Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Cusco and the Sacred Valley
The ancient center of the Inca empire, Cusco is located in the southeastern Andes. Its name in Quechua means "navel of the world." According to legend, the city was founded by the first Incas who were born in the mysterious waters of Lake Titicaca: Manco Capac, known as the Prince of the Sun, and Mama Ocllo.
The Inca architecture in Cusco is thought to date back to the 15th century and is mostly attributed to the Inca Pachacutec, who built the city’s most remarkable structures. Inca architecture is known for its incredible stone carvings, walls constructed of huge stones that have been fit together perfectly without the use of mortar or cement. For a civilization that did not yet have the wheel, this was an amazing feat of engineering. In Cusco, some of these constructions include the complex of Sacsayhuaman; Korikancha (The Temple of the Sun); and Calle Hatun Rumiyoc, the incredible diorite wall that includes the famous stone of 12 angles. Cusco is known as the archaeological capital of the Americas and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
The Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley of the Incas is a one-hour drive from Cusco and a landscape of stunning scenery, picturesque communities, impressive terraces, archaological sites and majestic mountain ranges. The valley includes the area between the Inca communities of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Its mild weather and particular geography make it perfect for outdoor sports enthusiasts interested in rafting, mountain biking, hang-gliding, paragliding, horseback riding and trekking.
The picturesque vibrant market town of Pisac is the site of the magnificent Inca Sun Temple. Divided into four sections: Pisaqa, Qallaqasa, Kinchiracay and Intihuatana; the Sun Temple is located in the Intihuatana section. It is said to contain a hitching post to which the sun can be tied during its journey across the sky. One theory also suggests that the temple served astronomical purposes for Inca priests. Pisac's artisan market attracts both thousands of visitors and people from remote communities dressed in colorful, traditional attire.
Chinchero's main attraction is its Sunday market, originally built for trade between the people of the valley and those living in the surrounding hills. Barter continues to be the accepted form of commerce. Chinchero is also a weaving community; the indigenous people harvest their own wool and create plant dyes to dye and weave a wide variety of intricate textiles that are unique to the area.
Ollantaytambo was named in honor of the Inca Chief Ollanta, famous for his courtship with an Inca princess, daughter of Pachacutec. Featuring an extensive archaeological site that presides majestically over the town, the site contains structures such as the Temple of the Sun, the Mañacaray or Royal Hall, the Incahuatana and the Baños de la Princesa.
This community is famous for its embedded amphitheater-like structure, formed by four circular terraces that seem to disappear into the interior of the puna, or artificial crater. These Inca terraces were constructed for testing various agricultural methods. Built on retaining walls, the terraces were filled with fertile soil and watered by a complex irrigation system, sustaining more than 250 different types of vegetables and cereals, such as corn, quinoa and kiwicha.
Other Attractions and Activities
- The Cathedral in Cusco's Plaza de Armas.
- Compañia Church.
- Santo Domingo Convent.
- San Blas Artisan Quarter.
- Sacsayhuaman, Tambomachay, Qenqo, Puca Pucara.
- Pisac, Ollantaytambo and other Sacred Valley archaeological sites.
- Local Museums & Churches.
- Arts & Crafts Markets.
- Cycling excursions.
- River rafting.
- Mountain climbing.
- Horseback riding.
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