Peru is renowned for being at the heart of the Inca empire and there’s no better place to get a sense of its scale and complexity than the Sacred Valley. This region in the Andes is home to numerous sites that bear witness to the Inca’s incredible achievements all those centuries ago.
Of course, the most famous Inca site of all – Machu Picchu – is just a short distance away from the valley, making it easy to include a hike on the Inca Trail as part of a longer tour that also allows you time to explore the Sacred Valley.
We’re going to take a look at a few of the must-visit places in the Sacred Valley to help you plan your tour of Peru.
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Like Cusco, Ollantaytambo is still inhabited today and its layout – and even some of the buildings – have remained as they were under the rule of the Incas. This settlement was where the Incas retreated to after the Spanish took control of Cusco, and was even the site of one of their most famous victories over the European invaders.
You can learn more about this battle – and the history of Ollantaytambo in general – by visiting the extensive ruins just outside the main town. The fortress perched on the top of a hill and surrounded by steep terraces was a real Inca stronghold. When the Spanish first tried to take Ollantaytambo, the Incas were able to bombard them with arrows and spears from above.
As well as being a fort, this building was also a temple, so held huge significance for the Incas in their time. Around 6 km from Ollantaytambo is an Inca stone quarry, where the massive blocks used in the fortress walls were cut from – if you’re up for a bit of activity, you can walk from the town to this fascinating spot.
Pisac is another small town in the Sacred Valley that can trace its origins back to the time of the Incas. While the town itself offers an interesting glimpse into life among the local communities, it is the hilltop ruins that really make this place worth visiting.
A series of agricultural terraces are visible on the hillside, with diagonal flights of steps cut into the terrace walls to join them up. If you feel as though you’ve got the energy, you can climb to the rest of the ruins via these staircases. At the top, on a triangular plateau, is a citadel and temple that’s worth exploring.
Climbing up and down from Pisac is a good way to train ahead of the Inca Trail, so this is a great spot to visit if you have yet to follow the famous route through the Andes. Come here on a Sunday, meanwhile, and you can also browse the Pisac market when you’ve finished sightseeing.
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Salinas is an area of terraced salt fields that have been worked for thousands of years and are still harvested using traditional methods to this day. To reach Salinas you need to head to either Maras or Moray and go from there.
This is an amazing example of engineering – natural hot springs are diverted into salt pans where the water evaporates and the salt can be collected. This process is still effective, and you can see people working on these unusual terraces every day apart from Sunday.