After our awesome visit to Machu Picchu, we took a train back to Ollantaytambo with the intention of staying there for a couple days to tour the Sacred Valley. However, once we got to Ollantaytambo (at night time), we weren’t really feeling the city – it was a small town which was set in a beautiful surrounding but was completely dead. So the next morning, we headed back to Cuzco and decided to take one of the tours from there instead (to take advantage of the rest of our boleto turistico – http://www.cosituc.com/).
Our Sacred Valley tour included the following stops:
1) Pisac – Here we went to the famous Pisac market. They are known for selling silver items (there is a silver mine close by) though they are equally known for selling fake stuff! We saw some beautiful silver jewelry, but alas, being on a budget, the only thing we sprung for were some warm alpaca socks 🙂
The cooler thing in Pisac were the Incan ruins at Pisaq. We went to an Incan village and saw some of the old buildings and an Incan cemetary. Unfortunately, because the Incans were buried with much of their possessions as they believed they would take these into their next life, when the Spaniards came, they robbed all the graves. We also learned that the astronomer was the most respected person in the village (his house was at the highest point of the mountain) and that he was so important because he predicted the weather and rain patterns. The site was also amazing because of the huge terraces that surrounded it. The Incans used each step in the terrace as a different site for cultivation and took advantage of the slight difference in climate and soil of each of the steps – so intelligent!
2) Urubamba – another town in the Sacred Valley – we stopped here for a Peruvian lunch buffet, accompanied by some traditional Peruvian music.
3) Ollantaytambo – This was definitely a highlight of the Sacred Valley tour. Another feat of amazing architecture and design, the Incan ruins (built in the 15th century) have several steps of agricultural terraces, again allowing for cultivation at different temperatures. The terraces were made of cut stone rather than unfinished stone. From the terraces, you can see an image of an Incan profile carved into the mountain across from the ruins. One of the most interesting things is the Wall of the Monoliths which is part of the uncompleted Temple of the Sun. The stones of these walls are MASSIVE – each stone must have taken years to extract from the quarry, cut and polish and move to the site. The quarry was across the river in another mountain – supposedly it took 60 or so years just to erect these six stones. The guide that took us on our tour was a big follower of Incan ideology and he said this temple was important for him than Machu Picchu because of the religious aspects of the site and the obvious importance they put on building this Temple of the Sun.
4) Chinceros – our last stop was supposed to be a Church or something in Chinceros; however, it was dark by the time we got there and instead we saw a demonstration of how the indigenous people dyed the wool (sheep, lamb or alpaca) and what materials they used.
We enjoyed the Sacred Valley tour, especially driving around and enjoying the amazing scenery. We were supposed to go see a couple of additional sites the next day but we slept in and were laze instead! Though we did go see one of the local art museums though this mostly had crafts, puppets and dolls – not super interesting for us.