Just an hour by road from the city of Cusco, ancient capital of the Inca Empire, lies the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The Valley of the Empire
Once the breadbasket of the Inca culture, it is where the Incas established their most productive farmlands and built some of their most impressive sacred temples, towns, markets and fortresses, all of which can still be visited today.
The Sacred Valley was gradually occupied by the Incas beginning in the 14th century. Eventually, the sacred site of Pisac was built, an amazing complex of stone temples at the top of a sharp ridge at one end of the Valley, today located above the market town of the same name.
The Valley still today offers the best soils in the region and a swift, mighty river, the Vilcanota (or Urubamba), provides essential irrigation for native crops.
Several miles further downstream is the location of one of the Inca’s most impressive fortresses, Ollantaytambo.
At the very far end of the Valley, up high in the cloud forest where the invading Spaniards never reached, is one of the existing Wonders of the World, the citadel of Machu Picchu- the most important archeological site in South America.
In Inca times and during the Spanish conquest, the Valley was the site of pitched battles and countless other historical events.
Located about one thousand feet below Cusco city itself, and surrounded by huge mountains and glaciers, the Sacred Valley also provided a warmer climate where Inca kings and nobility would enjoy their leisure time.
This continues still today, as both international visitors and Cusqueños alike enjoy the best that the Cusco region has to offer.
Tourism in the Valley
You just can’t miss the Sacred Valley on your visit to Cusco. Visitors traverse large parts of this valley by road and train on their way to Machu Picchu.
Most spend at least a day in the Valley, and many stay for several days (or weeks!), enjoying the countless delights and adventures this world-class destination has to offer.
The patchwork quilt of small farms, the gentle people of the Valley, the river, the mountains above and much more await your visit.
The Sacred Valley has some of the best, world-class hotels in the Cusco region. Numerous excellent restaurants dot the valley, and opportunities for adventure sports abound, including mountain biking, rafting, rock climbing, paragliding, bungee jumping, hot-air balloons and more.
In the Valley, you can enjoy both wild adventures and the most tranquil, leisurely days. You choose!
Mind you, the Sacred Valley is by no means all that the Cusco region has to offer! Inca sites just above the Valley, such as Maras and Moray, give you a sense of the industrious activities that Incas to provide for the Empire.
The city of Cusco itself is chock-full of fascinating archeological sites, such as the huge fortress of Sacsayhuaman, the Coricancha or Temple of the Sun, and ancient Inca palaces, walls and other Inca and colonial-era highlights.
And nearby mountain regions, such as Mt. Ausangate, are home to the living culture that descended from the Incas, the Quechua people of today.
At Andean Lodges, we specialize in full-service treks to Mt. Ausangate, and we also offer special acclimatization programs where you can prepare for higher-altitude trek with short stays and hikes in the Sacred Valley and in Cusco.
Please contact us to find out more about adventure travel in the Cusco region at: andeanlodges.com. We’ll be very happy to help you plan your Andes Mountains adventure!