The Sacred Valley of the Incas meanders along the river Urubamba which connects the archeological sites of Pisaq and Ollantaytambo. These sites used to be part of the natural path along the river which until now leads directly to Machu Picchu.
PISAQ is located about 33 km from the city of Cusco. This picturesque village is well known for its arts and crafts trade and its Sunday market to which the “Varayoq” or mayors or the surrounding communities gather. Wearing their best holiday finery they show up yielding a staff which proves their authority. The archeological site of Pisaq can be divided into three parts: the military part, consisting of the fortress and the soldier´s barracks, the religious part, consisting of the actual sanctuary and finally the Temple of the Sun.
The majestic, lithic remains of Pisaq, among them the magnificent Intiwatana, are located on one of the highest points of the Sacred Valley and represent the grandiose system of the Andes with its terraces, perrons and monolithic portals, all made of polished, rectangular blocks of stone.
URUBAMBA is located about an hour’s drive from Cusco along the banks of the Urubamba river in the Sacred Valley. During the reign of the Incas, the Sacred Valley served as source and storage for food supplies and up till today the best corn grows on the fertile soil of the valley. Characteristic of the Andean corn are the very large kernels and its high nutritional value.
The topography of Urubamba is dominated by the high mountain peaks of the Vilanota, it is home to some exceptional outdoor activities such as rafting and kayaking, mountain biking, paragliding and hiking.
OLLANTAYTAMBO is a picturesque village at the northern most end of the Sacred Valley, not too far from Machu Picchu. The town was named after the chief Ollanta who gained fame through his romance with the daughter of the Inka Pachakuteq - Kusi qoyllor.
From here, Cusco obtains most of its food supplies such as fruit, vegetables and cereals. The region is also home to many exotic birds, whose feathers were used to adorn the royal headdress of the Incas. Also see Volunteer and Intern in Peru.
The silos and storage buildings for agricultural goods can still be seen within the archeological complex of Ollantaytambo. The best preserved part of the site stretches from the Plaza Hanan Huakaypata to the north and is made up of a block of 15 huts, built high upon well carved lithic walls. The site stretches along a hill which towers over the village. Within the complex you can visit the Temple of the sun, the royal hall or Mañarakay, the Inkawatana and the baths of the princess. High up on the hill, you can marvel at six enormous stone blocks, which have been perfectly fitted into each other. They are part of the enigmatic “tired stones” which consist of fifty huge, rectangular stone blocks, which have been left abandoned on the way up from the quarry to the site.