flats
Moras salt is quickly becoming a world recognized name for its unique flavor, due to the mineral content. These salt ponds have been used continually since pre-Inca times, more than 1000 years. Each small pond is owned and farmed by a family in the nearby town.
Entrance to the Maras Salt Flats costs 10 Soles per person. You can get your own bag of salt for any purpose right next door at one of the many little shops, which we suggest doing as any place else in the world it is easily ten times the price.
The Inca ruins of Moray are more than a building feat, with enormous pits reaching over 100 feet in depth. The unique structures might have also served as an agricultural research field, as the temperature between the top and bottom of the pit can differ by nearly 30°F and the terraces never flood no matter the rainfall.
You can walk down into the largest terraced circular depression and enjoy the handful of ruins in the complex. Entrance to Moray is included in the Boleto Turístico.
Ollantaytambo was once the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti, who brought the Inca Empire to its vast power. After the Spanish conquest of the region it became one of the last Inca holdouts, with its main temple left unfinished. Entrance to Ollantaytambo is included in the Boleto Turístico.
At the base of the Inca ruins is a substantial sized market full of all your souvenir needs. Ollantaytambo is also the closer train station if you are looking to get a cheaper train ticket to Machu Picchu.
Our tour of the Inca sites in the Sacred Valley ended with a visit to the Pisac Archaeological Park. Pisac is thought to have surved as a citadel, protecting the Southern entrance of the Sacred Valley and the route to the rainforest.
Entrance to Pisac is included in the Boleto Turístico. If you do go in the afternoon there can be a brisk wind, so do not forget a sweatshirt or jacket.