The fertile Vilcanota River Valley, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, is the best place to observe traditional Quechua communities where the descendents of the Incas walk among mud-brick houses in traditional dress. As you tour the Sacred Valley you´ll see sprawling landscapes dotted with small farms, Incan agricultural terraces, towns and villages, and ancient Inca ruins and encircled by the Andean mountain range with snowy peak of Salkantay on the horizon. This is a great tour to do first, while acclimatizing to Andean altitudes, as you´ll spend the majority of the day at a lower altitude level than Cusco.
We´ll set off by tourist bus to the Sacred Valley around 8:00-8:30am. It´s about an hour to our first stop: the village of Pisaq. Depending on the day, we might be able to visit the local market. We´ll stay for a couple of hours for a guided tour of the archeological site.
The Inca ruins of Pisaq served at least a triple purpose, as they contain military, religious, and agricultural structure. The ruins are grouped into the Pisaqa (narrow rows of agricultural terraces), Intihuatana (the sun temple), Q'allaqasa (the citadel), and Kinchiracay. In Inca times the ceremonial center of all important towns was the Intihuatana (Temple of the Sun) where the "hitching post" for the sun was located. This area includes the hitching post, baths, and temples, and is thought to have served an astronomical function.
From there, we´ll pass through several small towns such as Coya, Lamay, Calca, and the Vilcanota River Valley. We´ll stop in Urubamba at midday for a buffet lunch. (You must indicate if you want a tour which includes the lunch.)
Our next stop is Ollantaytambo, where we´ll stay a couple of hours. Built atop original Inca foundations, the town is one of the best surviving examples of Incan urban planning. It is located at the foot of the Incan ruins of the Fortress of Ollantaytambo, which defended the strategic entrance to the lower Urubamba Valley. Thousands of workers transported stones from a quarry high on the other side of the Urubamba River to build the complex, whose construction was never completed but which represented the only Inca stronghold to have successfully resisted a Spanish attack. The archeological site at Ollantaytambo is one of the biggest and best preserved Inca fortifications.
After our guided tour of Ollantaytambo, we´ll head towards the small Andean village of Chinchero at around 4:00pm. (Depending on the day, we´ll be able to visit the colorful market.) The higher altitude (along the Anta plains) allows for views overlooking the Sacred Valley. In Chinchero´s main plaza you´ll see a massive Inca stone wall with ten trapezoidal niches. The wall and other ruins are thought to be the work of Inca Tupac Yupanqui, who may have used this area as a country resort. In the main plaza there is also an elaborately decorated 17th century adobe colonial church built atop the remnants of an Inca temple or palace.
We´ll arrive back in Cusco, the Imperial city, at around 6:00 in the evening. You´ll be dropped off at your hotel.
Today, August 30th, Peru celebrates a national holiday honoring St Rose, the Americas' first saint. Even if you're not Catholic, you'll find plenty of entertainment- like most of the other religious festivals of Peru, the festivities include drinking, feasting, and dancing, with street vendors bustling about adding color and excitement to the proceedings...
Continuing with the photo theme from last post, here's a look at the activity-oriented parts of Pirwa Colonial Backpackers in Cusco, Peru, which is packed with things to do, ways to relax and to meet fellow travelers…
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