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Enjoy a selection of our Peru articles written by our award-winning travel director.


Sacred Valley of the Incas

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Six o'clock in the morning in Urubamba. The sun barely begins to warm the earth, and the people start their morning without commotion. From out of the houses emanate the aroma of baking bread, which becomes embroiled in the sweet odor of eucalyptus. It smells of peacefulness. Work is just starting in the fields that overflow with tender corn. Soon, the sun will rise to its throne in the middle of the sky, and it will be necessary to protect yourself under the shade of pisonay tree. Life continues unchanged as it has from the beginning of time. We are in the sacred valley of the Incas.

The sacred valley of the Incas spreads itself out between the towns of Písac and Ollantaytambo following the course of the Urubamba River. It was here that, approximately 800 years ago, the Tahuantinsuyo flourished. This was the larder of the capital, Cusco, and the seat of large ceremonial and administrative centers. Here, they left demonstrations of advanced knowledge in hydraulic engineering and agricultural experimentation: canal, terraces, and intricate irrigation systems, which are still used today by the valley's inhabitants.

The chronicler Pedro de Cieza de León, during his long journey through Peru, referred to the valley as "A very beautiful place lodged in the highest part of the mountains in such a way that the warmth provided by them makes its spirit healthy and joyful ... and it is regarded as being so superb that the rulers of the nearby city of Cusco have actually talked about moving that city to the valley."

The conquest of the valley
The most notable inhabitants of antiquity were the Ayarmacas, a people from the Altiplano, who established themselves in the valley near Ollantaytambo in search of better lands to farm. The historians refer to this culture as the tampus, and they were related to the Incas in speech and culture, which allowed them to preserve a certain amount of independence that lasted until the reign of Inca Pachacútec, who conquered them and annexed the valley of Tambo, as it was called in those times, into his empire.

The second conquest of the valley happened in 1536, this time by Spanish hands, and converted the valley into a scene from one of the bloody chapters of Peruvian history with the rebellion of Manco Inca, the last monarch of the Tahuantinsuyu and the puppet-king set up by the conquistadors. Upon learning of his position, Manco Inca decided to rebel and entrenched himself in Ollantaytambo, where he kept the Spanish troops at bay for fifty years.


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