The Sacred Valley of the Incas - The Inca Heartland

Ollantaytambo, Peru
Shared or private day trip that visits the spectacular Sacred Valley of the Incas and the stupendous archeological sites of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. We'll visit the impressive but little understood temple site of Pisac and its megalithic Inca terraces still used by local peasant farmers. The ruins are some of the finest and largest in the entire valley. Despite the excellent condition of many of the structures, little is conclusively known about the site's actual purpose. It appears to have been part city, part ceremonial center, and part military complex. It might have been a royal estate of the Inca emperor (Pachacútec). It was certainly a religious temple, and although it was reinforced with the ramparts of a massive citadel, the Incas never retreated here to defend their empire against the Spaniards (and Pisac was, possibly unlike Machu Picchu, known to Spanish forces). The Market: Pisac's famed artisans' and antiques market draws many hundreds of shoppers on Sunday morning in high season, when it is without a doubt one of the liveliest in Peru. (There are slightly less popular markets on Tuesday and Thursday as well.) Hundreds of stalls crowd the central square marked by a small church, San Pedro el Apóstolo, and massive pisonay trees and spill down side streets. Sellers come from many different villages, many of them remote populations high in the Andes, and wear the dress typical of their village. Dignitaries from the local villages usually lead processions after Mass (said in Quechua), dressed in their versions of Sunday finery. The market is much like Cusco: rather touristy, though endearing and an essential experience in Peru.
After lunch we continue to Ollantaytambo. Probably built by the great Inca ruler Pachacutec in the 1460s, it was the site of Hernando Pizzaro's defeat by Manco Inca in 1536. Constructed of finely cut polygonal stones and rhyolite blocks, the fortress and nearby town represent the best of Inca architecture and construction. Large worked blocks, some weighing as much as 100 tons were quarried from a site more than a thousand vertical feet above the valley floor using a technique of pecking with hammer stones, then skidded down and across the Urubamba river several kilometers to the temple site. Inclined ramps were built to raise the blocks several hundred feet up hill to the construction area. We have ample time to examine the complex and ponder its many mysteries. We return you to your hotel in Cusco in the late afternoon or drop you off at your Sacred Valley Hotel L

Shared trips Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays only. Private trips any day of the week.

Private Trips Only:
We also include a walking tour of the Pisac ruins, Driving to the top and hiking down to the Pisac plaza.

From a semicircular terrace and fortified section at the top, called the Qorihuayrachina, the views south and west of the gorge and valley below and agricultural terraces creeping up the mountain slopes are stunning. Deeper into the nucleus, the delicately cut stones are some of the best found at any Inca site. The most important component of the complex, on a plateau on the upper section of the ruins, is the Temple of the Sun, one of the Incas' most impressive examples of masonry. The temple was an astronomical observatory. The Intihuatana, the so-called "hitching post of the sun," resembles a sundial but actually was an instrument that helped the Incas to determine the arrival of important growing seasons rather than to tell the time of day. In the hillside across the Quitamayo gorge, at the back side (north end) of the ruins, are hundreds of dug out holes where grave robbers have ransacked a cemetery that was among the largest known Inca burial sites.