Having arrived in Cusco prior to my Inca Trail trek for the appropriate amount of acclimatisation I had a few days to fill in. Fortunately Cusco and it’s surrounding areas including the Sacred Valley provide numerous ways to kill time. I decided to take a full day tour of the Sacred Valley to explore some of this beautiful landscape and to learn a bit about the Inca culture.
First stop was a look out of the entire Sacred Valley. I was excited to be exploring this part of Peru in the lovely sunshine and it was actually warm!
Stopping in the small town of Pisaq, we visited the town’s famous markets. There were so many handicrafts here ranging from jewellery to llama fur throws to ornaments to clothing to paintings and the list goes on! It was nice to know that at this particular market any purchases directly go to the local artists. It was very difficult not to buy everything!
Following the market we headed up the hill to the Pisaq archaeological site. This impressive site was a lot bigger than what I expected. There were many large terraces for farming. As we climbed up to the highest buildings the guide pointed out the holes in the side of the mountain where the village people use to be buried. The view from the Temple of the Sun into the valley was beautiful.
The town of Ollantaytambo is believed to be a strategic military headquarters in Inca times. Unfortunately the construction of this town was never finished due to the Spanish invasion. But never the less its terraces for farming, housing and temples would have been impressive in its hay day. The position of the town, on top of two mountains gives it stunning views of the Patakancha River.
In the fading light we made our way to the final destination in the Sacred Valley, Chinchero. The drive its self was through the superb landscape of the Vilcanto Mountains and we even got glimpses of the Piuray and Huaypo lakes too.
Arriving at Chinchero we entered the Colonial church that was built on Incan foundations. Inside the church it is very clear that the Spanish attempted to mix the Incan culture and the Catholic region. You can see the Incan foundations that flow into elaborate religious paintings on the walls. Looking up the colours red and black feature heavily in paintings as these colours symbolise the pacha mama (mother earth), an extremely important aspect of the Inca culture. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed visiting this unique church. In my travels I have previously “churched myself out” but this was so unique and such an important historical place that I was hanging on every word that came out of the guides mouth about the history of Chinchero. I’ve also come to the conclusion that the Spanish were bloody sneaky in how they were about trying to force Catholicism into the indigenous people.
My journey into the Sacred Valley was a long but enjoyable day. It’s a stunning part of Peru that is rich in both scenery, history and culture. Not a bad way to kill a day when in Cusco.