The Sacred Valley (Urubamba River Valley)
The Sacred Valley, Peru © Charles Gadbois
Known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas, this breathtakingly beautiful and fertile valley stretches between the villages of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Travellers will navigate it on the winding Urubamba River, with ancient Inca ruins watching from the hilltops above. The river's course also passes a sprinkling of small, traditional settlements. Visitors should note that the centrally situated Urubamba town has a decent tourist infrastructure, and is becoming a popular base from which to explore the valley. The region's most-visited sites are the citadel above Pisac and the fortress of Ollantaytambo. Culture lovers will enjoy the quaint village of Pisac, which is known for its interesting Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning markets. Agricultural terraces flank the steep sides of the mountain and have seen many centuries of use. Alarmingly narrow trails lie above them and lead to the cliff-hugging citadel. Visitors will find massive stone doorways and stairways cut into the rock.
The road terminates at the far end of the Sacred Valley, where travellers will encounter the ancient traditional town of Ollantaytambo. Its temple-fortress clings to the nearby cliffs. Originally developed as an Inca administrative centre, the town's layout is one of the few remaining models of an Inca grid plan, and the existing town lies on the remaining Inca foundations. The ruins include the Royal Chamber, the Princess Baths and the Temple of the Sun.
Transport: Pisac is a one-hour bus journey from Cuzco. The Pisac citadel is a 30-minute walk from behind the main square or 20 minutes by taxi. Ollantaytambo is situated on the Cusco-Machu Picchu train route, or can be reached by bus with a change at Urubamba.