A Wealth of Archaeological Treasures
Agriculture in the valley An hour's journey across the mountains from the Inca capital of Cuzco will bring you to the warmer, more verdant environs of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Stretching from Pisac in the east to Ollantaytambo in the west, this fertile agricultural valley is peppered with fascinating archaeological sites and picturesque villages. The Vilcanota or Urubamba River (also known as the Willkamayu, or sacred river, in Quechua) flows through it and glacial peaks stand sentinel over its lush fields.
The Incas prized the Sacred Valley for its pleasant climate, fruitful land and strategic location. It was one of the empire's principal farming areas, said to produce the best corn in all of Peru, and to this day it continues to supply the city of Cuzco with grains, fruits and vegetables. The Incas used the valley as a gateway to the Amazon and built palaces, fortresses and temples here, the most famous and awe-inspiring of these being the ruins at Ollantaytambo and Pisac. They conceived of the river as a mirror image of the Milky Way, in fact, and assigned great ceremonial importance to the region as a whole.
Today, the Sacred Valley is every bit as alluring as it was in Inca times, and its status as one of Peru's top tourist destinations is testament to this. On top of first-class archaeological sites and idyllic scenery, it offers tourists a variety of outdoor activities (such as hiking, biking, horseback riding and rafting), premier handicraft markets, and fine lodging and dining. Lower in altitude than Cuzco by about 1,000 ft, the valley is a great place to spend a day or two acclimatizing to the thinner mountain air before heading to the Inca capital city.