Sacred Valley, Peru

About Sacred Valley

Located at the foot of the mountains where the Inca civilization once flourished and zigzagging around the calm waters of Urumbamba River, Valle Sagrado blends a particular natural beauty that has attracted explorers and travelers for hundreds of years.

TRAVEL TO A GLORIOUS PAST

Before the Spaniards arrived, the Inca Empire – also known as Tahuantinsuyo – was one of the most important South American civilizations. It extended over 2,485 miles (4,000 kilometers) from the south of Colombia to the central region of Chile, built a route of about 24,854 miles (40,000 kilometers) and brought together 10 million people under the same political and cultural entity.

The capital of this powerful empire emerged in the heart of the Peruvian  Sierra: the city of Cusco, surrounded by majestic mountain landscapes and fertile valleys. From these, Sacred Valley  was chosen by the Incas to build some of their most important architectural works and to develop the most complex irrigation terraces that are still used up to this day for growing food.

Located between Cusco and the sacred city of Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley stretches along the Urubamba River and covers different colonial towns still marked by the Inca legacy. It is considered to be the home of the best Peruvian corn grains.

 

Machu Picchu, inca empire, unique wonders, Peru

BUILDING AN EMPIRE

One of the greatest achievements of the Inca Empire was the architectural development and construction of thousands of miles of travel paths that connected the vast territory where they ruled.

The magnificent period of this civilization began with the coming to power of Pachacutec Yupanqui in the XV century. He is credited with the construction of religious buildings such as the Coricancha, main worship temple to the god Inti – sun in Quechua, and Ollantaytambo, a lodging city with large stone walls strategically located to dominate Sacred Valley.

The ruins from these and other monuments account for the construction ability of the Inca Empire. The main material used was stone. With it, they developed techniques that for over 500 years draw the interest of historians and archeologists. An example is the construction of large walls by fitting heavy stone blocks with great precision leaving no space between them.

AN EMPIRE FOUNDED ON RELIGION

The faith of the Incas permeated all aspects of their lives: at work, festivities, ceremonies, and behavior. Society was founded on a sacred theocracy.

The Inca was the leading political and religious authority of this civilization. He descended from the god Sun – Inti in Quechua. This god along with Viracocha, the creator of the universe, was the most revered. Huge temples were built in their honor and according to some historians, also the mystical city of Machu Picchu.

Although there is no absolute certainty about who lived in this incredible city built on the top of a mountain, it is believed that it was a ceremonial center as well as the resting place for the ninth Inca Pachacutec Yupanqui.

Milestones that have marked the history of this region:

  • 1911: The U.S historian Hiram Bingham begins the search for Machu Picchu
  • 1913: University of Yale creates a research program
  • 1983: UNESCO declares Machu Picchu as Patrimony of Humanity
  • 2007: The mystic Inca city is voted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

HOME OF THE BEST CORN OF PERU 

Sacred Valley is located at 9,500 feet above sea level  (2.900 meters ) and 20 miles (32 kms) from Cusco in the Peruvian Sierra, also known as Andean region. It is fed by the Urubamba or Vilcanota River, a sacred Inca river that descends from Andes mountain range glaciers.

This valley features some of Peru’s most fertile lands, as well as warm weather, green tinted mountains, and one of the most complete views of the Andean peaks. It has two well defined seasons: one dry season from April to October and one rainy season from November to March.

The mountainous landscape of this region was one of the greatest challenges that the Inca Empire had to face. However, they were able to overcome this obstacle. The Incas developed a crop system still used up to this day: terraces built with stone walls at the mountain slopes and a complex irrigation system made of pipelines and aqueducts.

The fertile lands of Sacred Valley are located at a moderate altitude and protected from highland winds which facilitate agricultural activities. This geographical area is known for being the home of the best Peruvian corn grains.

 

corn plantation, green landscape, Sacred Valley, Peru

THE DEPARTMENT OF CUSCO: GEOGRAPHICAL DIVERSITY

Valle Sagrado belongs to the administrative area of Department of Cusco and its landscape is diverse. It has mountain heights of up to 15,420 feet above sea level (4,700 MASL) with snowy peaks, Andean plateaus, streams and fertile valleys drained by rivers flowing to the Amazon River.

 

NATURAL LIFE

The high mountains surrounding Valle Sagrado favor the life and evolution of hundreds of species and subspecies. It is one of Peru’s major agricultural production places and a natural jewel teeming with life. The best South Americas corn is harvested here, as well as fruits such as peaches, quinces and strawberries. Green color taints the slopes of the mountains and the Urubamba River gives life to thousands of species of flora and fauna.

Along with Machu Picchu, Valle Sagrado has an enviable natural wealth that is easily recognizable for those visiting the area.

There are over 350 bird species living in Valle Sagrado. The Andean condor is one of them and stands out on the high plane skies. It measures over a meter and can remain for hours flying over the mountains looking for dead animals to feed. The gigantic hummingbird, on the other hand, is the largest of its kind in the world. It usually rests between the flowers decorating the valley. The Torrente duck can also be seen in the Urubamba riverbanks. This bird has the ability to dive into the cold and crystal-clear waters.

Flowers and butterflies are also abundant in the area. The botanical garden at the edges of Machu Picchu gathers over 120 varieties of orchids. Over 400 different orchid species are found throughout this area.

Camelids are typical natural inhabitants of the Andean high plane region. Llamas and alpacas were domesticated over ten thousand years ago to work as cargo animals. Vicunas and guanacos, on the other hand, are still found in the wild, although their fur and skin are used by Andean people to produce knit wear and other works internationally recognized as being excellent quality fibers.

alpacas and llamas, typical fauna from Peru, animals, Sacred Valley

SPECTACLED BEAR: A SPECIES ON THE EDGE OF EXTINCTION

The spectacled bear is one of eight bear species existing in the world and the only one of South America. It lives in the Andean-Amazonia region where Valle Sagrado is located and inhabits ecosystems with heights that range between 1640 feet (500 meters) and 14,800 feet (4,500 meters) above sea level.

It is a small bear compared to those from other latitudes. Its size is 5,9 feet (1.8 meters) on average, with weights up to 380 pounds (140 kg). This bear has a black or dark brown fur, with white color circles around the eyes, white snout and white spots at the neck and sometimes at the chest.

Even though its hunting is currently prohibited, it is seriously endangered. It can be seen roaming around Machu Picchu and its surroundings.

 

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