The first time I visited Peru, in 2005, I took the time to explore the Valle Sagrado well and I saw every Inca site proposed on the boleto integral. This time I preferred to focus my efforts on other parts of Peru so I reviewed only my favourite sites. Here is the list:
The capital of the Incas and centre of the (Andean) world, Cusco is the perfect starting point for the Valle Sagrado exploration. Unfortunately the Spaniards erased almost all the Inca constructions with only some contention walls left but the colonial city is a wonder. The Plaza de Armas concentrates the most beautiful colonial houses and the splendor of the Jesuits’ church rivals in beauty that of the cathedral.
El Barrio de San Blas deserves also a short visit, this is Cusco’s Bohemian district. I could visit all this places and more during the City’s Free Walking tour that I did with Marion, Franceline, Nicolas and Mar, the guys from the Colca trek. After that “cultural morning” we met again at night for some salsa and piscos, we needed to compensate! 😉
Pisac was the capital of one of the fourth Inca provinces. This hilltop citadel had military, religious and agricultural structures and during the rainy season its green terracing is especially beautiful. Písac defended the Urubamba Valley but also the pass leading into the jungle. The archaeological site deserves some hours of your time, if possible with a local guide. It is best visited in the afternoon, when the guided tours from Cusco have already left.
Maybe my favourite archaeological site in Valle Sagrado. It was never finished but this fortress that guarded the way to Machu Picchu + ceremonial site on the top is very impressive and its steep terraces can be an excellent warm-up exercise for the Inca Trail.
This time I also spent some time wandering around the old village, the best surviving example of Inca city planning.The Inca urban planning was very simple: an ensemble of narrow streets were organized in a grid (canchas) perfectly delimited by masonry walls. These walls had entrances to big patios with all the houses and other constructions around. The Plaza de las Armas was the main space of the village and a straight street connected the plaza with the remains. Behind the Plaza de las Armas there is a long street that goes parallel to the river until the train station, street that local women try to avoid in order not to meet “los condenados de la noche” (the condemned men of the night) a kind of smiling phantoms who are supposed to bring all kind of illnesses. Nice colonial houses have replaced the ancient ones without modifying the general structure.
Ollantaytambo is best visited in the morning, all the tour groups arrive in the afternoon.
This unique Inca site was used as a laboratory to determine the optimal conditions for growing crops of each species. There are three series of rings with different shapes reproducing the weather conditions of the sierra, coast and jungle and one can find 20 different micro climates here. It is a fascinating site a place of incredible beauty. From time to time you will see some idiots playing ceremonies to pacha mama on the terraces. This was not a ceremonial centre but unfortunately some guides think they can attract more tourists like this.
5- MACHU PICCHU
The last but not the least is the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. There is so much to tell here that I prefer to write a separate post, together with the Inca Trail.
My Tips :
- The boleto integral (130 soles) is valid for all the Inca Sites in Valle Sagrado which can be visited in ten days. The boleto parcial (70 soles) includes only Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Maras and Moray sites and it is valid for only two consecutive days;
- El Encuentro (Calle Santa Catalina Ancha 384) is a good vegetarian restaurant not expensive at all. Set menu (lunch) for only 8 soles;
- If your budget is more tight, you can eat at Mercado Central for only 3.5 soles.