The largest empire in South America belonged to the Incas; a civilization born and bred in Peru. Today, they have left behind just ruins of their fascinating history and I was lucky to enough to visit a few in The Sacred Valley.
My first stop was Pisac, followed by a few hours drive to Ollantaytambo; both considered to be in the heart of the Inca Empire. With the Urubamba River running through The Sacred Valley, this area provided a lot of natural wealth for the Incas, particularly around the production of corn (a diet staple for the Peruvians).
Inca Pisac stands on top of a hill at the entrance of the valley
The most beautiful part of these ruins are the agricultural terraces sweeping around the steep hillside and still in use today!
The Incas really didn’t like doing anything on a small scale, did they? It takes a good hour or so to walk around the entire site!
At the top of of the terraces you find the ceremonial centre, with an Intihuatana (Inca astronomical tool), several working water channels and well-preserved temples.
One part of the hill has several holes along the side of its wall which are actually Inca tombs. Today the holes are open and empty as they were at one point, robbed. Very eerie as if you look close enough, you are able to see the remains of white skulls jutting out of the holes.
A couple hours drive from Pisac brings you to the town of Ollantaytambo which is also a common starting point for those beginning their 3-4 day hike up to Machu Picchu, known as the Inca Trail.
Before you head up (way up!) to the Ollantaytambo ruins, you will find a fairly large market selling the usual woven goods by the local community. I’m assuming the majority aren’t actually real Alpaca wool and just set up for travellers but it’s still worth a look.
The site has massive steps (called Temple Hill) that take you up the hill and provide a breathtaking view of Ollantaytambo below. Originally built for worship, the site ended up being the greatest victory against the invading Spanish Conquistadors and one of the only battles successfully won by the Incas. Also a part of the ruins are: The Wall of Six Monoliths, Temple of the Sun and the Princess Baths.
Just the sheer size of both these ruins takes your breath away! Both built on steep hills with a view of the entire valley below. It’s incredible to think about all that history, the way of life of the Incas and the questions that are still unanswered about their civilisation. As travellers, we arrive, climb, gasp and take a few clicks, completely oblivious to all the stories lost over time.
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