The sacred valley

A little further outside of Cusco, there is a plentitude of bigger and more complete sights. They are congregrated in what is called the sacred valley and are also part of the afore mentioned boleto.

As we only had two more days together it was a tough choice which of the sights we should visit and which we (or rather he, as I did most of the ones later on by myself) should skip.

On our first day we ended up going to Ollantaytambo, an impressive Inka fort and the only place where the Inkas, with their wooden weapons and their leather-suits managed to defeat the metal-wearing Spanish. Unfortunately the Spanish came back with more soldiers and managed to take the fort after all. The picture above, together with the fact that the valley at the bottom was floodable may give you an idea, as to why this fort was so hard to take.

After spending half a day in Ollantaytambo, we decided to do a little detour and also visit the less promoted sites of Maras and Las Salinas. They turned out to be another highlight of the day, even if they are quickly visited.

Maras is a sort of inverted amphitheater. A lot of concentric terrasses which where used to study the best conditions for different crops. Due to the amount of stones and the way the terrasses are build the average temperature increases by one degree Celsius every 3 terrasses and allows for many different climates within one location.

Not far from Maras are the salines, a small, warm, salty spring which was used by the Inkas to gain salt. You can visit the site and as it is still being used today (mostly to sell the salt to tourists…) you get a good idea of how this site worked. It turned out to be HUGE with a ton of different little lakes in which the water was pumped and then tried to recover the salt it contained. You could see the salt cristals everywhere around the little lakes and along the river, which upon touch turned out to be warm and upon tasting turned out to be salted, as promoted.

The next day we went to Pisac, another great fort of the Inka and a ceremonial center. Again it turned out to be on top of a hill, but this time, luckily, there was a cab-service to the top. As you can easily fit 5 people into a cab in Peru (well actually up to 10 is acceptable), the ride turned out to be so cheap we didn´t want to walk. The site is, once more, huge and you can easily spent a hole day there, wandering through the different ceremonial centers for the sun, the moon, the earth, several baths, etc, etc…
Since we had taken a taxi up, we decided that we could easily walk down. That made us appreciate the taxi ride all that much more. As you can see on the right, there was quite a lot of downhill to be done.

Finally on my last day, I decided to visit the two remaining main sites of the sacred valley: Tipón and Pikillacta. Once again they turned out to have steep, long access roads and as I was by myself I decided a taxi to be too expensive. At the top I figured the taxi would´ve been worth its price.

Tipón is another water-cult and agricultural location of the Inka´s which I would highly recommend to visit. For one you will be almost by yourself and second there is a lot of interesting engeneering and nice country-side to see.

The well itself is particularly interesting as it contains a load of (hard to photograph) canals, which represent the origin of life, according to some. According to other it was a testing field for canals… You choose which explanation sounds more poetic.

Close to Tipón is the site of Pikillacta, one of the few sites that predate the Inka culture. It is a Wari site and not much remains of  the site itself except for incredible straight and narrow streets. What can be seen however is that a lot of structures, for example the terrasses, already were used by the Wari and apparently were consequently incorporated into the Inka culture.

After spending 10 days in Cusco and its surrounding all I can say is that there is so much more to see and so much more to do, no matter how long you stay, you´ll miss out on some things.

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