Amazement and Awe – Touring the Sacred Valley

Last Saturday I took the one day tour of the Sacred Valley, and it was truly, truly amazing. I was a little cynical at first; it’s a bus tour that’s popular with tourists and those are the kind of trips I generally avoid when trying to absorb the nature and culture in a place like the Sacred Valley. But, hey, it’s my job to accurately describe these tours to Peru Sur Nativa‘s customers, and I wasn’t up for much else after my first visit to a Cusco dance club (they don’t close until 6-7AM so if you don’t check the time it’s easy to miss your bed time).

I would do this tour again for the bus ride alone. As soon as you round the bend in the road to the Sacred Valley the views are amazing: giant serrated peaks rising straight up from either side of the Urubamaba River, with glaciated mountains with altitudes over 17,000ft right behind them.

The first Inca ruins you visit are above the town of Pisac. Thousands of feet of agricultural terraces carved into a mountainside, with a town built of, and carved into, stone above. The terraces were designed so the crops that required the most water and warmest temperatures were planted at the lowest altitudes; vice versa for the grains that could withstand colder, drier weather. Soil and gravel were layered to prevent landslides from rain run-off in the wet season. Says something about the innovative capacity and ingenuity of a civilization that existed centuries ago.

From Pisac the tour goes through Urubamba, where you stop for lunch (and pan flute music – yessss!), and on to Ollaytantambo. Every minute of the drive is incredible. You follow the river and the narrow strips of lush, green valley floor with the peaks looming over you. Chicon and the other snow capped mountains change from every angle, each view giving a different perspective of the glaciers, crevasses and sheer rock faces. For most of the ride I just sat there staring out the window, completely speechless.

The ruins at Ollaytantambo were equally impressive; housing and sacred sites carved into cliffsides at impossible elevations.

The road back takes you above the valley where the views of the Urubamba range are even more impressive. . The tour was a great introduction to the area, but I’m already planning my return trip to get up in to those mountains and check out the valley from a better vantage point.