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The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a valley in the Southern Sierra in Peru that contains many famous and beautiful Inca ruins. It was called the Sacred Valley because it contains some of the best land in the region and was not a part of the Empire but the property of the Emperor or Inca himself.
Major cities or major attractions in the Sacred Valley include:
- Aguas Calientes — on the bottom of a magnicifent valley, this town is the main gateway to Machu Picchu
- Cuzco — the unofficial capital of the region, Cuzco is a fascinating city with beautiful colonial architecture built right atop Incan constructions
- Maras — on the main route to Incan sites of Salineras and Moray, Maras is an otherwise unremarkable dusty town
- Ollantaytambo — one of the last Incan towns to fall, much of Ollantaytambo is laid out in the same way as it was in Inca times with extensive ruins worth seeing
- Pisac — in addition to Machu Picchu-like ruins, it's the weekly market, in which locals from highlands gather with their fresh produce, that puts Pisac on the itinerary of many travellers
- Tipon — some of the most interesting agricultural terracing and water management developed by the Incas, all still in perfectly working condition
- Urubamba — a regional transportation hub, Urubamba also has a street market on offer
Other destinations near to or accessible from cities in the Sacred Valley include:
- Choquequirao — a more remote and less traveled alternative to Machu Picchu, much of Choquequirao has undergone reconstruction but still is impressive anyway (and not least because of the mighty views over Apurimac Valley)
- Machu Picchu — one of the more spectacular sets of ruins in the world, a visit to Peru is not complete without a visit to this mysterious "lost city of Incas"
- Moray — terraced co-centric circles that were used for developing better agricultural crops by Incas
- Salineras — ancient saltpans used by Incas in salt production
- Chinchero - small village with an amazing church
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The sacred valley is dotted with Inca Ruins, with Machu Picchu being the absolute star attraction. If you are in a hurry, try to visit at least Pisac and Sacsayhuaman.
- Although most of the Inca buildings have been replaced by the Spaniards, there are still some Inca walls and foundations to be seen in the center of Cuzco.
- Cuzco was envisioned to represent a puma with Sacsayhuaman as head. Large parts of the site has been destroyed in the colonial era as the spainards used the stones of the sites to build their own houses. What remains is still impressive. Admission with boleto turistico.
- This site is hewn out of a rock. It probably served as religious shrine. Admission with boleto turistico.
- A small site. Which purpose it served is still unclear. Admission with boleto turistico.
- A small ruin which probably was a religious center, but could also be a military center. Walk back and visit pucapucara, qenqo en sacsayhuamán on the way back. Admission with boleto turistico (See Cuzco).
- The mountain overlooking the village of Pisac is covered with terraces and several ruins. Well worth a visit. Admission with boleto turistico.
- Moray (Peru)
- Amphitheater shaped terraces. It probably served as an agricultural laboratory and seed cultivation site.
- Thousands of salt pans nestled in a canyon that have been used to harvest salt from a spring for thousands of years.
- A group of agricultural terraces and irrigation channels. It is believed to be dedicated to agricultural experimentation as well as religious activities. Admission with boleto turistico.
- In the town of Ollantaytambo houses can be seen which date from Inca times. The nearby ruins features agricultural terraces as well as military, religious and administrative sections. Admission to the ruins with boleto turistico.
- According to some this site is as impressive as Machu Picchu, but without the crowds. The only way in is a 4 day trek.
- Machu Picchu
- The star attraction of the sacred valley. Also the endpoint of the Inca Trail
- One of the few pre-Inca sites. It has been built by the Wari-culture. Admission with boleto turistico.
See the valley. Although the various ruins are the undeniable highlight, a 4-5 hour bus tour of the loop Cuzco-Chincherro-Urubamba-Pisac-Cuzco shows truly spectacular landscapes, especially on clear days during the winter (May-September). Tours can be booked with various agencies, although it is cheapest to just take buses between the various cities (and you can start in any of them).
There are many beautiful towns in the Sacred Valley that contain great landscapes, typical restaurants, Hotels/Hostels and local markets, the largest one are: Pisac, Calca, Urubamba.
- Panza Verde (3 blocks up from bus terminal), calle Ucayali (Calca), . 10am-4pm. Simply support the local communities by enjoying a nice coffee, a lovely pie or a healthy lunch.Panza Verde (“Green Belly”) supports the Por Eso! Foundation. Por Eso! provides the poorest families of the Andes with healthy food by building greenhouses & preparing vegetable fields with the communities, adding vegetables to the menu in a sustainable way. They also teach biological horticulture to parents & kids. 4-10 dollar.
- Aranwa Sacred Valley (A member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts), Antigua Hacienda Yaravilca, ☎ +51 1 842 05080, . Included on the 2010 Conde Nast Hot List for exceptional hotel, service, and spa. The hotel is located in an 18th century hacienda and features an onsite art gallery. US$175 - $350.
- Official Tourist Information Office - Portal Mantas 188 (Next to the church of La Merced)
- Tierras Vivas is specialized in the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu