June 4, 2011

The Sacred Valley of the Incas

a break for tea

We spent several days visiting towns and archeological sites in the Urubamaba Valley, also known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas—a beautiful rural region north of Cusco dotted with small towns and farm fields surrounded by spectacular mountains.

First up was the village 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 women 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 meters into the earth. The lncas used the terraces as an experimental nursery to domesticate and improve various plants. The different levels each have separate micro-climates, allowing for plants from all over the empire to be cultivated there.

Our visit to the town of Ollantaytambo, at the far end of the Sacred Valley, included a hike up to the top of an imposing fortress. We enjoyed the clear view of the town below, which features Incan urban planning with farming terraces and waterways. We hiked to the top just as the afternoon sunshine reflected across the town below and the mountain backdrop.

Finally, we visited the town of Pisac and nearby ruins, which gave us another view of impressive Incan stone construction, as well as a panorama of the Andean peaks that tower over the valley.

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