February 15, 2011

Adventures in the sacred valley

high above the Urubamba Valley

The Urubamaba Valley is just to the north of Cusco, and it’s perhaps better known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We spent several days visiting the towns and archeological sites in this area.

First up was the small town of Chinchero, which boasts a colorful traditional market on Sunday mornings. We did a bit of shopping there and also attended a textile demonstration where several local residents showed us how they spin, weave, and dye wool with natural materials.

After that it was off to Moray, a fascinating site of concentric circle terraces that descend about 100 feet into the earth. The lncas used the terraces as an experimental nursery to domesticate and improve various crops. The different levels each have separate micro-climates, allowing for a variety of plants to be cultivated there.

Our visit to the town of Pisac and nearby ruins gave us another view of impressive Incan stone construction, as well as a panorama of the Andean peaks that tower over the valley.

Finally, we visited the town of Ollantaytambo, which is at the far end of the Sacred Valley, and the final stop on the train before Machu Picchu. The town itself features Incan urban planning with farming terraces and waterways, as well as a fortress high above the town. We hiked to the top just as the late afternoon sunshine reflected across the town below and the mountain backdrop.

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