Sacred Valley


          The Sacred Valley of the Incas is actually the Urubamba River valley located about 10 miles north of Cuzco, Peru, and extends northwest through Pisac and Ollantaytambo. This entire region, including Cuzco, was the heart of the ancient Inca civilization from the 14th to the 15th centuries. In the Sacred Valley, there are many impressive ruins remaining from the time of the Inca civilization.  And yet even today, many of the villagers in this valley today live life much the same as they did prior to the Spanish Conquest in 1532.


            The people living in the Sacred Valley are extremely poor, but they seem not to bear any negative feelings about their meager way of life…they were never arrogant or rude when they were in contact with us.    I generally found the people to be extremely warm and gentle, never aggressive or belligerent.    The people of this region are generally a population of Indian descent …..Incas as they are referred to or Andean people..


            They are the same people who lived in this land before the 1500s and who created a culture that accomplished so much, even though they never had a written language.   They were called Quechua’s, and the name still refers to the spoken language that their ancestors used and they use to this day.    They were a proud people with many accomplishments, but the Spanish then came in the 1500s fully focused on eliminating both their heritage and their history.  


Quechua Market in Pisac

Salt Pans  in the Village of Maras


           We arrived in the pleasant town of Pisac in the  Sacred Valley after driving from Cuzco along an incredibly scenic countryside...visited the Quechua market and observed the terraced farms built into the steep mountain surfaces.    Potatoes and barley are planted high in these almost eighty percent grade steep mountain farms.  Corn is grown in the lower areas of the valley.   


            We stayed in the town of Urubamba, probably the major town in the Sacred Valley...with a population of about 10,000 inhabitants and bearing the name of the river that runs through the valley.  This river is a tributary of the Amazon River which ultimately flows into the Atlantic Ocean.   In Urubamba, we attended an “Offering to the Earth” ceremony that was conducted in the native Andean Quechua dialect ... a ceremony that was quite involved and taken very seriously by the local people.  


            The next day we traveled to the village of Maras, famous for its salt pens, and hiked down into the valley to personally see and learn how salt is extracted from the water constantly flowing to the valley floor.  The three thousand salt pens are owned by the government and are tended to by the members of 286 families.....a major undertaking and responsibility.  The town of Maras was founded in 1572 and has a population of 5,000 people...where little money is earned and most local commerce is achieved through bartering between the inhabitants.  


Quechua "Offering to the Earth" Ceremony Quechua Children


           We then drove to the village of Moray, known for its circular terraced farm that has its roots from the Inca times.  Visiting an experimental farm used for the development of different crop strains, we learned how the locals today optimize their farming methods and crop rotation. 


            Next we visited the town of Chincheros...located at an elevation of 12,000 feet, that has a population of 6,500 people.   We examined a church built in 1607 from walls that were originally constructed by the Incas long before the Spanish came. 


            After lunch, we went to the town of Ollantaytambo to visit a terraced temple that is second in importance only to Machu Picchu.   Ollantaytambo represents some of the Incas’ best stonework, including a series of ceremonial baths, elegant trapezoidal doorways and a sun temple that faces the rising sun.  A five hundred step staircase takes you to the top of the temple. 


Chincheros Church Terraced Temple in Ollantaytambo