Urubamba: Sacred Valley of the Incas (Peru)

Urubamba: Sacred Valley of the Incas (Peru)

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 19:22

The Sacred Valley of the Incas, also known as the Urubamba Valley, is located within the Peruvian Andes in the present-day Peruvian region of Cusco. The town of Urubamba is located near a number of significant ruins of the Inca Empire including Machu Picchu.

Urubamba

Urubamba is a town, valley and river in Peru. The town is situated near the Urubamba River in the highlands of Peru, within the region of Cusco. Located approximately 20 km (12 mi) north of the city of Cusco, it is the largest town in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

The town of Urubamba is located near a number of significant ruins of the Inca Empire. Its lower altitude and proximity to Machu Picchu make it a transport hub and popular base for tourists.

 

Map of Peru showing the sacred valley
Map of Peru showing the location of the Sacred Valley

 

Sacred Valley of the Incas

The Sacred Valley of the Incas, also known as the Urubamba Valley, is located within the Peruvian Andes in the present-day Peruvian region of Cusco. Stretching from Pisac to Ollantaytambo, this fertile valley is irrigated by the Urubamba River.

The Qotacalla civilization lived in the Sacred Valley from 500 to 900 CE. The Killke civilization then lived in the Sacred Valley from 900 CE. The area was incorporated slowly into the incipient Inca Empire during the period from 1000 to 1400 CE, who took over the region in 1420.

The Incan Empire ruled this area until the arrival of the Spanish. In colonial documents it was referred to as the "Valley of Yucay."

The Sacred Valley was the most important area for maize production in the heartland of the Inca Empire and access through the valley to tropical areas facilitated the import of products such as coca leaf and chile peppers to Cuzco.

The Incas built extensive irrigation works throughout the valley to counter deficiencies and seasonality in precipitation.

 

Map of the Sacred Valley in Peru
Map of the Sacred Valley in Peru

 

Geography

The Urubamba Valley, running generally west to east, surrounds the Urubamba River between the town and Inca ruins at Písac and Machu Picchu. The intensely cultivated valley floor is about 1 km (0.6 ;mi) wide on average. Side valleys and agricultural terraces (andenes) expand the cultivatable area.

Elevations along the river range from 3,000 m (9,800 ft) at Pisac to 2,050 m (6,730 ft) above sea level below the citadel of Machu Picchu.

On both sides of the river, the mountains rise to much higher elevations, especially to the south where two prominent mountains overlook the valley: Sahuasiray, 5,818 m (19,088 ft) and Veronica, 5,893 m (19,334 ft) in elevation.

The valley was formed by the Urubamba River, also known as the Vilcanota River upstream. It is fed by numerous tributaries which descend through adjoining valleys and gorges which contain numerous archaeological remains and villages.

The Sacred Valley is a major tourist destination. Machu Picchu is the most famous archaeological site. Other archaeological sites and modern towns in the Sacred Valley include:

  • Písac (Pisaq): a village and archaeological complex which lies atop a hill at the entrance to the Urubamba Valley. The ruins are separated along the ridge into four groups: ;P'isaqa, Inti Watana, Qalla Q'asa and Kinchiraqay. The Inca constructed agricultural terraces on the steep hillside which are still in use today.

  • Chinchero: a small rustic town that sits at 3762 m elevation. The town contains a great display of Inca architecture, ruins and megalithic carved rocks. The town contains a Spanish colonial church, built on the remains of an Incan palace, believed to be that of Inca Tupac Tupanqui.

  • Maras: a town known for its nearly 5,000 nearby salt evaporation ponds which have been in use since Inca times.

  • Moray: Inca agricultural terraces consisting of a number of large circular depressions. The complex is located on a plateau at about 3,500 m (11,483 ft) above sea level. Each level of terraces has its own microclimate.

  • Ollantaytambo: an Inca archaeological site northwest of the city of Cusco. During the Inca Empire, it was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region. He built the town and a ceremonial center.