THE SACRED VALLEY
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URUBAMBA VALLEY: The Sacred Valley
If there is something calling the attention of Cusco, it is its contrasts. When you are at the centre of the city, walking by its mischievous and mysterious narrow streets or sitting in the square, it is hard to imagine that the impressive adjoining mountains can shelter such beautiful landscape similar to the one in the Sacred Valley. Few places in the Tahuantinsuyo could compete against the beauty and wealthy of this valley, for this reason it received that name. Its character of "sacred" has survived the pass of the time and that magic continues seducing the visitors. Most of them, surrendered to its enchants, decide to leave everything and settle under the shadow of the eucalyptus, at the bank of the Urubamba.
The Sacred Valley has become one of the most important tourist centers in the country. Apart from the incomparable historic wealth, the area of Urubamba offers infinitive possibilities to enjoy for the tourist: trekking, thermal baths, rafts or kayaks rides, paragliding or hang gliding, horsing, climbing, etc. Lately they have developed participating tourist programmes inviting the visitor, for instance, to work in a terrace or collect salt from the salt pools. The Sacred Valley also holds two of the most important handicraft markets of Cusco: Pisac and Chinchero.
Although the tourist infrastructure has grown meaningfully in the last years and today we offer a variety of accommodation and restaurant facilities, the valley has managed to preserve its natural enchanting peace.
Yucay was the name the Incas used to call this fertile valley, one of the most fertile of Peru: its Sacred Valley. They used to be lands of the Inca and his successors , then the Spaniards recognized their possessions thanks to royal favours that granted those territories to the Inca nobility. As a prove of those times we find the palace of Sayri Tupac in Yucay.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas spreaded along the Vilcanota river (the same that going down takes the name of Urubamba or Willcamayu). It embraces the area included between the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo.
It is located at 15 km to the North of Cusco. It is at 27km (1 hour) to the Northeast of Cusco and you can get there through an asphalted road in good conditions.
It is possible to get there by two asphalted roads: the first one is the most used leaving from Cusco by Chinchero (28km) to Urubamba (57 km).
The second important road leaves from Cusco to the northeast towards Pisac (32 km) going next to the Vilcanota River up to the village of Calca (50 km) exactly in the heart of the valley. The first route is the most used due to its excellent conditions.
In the valley, there are a series of picturesque towns ( some of them has beautiful colonial churches), terraces and other archaeological remains, as well as the most famous corn in the world. Due to all these and its exceptional climate, the Sacred Valley has became a destiny no one visiting Cusco can miss.
Among the tourist activities we have the andinism practised in the snowy peaks of Chicon, Vtkav Willca (also known as Puma Sillo or Veronica), Piturisay, Sawasiray, Terijway and Sunchobamba (all of them are tops of the the chain of mountains of the Vilcanota up to 5000 meters high), trekking, rafting (along Pisac, Calca, Huaran, Ollantaytambo), horsing and mountain riding. In the town along the valley there are numerous hotels and restaurants of typical food. We recommend to spend the night in one of them.
It is at 2800 m.a.s.l.. Its climate is not so severe. As in any other place on this altitude, its climate has two seasons: rainy and dry season. Rainy season is between November and April. The heavy rain may fall suddenly and unfortunately we can not always enjoy a blue sky. But rainy season has its advantages as the hills are covered with thick grass and it is warm.
During dry season the colors of the sky are brilliant but air is dry so the skin seem to break. Generally nights are cold and it can be freezing at dawn. The sky full of stars becomes a real show this time. Talking about its climate, the Sacred Valley is the perfect place. The ancient Peruvians realized that so they came here to get cure from their diseases. Despite of reaching high temperatures and being in an area full of vegetation, there are not mosquitoes in this valley due to its altitude. Besides, we hardly get hot as there is always cool air.
If you go by car, it would be useful to know that going out by Saphi street you will find San Carlos petrol station where you can get gasoline and check your car comfortably.
Following the route you will arrive at San Cristobal, and if you have time you can visit the church and admire the most popular protecting saints in Cusco. The road to the Sacred Valley is the same to go to Sacsayhuaman so if you desire and have time you could also visit the ruins of this complex: Quenco, Puca Pucara and Tambomachay.
The amazing detail of the road is that leaving Cusco means going up to the mountains surrounding Cusco so you will admire the most impressive sights of the city, especially at sunset and sunrise. If light and time are favorable, you can take magnificent photos. From these points it is possible to admire the layout of the city carefully. When days are clear, the contrast between the red roofs and the blue sky is spectacular.
By the path of the eucalyptus.
The path is nice even though it is a little curved. Along all the way, the eucalyptus and the genista go with the traveler. Four minutes far from Tambomachay and we get to the creek of Corao and the belvedere, from where we admire the valley. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays they celebrate a handicraft fair there.
The belvedere of Taray
It is the first place from where we really admire the valley. Its landscape, as it is usual in Cusco, amazes the traveler who after long curves and ups will suddenly discover the hills and the entire valley. The Vilcanota or Urubamba river is running down there. From this belvedere you can take excellent photographs. We can usually find some children waiting the arrivals of tourists anxiously in order to offer them the brochures that "they make by themselves" and they are very proud of them. The path continues and if we are lucky we could admire the snowy peaks of Huancalle and Pitusiray.
The breast of the Ņusta
The first place we get is Pisac after going down the hills and passing Corao and Taray. From the middle of the hill we will have a perfect view of the town. If you have time and a private car we suggest you stopping there so you can take good photographs and observe the layout of the town. To the left of Pisac, at the feet of the mountains we can observe the "breast of the Ņusta": four rows of terraces that seem to be the breast of a woman. As people say, it could have been a homage to the fertility. Although these terraces are very close to the town they have remain untouched up to our days.
It is a town of Inca origin at 76 km far from Cusco by Pisac, and at 57 km (45 minutes) by Chinchero. It is located in the same heart of Urubamba valley and it is surrounded by beautiful landscapes outstanding the snowy peak of Chicon and the fields. It was one of the main agricultural centers of the Inca empire. In its square we find a colonial church. There are several hotels, taverns and rural restaurants.
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