Article sponsored by Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness you’re looking to escape the busy, crowded streets of Cusco, then the Sacred Valley is the perfect place to get out of the city and relax. Aside from beautiful landscapes, solitude, and fresh mountain air, the Sacred Valley also offers some excellent examples of Inca culture. Much of the local culture draws upon ancient practices that live on today. Read on to learn more about some of these intriguing cultural practices in the Sacred Valley.
Also spelled on maps as Pisaq or P’isaq, this colorful market town is an excellent place to shop for handicrafts and homemade jewelry. The market takes place three times per week, but is most lively on Sundays. Near the market, you can also visit one of the many restaurants and try some local specialties, such as a soup made from quinoa, a grain that has been cultivated in the area for centuries. Aside from being delicious, quinoa also has numerous health benefits and is high in fibre.
At the top of the hill beyond the village, you can also explore the ruins of Pisac, which were built into the hillside as a collection of terraces for farming. You can also see the remnants of temples and homes a bit further up from the terraces, as well as a superb view overlooking the valley.
Not far away from Pisac is the village of Ollantaytambo. You’ll know when you arrive because you’ll see the massive stone structure overlooking the village. It was here where Manco Inca Yupanqui led Inca resistance against the Spanish conquerers in the 16th century. Today, much of the site is preserved and you can follow the stone path up the hillside and meander through the terraces all the way to the top, where you can admire the view between the mountains.
Additionally, the town of Ollantaytambo is interesting in that many of the buildings were built in Inca times. Guidebooks often advertise that Ollantaytambo is a living Inca village, which is somewhat true, since much of the city planning and construction is in pretty good shape. However, as you get further away from the citadel, the buildings get more modern. There are also little restaurants, hostels and hotels sprinkled throughout the village, and a handicraft market near the site’s entrance.
If you’re in the mood for some outdoor activity, the Inca trail begins just down the street from the ruins. Alternatively, if you’d rather get to Machu Picchu via a comfortable train ride, then you can also catch the train at Ollantaytambo station, about 20 minutes’ walk from the citadel. If you’re staying in a hotel based in the Sacred Valley, then these two options of beginning your journey to Machu Picchu will be much more convenient that backtracking to Cusco.
For a deeper understanding of Incan agricultural practices, you can check out the site of Moray, which is definitely more isolated than the other two areas, given that there isn’t a village just outside the site entrance. Instead, you will encounter a bowl-shaped side with terraces circling down into the depression between two hills. It was here were horticulturalists were able to cultivate different crops in each level under a carefully-monitored set of conditions. In this way, different crops could be studied and observed at different altitudes. The level of accuracy in these studies is remarkable. It is located near the village of Maras, which can be easily reached via taxi from Ollantaytambo or Urubamba.
Finally, the Sacred Valley is known for world-class hotels, particularly in the town of Urubamba. Located about an hour and a half from Cusco, Urubamba is the perfect home base for all of your adventures in the Sacred Valley. Here you can find many establishments that specialize in tasteful luxury. You’ll be greeted with a warm cup of coca tea and an invitation for a traditional spa treatment using local ingredients and ancient techniques. You can also enjoy exquisite dining and low-key entertainment opportunities like traditional dances, cooking classes and day tours.
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Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness