Machu Picchu may be the most famous site in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. We spent five days visiting Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu and Salinaras and only scratched the surface. Here is a look at some of our favorite moments from our visit.
Pisac, just a 40-minute collectivo ride from Cusco, is a delightful little village, famous for its ruins and its market. The day we arrived, I came down with a nasty 24-hour virus, complete with fever and chills. So, while the Señora of the casa where we stayed rubbed herbs on my face and made me special maté, Alex was left to explore the ruins on his own (he failed to take photos). We stayed a second day to visit the market, which was an amazing visual feast. Oh, and we were treated to a beautiful rainbow sun dog!
Ollantaytambo was our favorite town in the Sacred Valley. It is definitely touristy, but the ruins are spectacular and the town very walkable. After visiting the ruins, we enjoyed a lovely evening stroll along one of the Inca canals at the foot of the mountains and an amazing vegetarian dinner in a beautiful garden.
During the height of the Inca empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emporer Pachacuti. During the time of the Spanish invasion, it served as a stronghold of the Inca resistance.
View of Ollanta town from the top of the ruins
Current farming of potatoes on one of the ancient terraces
The setting of the most famous of the Inca sites is nothing short of breathtaking (and not because of the altitude). We enjoyed a long afternoon at the site, including a hike up to the sun gate (where Inca Trail trekkers enter the site) and a thorough investigation of all its nooks and crannies.
Stone pegged designed into buildings allowed roof structures to be lashed to the house.
Alex mugs for the camera to show off the impressive Inca stonework. In this case, a ring used to support a wooden door pillar. Stones were cut and carved using only mallets, stone hammers, metal bars and abrasive sandpaper
Incas’ sacred rock mimicking the shape of their sacred mountain (Salkantay)
Temple of the Sun
One of the less visited attractions in the Sacred Valley, the salt pans of Salineras have been in continuous use for over 1,000 years. A thermal spring of salt water at the top of the mountain is routed into hundreds of terraces where the water evaporates and the salt is collected. We hiked up here from the bottom and walked among the salt terraces on skinny “trails.” I don’t think we were actually supposed to be doing that (the one tour group we saw at the end stuck to the road above the salt pans) but no one told us we couldn’t, so we enjoyed a self-guided up close and personal tour.
Onward to Bolivia!
New birds in the Sacred Valley: torrent duck, golden olive woodpecker, slate throated redstart^ (^ denotes birds seen in other countries previously on this trip)
Total New Species in Peru: 176