An Introduction to the Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Sacred Valley of the Incas was undoubtedly a key area of settlement to the Incas. Its agreeable climate and fertile plains make a rare and fruitful combination for the high Andes. It was also the route to the jungle and therefore an area with access to the fruits and plants of the tropical lowlands. The Sacred Valley served as a buffer zone, protecting Cusco from incursions of the Antis, the fierce jungle tribes who from time to time raided the highlands.
Today the Sacred Valley remains a lush agricultural region supplying the city of Cusco with much of its produce such as maize, fruit and vegetables.
Most people visit the Sacred Valley as part of an organized one-day Sacred Valley Tour. The tour includes a visit to the market at Pisac, a stop for lunch in Urubamba, a visit to the beautiful Inca village and fortress of Ollantaytambo and a quick stop at the Quechua village of Chinchero on the way back to Cusco. Some companies also include a visit to the ruins at Pisac but you'll have less time at the market if you do this. You'll find plenty of tour companies in and around the Plaza de Armas in Cusco offering these tours costing between US$15 and US$25 for a pooled service (up to 30 persons in a group). This price doesn't include your meals or entrance fees to the ruins. Entrance to the ruins is included on the Boleto Turistico (tourist ticket) - see Cusco City information for further details and prices. Departures are usually on the market days of Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. If you only have one day to visit the Sacred Valley you'll find the convenience of the tour well worth while since the entire circuit is over 170km in length. If you want to do it in a small group you can hire a taxi for the day (approx US$85) and take a guide (approx US$75).
Alternatively you can also visit the Sacred Valley on your own, travelling by local bus. It can be quite tiring to try and see Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero all in one day by local transport so we suggest visiting Pisac ruins and the market on one day and then visiting Chinchero and Ollantaytambo on another day, using Cusco as your base from which to explore.
Next >> Pisac Market