Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Sacred Valley

On the 6th, our 2nd day in Cusco, Liz and hired a car and driver to take into to Urubamba Valley.   We opted for doing it that way instead of joining an organized tour so that we could set the schdule ourselves, stop when we needed a break, and determine the places to visit ourselves.

The Urubamba Valley, also known as the Sacred Valley, was the breadbasket of Inca Cusco, with its mild climate and diverse ecological zones.   It was -and is- optimum land for growing corn, and Cusco corn is famed for its size and quality to this day.   The Incas lined the valley with agricultural terrraces, carrying fertile bottomland soil up the slopes by the basketful to create vertical fields, and brought in experienced maize farmers from elsewhere in the empire to settle the valley.

The Incas prized the valley as the Inca heartland, holding it as sacred.   The Inca nobility established country palaces along the valley, and built temples all along its length.  Accordingly, the valley contains a number of important Inca archaeological sites, principally Tipon, Pisaq, Ollantaytambo, Moray, and Machupiqchu.  Of these, we were to visit Pisaq and Ollantaytambo, along with the saltworks at Maras.

The Sacred Valley, viewed from Pisaq
Eastern slope of the Sacred Valley, viewed from near Maras

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