Famous for its ruins, such as Machu Picchu, its beautiful cities, like Cusco, and its breathtaking landscapes, the 110 km-long Sacred Valley, known also as Wilka Qhichwa in Quechua. offers many surprises.
Here are 10 things you should know about this place:
1.The Incas chose to settle in the Sacred Valley partly because of the agriculture
As the early Incas lived in Cusco, the Incas slowly achieved administrative control over the different ethnic groups living in the Sacred Valley, by conquest or diplomacy. In addition to the fact that the Sacred Valley was very closely located to Cusco, one of the reasons why the Incas were so interested in the Sacred Valley was probably because it was lower in elevation and therefore warmer than other close areas.
The fact that it was lower and warmer allowed better agriculture, especially for growing maize, a prestige crop for the Incas.
2.One of the coolest (or most terrifying!) hotels in the world is located in the Sacred Valley
Skylodge Adventures Suites, a sleeping camp hanging at the summit of a 400-meter mountain, is to be found in the Sacred Valley, 15 minutes from the village of Ollantaytambo.
It doesn’t only enable you to enjoy the landscapes and the sky full of stars from your completely see-through room, but it also takes you on an adventure of a 400 m Via Ferrata or hiking and zip lining in order to reach the hotel.
What do you think, is this the coolest or the most terrifying hotel in the world?
3.Visit the Potato Park in the Sacred Valley
This biocultural reserve is one of the many things the Sacred Valley has to offer. If you are interested in learning about Andean traditions, the traditional agriculture, weaving, and sharing a few moments with the 12 different communities that live and grow potatoes there, this is the place to go to. Here is everything you need to know about this magical place.
4.The highest slingshot in the world is situated in the Action Valley
The Sacred Valley is also known for the wide range of adventures it has to offer. If you’re visiting the valley, take a day to pass by the Action Valley, an adventure park, offering bungee jumping and slingshots, founded by two national champions: a National Paragliding Champion and a National Bungee Jumping Champion.
The slingshot, built at an altitude of 3,500 meters, fires its riders more than 100 meters into the air, which makes it the highest in the world. The bungee jump is also often considered as the highest in South America, but that might be because of its very high altitude.
If you’re a fan of strong sensations, the park is waiting for you!
5.Cuy, the staple diet of Peruvians
Cuy, or better known as Guinea Pig, has been a routinely eaten plate for Peruvians for over 5,000 years. It is still very popular today, and the second Friday of every October is the National Guinea Pig Day in Peru!
The Cuy is often served fried, or roasted, in almost every restaurant of the Sacred Valley, where it is extremely popular. It might seem weird, but you should definitely give it a try (it is very good and tasty!).
6.Go mountain biking in the incredible Maras Salt Mines
The little town of Maras is just 40 km from Cusco City, a very short drive from Ollantaytambo and Urubamba. The small town is home to an impressive network of ancient salt deposits, used since the Inca times.
It consists of very salty spring water that arrives in hand-built pools, where it is left to evaporate, in order to leave 100% natural unrefined salt.
The rules for maintaining a salt pond are very strict, as they all depend on each other: the proper maintenance of each pond is necessary for the correct functioning of each one of them, and has been established since the Incas, or maybe even earlier.
In addition, you can also enjoy a sportive and funny mountain bike tour around Maras.
7.The Sacred Valley houses the longest zip line of Peru
Starting close to the town of Maras, at a height of almost 5,000 meters above sea level, this line of 2,130 meters of length is considered the longest zip line in the country. Apparently, it can take you up to a speed of 120 km/h, which is perfect for true adrenaline seekers.
As you fly through the air at a very high speed, take your breath, and enjoy the incredible and beautiful panoramic view of the Sacred Valley and its mountains. If you love outdoor activities, know that the Urubamba Valley has many to offer, and check out the 7 incredible adventure activities to do in the Sacred Valley.
8.Several Sacred Valley homes are equipped with water connections
In 2015, the Peruvian Ministry of Housing announced that 2,500 households would now be running with drinkable water. Many communities that live in the Sacred Valley are situated in rural and isolated areas, which makes it very difficult to access water.
That is why the Peruvian State has decided to complete actions to help those populations. Today, more than 10,000 people benefit from water connections that provide the communities with drinking water and for their personal needs.
9.See the Sacred Valley from a unique and adrenaline-filled spot
Looking for the ultimate adventure-exciting-adrenaline-filled experience? Paragliding would be the best option for you! Many tourism operators propose this extreme activity, so make sure to pick one that has experience and that isn’t completely new.
Most of the operators run their tours either close to Chinchero, about 30 minutes north from Cusco, or near Pisac, about 45 minutes from Cusco. The flights last for 15-30 min and offer you breathtaking views of the Sacred Valley.
Here’s a little sneak-peek of how it is to paraglide in the Sacred Valley:
If you are visiting the Sacred Valley and looking for adrenaline activities, you should read this!
10.Ollantaytambo is the military fortress where the Incas won a glorious battle against the Conquistadores
In 1536, the conquistador Hernando Pizarro attacked Ollantaytambo – where the Incan rebel Manco was taking refuge – to take him as a hostage, with 70 riders and many Inca and Spanish soldiers.
They never managed to get into the fortress, as the soldiers of Manco where throwing arrows and rocks on them. Finally, he had the brilliant idea of flooding the plain by releasing the canalizations, which marked a great victory over the conquistadores. Later, however, the Spanish troops came back to attack, with four times as many riders, and Manco was forced to take refuge in his fort in the forest. Today, the ruins of Ollantaytambo are considered as some of the most impressive and famous of the Sacred Valley.