If you are looking for places to visit in Peru that have been relatively unaffected by modern development and are not too far from main tourist destinations then one of the best places to visit is the Sacred Valley. This lovely valley only 45 minutes from Cusco was an important area of settlement for the ancient Inca Civilization. If you are short on time, try prioritizing some of the following spots.
Sacsayhuaman, a military fortress
Sacsayhuaman, located just north of Cusco, is part of the Sacred Valley and demonstrates the tremendous construction skills of the Incas. Stones of up to 125 tons make up many of the buildings found in the area. Some believe that Sacsayuaman was some kind of military fortress with its shape as a zigzag resembling the open jaw of a Puma. The layout of the city of Cusco formed the body of the Puma with the Plaza de Armas being the center of the world according to Inca beliefs.
The ruins of Sacsayuaman are still impressive despite the massive destruction of the complex by the Spaniards. Many of Cusco’s style of colonial churches and mansions use stones taken from the ruins. Tourists are rewarded from the site with a good view of the city of Cusco in the valley below.
Qenko, Puca Pucara and Tambo Machay
About four miles from Sacsayhuaman is Quenko, an amphitheater and temple. Quenko was carved from huge limestone formations and the ruins are well preserved with a series of underground tunnels, galleries and carvings. The amphitheater is in the middle of the ruins and features wide seats or thrones, once thought to be used by royalty. Puca Pucara is a smaller fortress, most likely used to defend Cusco. The sacred bathing place for the rulers is located at Tambo Machay. The use of hydraulic engineering still functions and provides crystalline water from a hidden spring. The exquisite stonework of Tambo Machay counters the basic stonework of the nearby Inca farming terraces.
Pisac: Impressive Ruins and an Indigenous Market
Located about a 45 – minute journey from Cusco, the ruins of Pisac are the most impressive of all sites in the Sacred Valley. Quite a bit of hiking is required if you plan to see the entire site. There are intricate farming terraces and impressively detailed examples of stonework used in creation of some of the temples. Fitted with incredible precision, the stonework in the temples indicates the importance of the site. The city still has fully functioning irrigation systems channeled from its heights, and from here you can get a thrilling view of the valley below.
Pisac is also known for its Sunday market which is a mix of items of interest to both tourists and locals alike. Products range from wall carpets and flutes to colorful spices and fruits. Prices may be a bit higher than those you would pay in the markets of Lima so be prepared to bargain hard.
With a bit more time try to include some of the following which are very interesting indeed; Ollantaytambo ruins, Moray Inca crop circle complex and the ancient salt pans at Maras.
A short trip out of Cusco with a reputable travel agent will provide the diverse offerings of the Sacred Valley and many visits are achievable in a day-trip, so be sure not to miss them on your next Peru vacation.