Learn Spanish in The Sacred Valley






Highlights

Pisac Ruins

The ruins of the fortress at Pisac are quite beautiful and among some of the most interesting found in all of Peru. Historians and archaeologists theorize that Pisac was a defensive compound set up to serve against the Anti Indians, who held lands east of Cusco and were the enemies of the Incans.

pisaq Throughout the complex, tourists will find several areas. Qanchisracay, a small compound of rough stone buildings can be outside of the main walled complex. It is uncertain what the area was used for, but scholars believe that it served as a military garrison or housed local villagers in case of an attack. From this point, the Inca trail leads up the hill to a crossroads, known as Antachaka. There are four baths found at these crossroads with water brought in by duct. There is a cemetery known as Tankanamarka that can be found to the west. Grave robbers have largely looted this pre-conquest site. The Incas believe that the dead could carry their possessions with them onto their next life. Often, due to this belief, bodies were buried with their treasures. It is estimated that there may have been up to 10,000 graves at the site at a certain point in time. The Spanish soon realized and exploited all of the graves leaving only the holes. An exceptional part of the ruins is the Temple of the Sun, an oval building built directly onto the rock. From the top of the building, Inca astronomers could track the movements of the sun, moon, and stars. There is also an altar that may have been used to sacrifice animals for purposes of divination.

The ruins at Pisac are extraordinary and are worth the visit. Purchasing the Boleta Turistico gives you free access into the ruins as well as other sites located in the Sacred Valley.

Pisac market:

pisaq market The Pisac Market, located in the town of Pisac, is a beautiful and culture place to explore and to shop. Strewed with stands selling local ceramics, jewellery and alpaca goods, this market draws both local merchants and tourists alike. The market can be found in the main square of Pisac with charming locals laying out their local fabrics, paintings and local knick-knacks. Though there are merchants selling daily, the main days to head out to the market are on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The market opens around 9AM and vendors usually begin to close up around 5 PM. Do not be afraid to make a bargain, as sellers will give a starting price that is much higher than its original value. Prices are very reasonable especially if goods are bought in bulk. If you are looking for higher quality it is best to visit the local stores or the homes of the merchants themselves. The market lasts all days, with bright, beautiful colors and enticing smells that draw in tourists from all directions. Though the market is quite touristy, there are quaint cafes and local restaurants serving some of the best cuy in the area. On Sundays only, campesinos from surrounding villages set up a barter market, or mercado de treque, which is an ancient Peruvian custom and an interesting example of the informal economies upon which highlanders depend. Quechuan-speaking Indians sit behind huge piles of potatoes, carrots, herbs, and other vegetables in one corner of the square. Not only can tourists partake in buying some souvenirs, but they can also delight in the fresh delicacies from the local area. Visiting the Pisac Market is one of the highlights while travelling throughout the Sacred Valley and can be reached by bus or taxi coming from Cusco. The distance from Cusco is about 1 hour by bus or a bit less by taxi. Buses leave every several minutes and cost a little under 3 soles.

Ollantaytambo temple:

ollantaytambo The other half of Ollantaytambo, Araqama Ayllu, is across the Río Patacancha. The main square is fronted with a series of monumental buildings, and located above is the temple that was being constructed when the Spaniards arrived. Manco Inca later converted it into a fortress. There are some two hundred steps that lead up a double-jamb gateway and the Temple of Ten Niches. Above is the unfinished Temple of the Sun, considered one of the masterpieces of Inca stonework. One can still see traces of the chacana symbols and pumas that once decorated the walls.

The amazing idea surrounding the ruins at Ollantaytambo is how they came to be. The Incas dragged boulders weighing up to 52 tons down the mountain, across the Rio Urubamba, along the valley floor and up the steep ramp to construct this magnificent creation.

At the base of the ruins are the Princess Baths, a half dozen fountains adorned with chacana symbols. These fountains were engineered in such a manner as to cause a whirlpool that allowed sediment to drop before the water then continues over a delicately shaped spout. The ruins are quite breathtaking and provide a beautiful vista of the surrounding village and Andes Mountains. Buses leave from Cusco towards Urubumba, where you can then take a taxi or a combi to Ollantaytambo. Buses cost around 3 soles and the trip is about 3 hours from Cusco.

Moray:

moray Moray, just outside the town of Moras, is a fabulous but lesser visited Inca Site. There are circular terracing, which at first glance looks like a huge amphitheatre and appears in the form of a giant bowl. There are actually two such bowls at Moray, one of which is much larger and more restored than the other.

Stone stairs built into the terrace walls allow visitors to walk down to the very bottom level. From here the upward view is of all encompassing, surrounding stone walls with the beautiful blue sky above.

The different levels of terracing each have their own microclimate that the Incas used to their advantage. They were thought to have used Moray as an area for testing the optimal growing conditions for their crops. With this information the Incas could determine which areas were best for growing crops and ultimately where they should settle.

Moray is not part of the usual Sacred Valley circuit but makes a good half-day trip from Urubamba. Due to its proximity to the Salinas these two sites are best visited together. Tourists can hire a taxi from Cusco and negotiate a price to head out to these two sites.

Salineras:

salineras Salineras is just a short distance from Moray, making the two sites easy to visit in one day.

Salineras are salt mines that have been in use since the time of the Incas. 5,740 small pools (pocitos) line the mountainside, each of which can yield 150 kilos of salt per month. The pools are fed by a salt water hot spring which has been diverted into the salt pans. As the water evaporates the salt crystallizes and is harvested. It is a beautiful place to visit and is usually pretty quiet. There are fewer tourists visiting this interesting site making it a lovely outing.

Visitors can reach Salineras by either hiking up to it or approaching it by car from the top. The road in from the top is a narrow dirt road that winds its way down the mountainside. There are a few areas to stop along the way with great views out over the thousands of salt pools, giving some perspective on how huge this site is.

Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu:

aguas calientes Located about 120 km northwest of Cusco, the Inca city of Machu Picchu lay hidden from the world in dense jungle covered mountains until 1911. This ' Lost City ' is one of the world's archaeological jewels and is one of South America's major travel destinations.

The well-preserved ruins of Machu Picchu are gorgeous and surrounded by towering green mountains overlooking the Vilcanota River Valley. Even after having seen the classic photos of Machu Picchu in guide books, web sites, travel brochures and postcards, words can still not seem to capture the essence of this awe-inspiring place.

When you read about its discovery and the unsolved mystery surrounding its creation, it is no wonder why so many people make the pilgrimage to visit this fascinating and spiritual site.

With the right information, getting to Machu Picchu is less of a mystery than the place itself. You can either book all the components of the trip yourself or buy a ready-made package tour from one of hundreds of tour operators offering this service. As the popularity of this new world wonder continues to increase, it is best to try and make your arrangements in advance.

Independent Travel to Machu Picchu
machupicchu Machu Picchu lay hidden from the world for so many years because its location is remote and quite inaccessible as it is located high up on a mountainside. The nearest town is Aguas Calientes which is located down in the valley beside the Vilcanota River. Aguas Calientes is only a few kilometers away from Machu Picchu if viewed from above, but it takes a bus about 20 minutes to climb the narrow, steep zigzagging dirt track that connects the two.

Roads do not connect Aguas Calientes to the outside world. There is the option to take a train to Ollantaytambo and then hop in a taxi or bus to head to Cusco, or you can take the train all the way back to Cusco. There are many treks that lead to this amazing citadel including the Classic 4 day Inca Trail. You must book well in advance as the Inca Trail fills up quickly, however there are many alternative treks that one can take to visit these ruins.
One option to reach Machu Picchu is to take the train.

machupicchu During the peak months of May to September all of the train tickets can be sold out several days in advance so it is important to make train reservations as far in advance as possible, especially if you are on a tight schedule. It is best not to wait until you arrive in Cusco to buy your train tickets.

At the moment the only companies operating trains to Machu Picchu are Peru Rail and Inca Rail. Since there is not a lot of competition, the prices are quite high but the service is relatively good. Details of the train services, departure times and prices can be found on their websites. Orient Express is an international company who also run the 5 star Hotel Monasterio in Cusco and the US$795 a night Sanctuary Lodge in Machu Picchu.

From the beginning of March 2008 Peru Rail have improved their online reservation system and it is now fairly easy to make a booking and pay online using a VISA card. Their website allows you to check availability and search for the cheapest service available.

machupicchu Our in-house travel agency, Dos Manos can help you book and organize all of your travel excursions. Whether you are interested in the enlightening Inca Trail, or prefer to take an independent tour of the Sacred Valley, Dos Manos can help you arrange everything down to the last detail. Please see our website for further information and how we can assist you in making all of your traveling dreams come true! www.dosmanosperu.com

Important Note: If you want a return ticket from Cusco to Machu Picchu during the peak months of May to September you may already find many of the train services fully booked! However if you check for departures between Ollantaytambo (Ollanta) and Machu Picchu (M.Picchu) - there should be plenty available.
If you would prefer, you can also take the bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.

machupicchu The bus from Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu takes about 20 minutes and costs US$8 each way. The ride itself is spectacular as the narrow track heads its way up the mountainside. Your heart leaps a bit when you look upon some of the vertical drops that plunge down to the Vilcanota Valley, but no fear. The buses are very safe and once you reach the top, it is all worth it as you gaze upon the magnificent ruins.
After spending a day touring the ruins, take the bus back down to Aguas Caliente and soak yourself in the natural hot baths that still exist in the city. There are many restaurants, hotels and local markets so that you can take part in the local life after a long day of exploring the famous Machu Picchu.





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