The Enchantment of the Sacred Valley, Peru

The blue sky stretches over the sun-lit valley, and it seems no wonder the Incas were worshippers of the sun. A spectacular view of the sacred valley emerges as we make a steep descent down a couple of thousand feet. The road is windy and the scenery is quite a contrast to the city of Cusco just a few kilometres back.

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The Sun lit Sacred Valley reveals itself just km from Cusco


The Magic of Ollyantaytambo Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley Peru

The streets of Ollyantaytambo

We explore the Temple Hill behind the town of Ollyantaytambo with Edward our guide.

A steep climb (can you hear me puffing) up the terracing brings us to the Sun Temple and Ceremonial centre.  At the top we learn that the Sun Temple always faces east, and we note the observatory chairs for working out summer and winter solstice.

Sacred Valley Peru

The Valley view from temple Hill Ollantaytambo Peru

There are special ceremonial fountains and the most amazing water channelling system for irrigation.

Stone used for these buildings were brought from a quarry high up on the opposite side of the Urubamba River- an incredible feat involving the efforts of thousands of workers, let alone how they interlocked these massive stones with very few tools.

Sacred Valley Peru

Giant Stones puzzled together – The Sacred Valley Peru

On the mountain opposite there is another impressive structure which was used for storing wheat. We continue to be amazed at how these Incas built their structures. All of these structures are works of art,  the design, craftsmanship, scale, and that the way in which the stones are slid together and joined with no concrete or cement, these gigantic rocks were carved together like a giant intricate jigsaw that have stood for hundreds of years.

The complex remains unfinished today as it was still under construction at the time of the conquest. Ollantaytambo is the only place ever to have resisted attacks from the Spanish. However, their victory was short-lived when the Spanish returned with four times their previous force.

It’s a fabulous view of the valley below, the foot of the terracing the Inca village remains intact and inhabited, the streets still echo with the sound of children, slaughters and dogs roaming wild. In the evenings we wander the narrow cobbled streets and meet some locals.

Many dressed in national costume just waiting for us to take a photo and pay them some soles.

Chatter and laughter come from some of the buildings, the ones with the red flag out… that means they have local chichi (corn beer) for sale. A pretty potent brew we enjoyed one only!  Local dining is pretty good in Olly, cheap and cheerful. Make sure to check out some alpaca at a local restaurant.

Salt Pans in the Sacred Valley

It’s a bizarre and interesting landscape feature, something we were not expecting to see in the Sacred Valley.

Sacred Valley Peru

Looking down from above Salt Pans Sacred Valley Peru

Perched high up above the Sacred Valley lies a huge salt mine carved out of the hillside, with terrace after terrace of mini salt-pans.Sacred Valley Peru 24

The pans are fed by natural spring water heavy with dissolved salts – once fed into the network of pans it is simply a case of waiting for the sun to do its work before the salt  ‘farmers’ can ‘harvest their salt.

Sacred Valley Peru

Moras Salt Pans in the Sacred Valley Peru

In its way this was as spectacular a sight as the Inca ruins we saw elsewhere in the valley, perhaps just because it was so unexpected.

Definitely worth the detour if you want to see something a little out of the usual. Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen, there is no shade and it’s bright and hot.

 Crop Circles – Moray Terraces Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley Peru

Crops Circles Sacred Valley Peru

It might make some of us think of UFOs or crop circles, volcano craters, but this site is just a man-made agricultural complex. It has more to do with potatoes than aliens.

The Incans we believe used the area as an experimental farm to acclimatize their crops with different altitudes.  The depth of the crater like structure is 500ft, so the growing conditions at the bottom are somewhat cooler that the top.

We are impressed by the Roman like amphitheatres structure, and again it is an unexpected view of Peru.

Bouncing over a few gravel roads Moray is harder to access therefore there are fewer people which is always nice.  Plenty of locals go about their day, women weaving and kids playing.

Sacred Valley Peru

Chatting to the Locals Weaving at Moray Terraces

The Moray Terraces are among the some of most beautiful Inca creations. We’re glad we included this in our explorations!

The Ancient Ruins of Pisac in the Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley Peru 39Písac’s ruins overlook the Sacred Valley from high ground. The views are spectacular!

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The Vilcanota River flows below and the mountain sides around contain well-preserved Inca agricultural terraces. The bus or car takes you most of the way so  there is very little climbing required, although you do have to watch your footing!

We spend a few hours with Edward on a round walking trip it becomes evident that this place is very different to say the ruins at Macchu Pichu or Ollyantaytambo.

At this Inca site a rare Inca technique is evident, the combination of cut stone bricks and those that were made out of hardened mud.

This makes the walls of the ruins in Pisac reddish in colour and unpolished. Some believe that the dwellings with the smoothest walls were used by the higher class Incas.

The agricultural terraces around Písac are still used today. The Inca-built irrigation system also functions perfectly!

Pisac is a perfect end to another day in the Sacred Valley and the perfect place to get on top of the Sacred Valley literally.

Have you been to the Sacred Valley? What was your Highlight?


6 Comments on “The Enchantment of the Sacred Valley, Peru

  1. Wow… love your pictures. What an amazing hike and experience. The terraced farming is such a sight to see for me compared to what I’m used to. Looks like you had a great time!

    • Hey Margyle – Thanks for dropping by, the Sacred Valley is a just a fabulous visual feast to say the least… it beckons me back everyday

  2. I really like the way the stones are put together…it’s hard to imagine how they accomplished such a task so long time ago. It goes to prove how inventive and skilled the Incas really were.

  3. I love the way you captured the incredible light of this valley. Still have photos from here to edit; guess it’s time to get off my butt and just do it.

    • Thanks so much for the compliment, I am only a wanna be photographer Philip, after your Galapagos ones I sure look forward to seeing yours from the beautiful Sacred Valley.

  4. Their own oral history states that the stones were only roughly cut then “molded” using a liquid mixture made from some indigenous red plant. They would rub this stuff on and would sort of melt the stone so it could be formed to any shape as shown above. The technology has long since be lost.

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