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About the Sacred Valley of the Incas

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The Lush Green Valley...


The Vilcanota River flows in this valley surrounded by high abrupt mountains that are over 4.000 m high. This river is the main "artery of life" in the valley. But it is a strong force during floods. It's a rapid river full of rocks, which wildly roam across the valley with the water . Such an unfortunate even occurred in early 2010.

It's a river in which one cannot swim or even think about crossing it.

Some companies offer "white water rafting" services on the Vilcanota. Avoid such irresponsible activities. This river is dangerous, not suitable for such activities.


This part of Peru is the most visited by foreign tourists. It has picturesque landscapes with lots of man-made attractions as well. Towns, villages and ancient Inca ruins are scattered along the Urubamba Valley.


The train that goes to Machu Picchu Pueblo goes through here.


If you would like to get in touch with local Quechuan culture whose ancestors were the Incas, then you should visit the town of Urubamba, Yucay, Písac, Calca and Ollantaytambo (which also has a fortified Inca complex).

It will take you 45 minutes to 1 hour to get to Urubamba or Yucay by road vehicle from Cuzco (Cusco).

The towns offer plenty of traditional products (which are more or less original) on the local markets.


Písac is one of the most famous places for souvenir shopping. Prices are often exaggerated in the market, so make sure you negotiate and get a good idea about how much an item would cost in your local currency.


Ollantaytambo is one of the biggest Inca fortifications and is among the most well-preserved Inca sites, a "must see" whenever you are in this area of the country.


You will read sources telling you that the "Sacred Valley of the Incas" is actually the Urubamba Valley. Some argue that the Urubamba Valley is only that part of the valley where the River Vilcanota is also called River Urubamba and that the Sacred Valley is actually a smaller portion of the great Urubamba Valley.


To identify the Sacred Valley: it is the valley that extends in an southeast to southwest direction from the town of Písac to Ollantaytambo. The Sacred Valley runs along the Vilcanota River.

Of course, because some say the Urubamba is not the same: the valley that you see below Machu Picchu is the Urubamba, but there it is not called Sacred Valley.


Today it is widely accepted that the "Sacred Valley of the Incas" (or "Valle Sagrado de Los Incas" in Spanish) is the Urubamba Valley.

If you are a professional, you will know that the Sacred Valley and the Urubamba Valley are not the same, but somehow include each other.


Inside the valley there are flat agricultural areas, towns. The surrounding mountains though, are steep and very high.


Heavy rainfall often causes flooding and landslides. Make sure you avoid the rainy season and if you happen to catch an unusually heavy storm, then don't hike, don't travel through narrow passes.


It is important to note that Cuzco and places like Chinchero and several other places are not situated in the Sacred Valley, as they fall away from the Vilcanota River.

Cuzco is located 15 km (9,3 mi) south of the river.


The Incas had built their most important cities and fortifications in this part of today's Peru. Geographically and from the point of view of climate, this region was the most adequate.

Defending against incoming threats, like the Antis and wild jungle tribes was much easier from the Sacred Valley. The passes could be better guarded and fortifications were erected on higher, easily defendable ground.


Many adventure travel-specialized agencies based in Cuzco offer their Sacred Valley tour services to foreign travelers. Some trips you can take on alone or in group without asking for an agency's help, it will be a lot cheaper too, but for less accessible places and large groups, it might be a good idea to check these firms out.


The beauty of this region seduces most visitors. Local markets, hotels, rail operators and travel agents take in tremendous amounts from tourism.


You will notice the abundance of stepped agricultural areas or "andinas" in the Sacred Valley. These make the landscape even less boring to the visitors.


Hikers, bikers and photographers love the Sacred Valley region. You should spend at least 7 days here to be able to get a good taste of the area. Perhaps 2-3 weeks would be a better idea. But then, many of us have responsibilities like family, work or studies.

For gap year travelers, we warmly recommend a longer stay in the Sacred Valley.

Many foreign youngsters come to the Sacred Valley for hiking, biking and socializing with locals.


The altitude levels vary, but many places are above 2.000 m. Cuzco being 3.400 m above sea level, it is going to wear you down if you think you'll arrive in and then just take trips, hikes every day for days and weeks.

On the first days, make sure that you comfortable adapt to the climate and gradually start hiking and visiting.



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