The Sacred Valley

2007.Feb.13 Tuesday

in Food & Recipes, Life, Restaurants

Cuzco, Peru – I realized as I started to write this post that I have no idea what to say about the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The same is going to be true for the post on Machu Picchu. The latter, is obviously somewhere that we’ve all heard of. The former, for the most part, is made up of places that most of us simply never have… and honestly, despite the intrigue of visiting Machu Picchu, I enjoyed the visit to the sites in the Sacred Valley more – fewer tourists, less touristy, and in many ways, more fascinating. Though reduced in size, I think I’m going to try and let pictures tell the story more than prose – though I don’t think either of them can remotely convey the experience.

Cuzco Mercado ArtesanalNow, I will say that the day started a bit commercial. We were picked up early morning and headed off to our first stop, which turned out to be an artesanal handicrafts market (only open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, so if you want to avoid that part of the Sacred Valley tour, go on a different day). It was huge – with lanes and stalls, and probably something on the order of 200 different vendors… perhaps more. We did end up buying a small wall hanging for the house…

On to Mirador Taray, a lookout point, from which we could see the start of the entire Sacred Valley and get a sense of just what we were in for…

View from Mirador Taray

From there, we headed to the town of Pisaq, or Pisac… where we started off with a tour of… the artesanal handicrafts market (I just know these guides get a cut…). We did a little bit of a wander in the market, but mostly explored the town near to the market… which is pretty run down.

Pisaq MercadoPisaq town

Finally, our real tour started, and we headed up into the ruins above the town to Pisaq proper… which was a town in its own right, and filled with the remains of political, religious, and administrative buildings, as well as homes and a cemetery. It also required a bit of climbing… our first of the day…



From there, we headed to Urubamba, a small community that serves more or less as a rest stop for tours of the Valley at this point. It’s pretty simply a series of restaurants, mostly buffet style of local cuisine, that the various tour buses stop at. The food was okay, nothing special, though some interesting choices like a cuy in pepian, or pumpkin seed sauce, which was actually pretty good, and alpaca stew.

Urubamba central squareBuffet selections in Urubamba restaurant

On to Ollantaytambo, easily the most impressive of the tour, and rivalling Machu Picchu in many ways, from it’s main hill to the temples built in to the cliffs on surrounding mountains, it’s simply amazing. The site served as both an administrative and ceremonial center (hence all the temples), and is one of the temples of the sun that is still used for festivals at the winter and summer solstices. Another feature is a huge complex of grain storage buildings that apparently stored grain for all the nearby Incan communities.


Ollantaytambo ceremonial temples

Ollantaytambo granaries

From there, it was off to Chinchero where we visited one of the more important colonial era churches – quite impressive on the inside… unfortunate that the entire town and the square surrounding the church were filled with yet another artesanal handicrafts market…

Chinchero church square

Chinchero church

A bus ride back to town, we were hungry, and stopped at a spot down the block from our hotel, Machu Picchu’s Grill – you can only imagine… no, actually, you can’t, it turned out to be a pasta place, along with a few local specialties… they also had a band, playing such classic local music as Inadagadadavida… and Guantanamera… I almost hate to admit it, but the food was quite good – a nice rocoto souffle, a quite good ají de gallina, and one of the best spaghetti carbonaras I’ve ever had…

Machu Picchu’s Grill - bandMachu Picchu’s Grill - rocoto souffle
Machu Picchu’s Grill - aji de gallinaMachu Picchu’s Grill - spaghetti carbonara


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