My Trip to Peru, Part 3: The Sacred Valley of the Incas

After a brief detour into Middle Earth, I’m back with the next installment of my Peru travel journal, featuring my tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas on the final day before my scheduled hike of the Inca Trail.

Super wide panorama taken in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

The day began with an early morning bus pickup in front of my hotel.  We made a brief stop at the Plaza de Armas to transfer to a larger bus. Unlike my previous day’s trip to Maras and Moray, the bus for this tour was packed, and the man sitting directly in front of me had body odor of epic proportions, which was a helluva way to spend an entire day. It was so bad, in fact, that the two British women sitting directly across from him abandoned the tour about halfway through and caught a bus back to Cusco (it wasn’t until I tried moving to their seat that I realized how much worse they had it than me). Thankfully, the man left the tour after the next-to-last stop of the day, so I wasn’t forced to endure the smell for the long journey home.

Anyway, after a couple of brief stops at a local market and a scenic outlook, we made our way to the magnificent, sprawling Inca ruins at Pisac. I still marvel at how the Incas were able to build these large cities on top of and into the sides of mountains–it’s every bit as impressive as anything the Egyptians accomplished–and I would see many more examples of Inca greatness on this day and along the Inca Trail, proving that there’s much more to see in Peru than just Machu Picchu.

The Inca Ruins at Pisac

After our tour guide finished his presentation, we were free to explore. I started to climb up toward the highest buildings but I did not have time to make it all the way to the top, so I settled for the plateau beneath the final climb, where I enjoyed this spectacular view:

Panorama taken at Pisac. I felt that too much of the image would be lost
with a straight crop, so I left it in this state, which is kind of a neat effect.

At one point I encountered a woman in a New York Yankees hat and thought, “Cool, a fellow tri-stater.” I gave her a smile in greeting but she just gave me a dirty look. Perhaps it was my Philadelphia Eagles hat. 🙂

The next stop on our tour was the actual town of Pisac and its market that featured, among other items, many of the hundreds of varieties of potatoes cultivated in Peru. While in the market I bought some things for my wife and bartered with a merchant for a hand-carved stone chess set depicting the Incas versus the Conquistadors.

After Pisac we stopped for lunch. Actually, I was dropped off at a restaurant to eat by myself because everyone else on the bus had apparently booked with a different tour company and were eating elsewhere. I didn’t mind, though; it was relaxing to sit outside and enjoy a quiet lunch by myself while a band played Peruvian tunes on windpipes. It was a nice place with a good buffet, totally worth purchasing the lunch option as part of my tour.

The outdoor cafe where I had lunch (buffet to the left).

After lunch we made our way to the Inca ruin of Ollantaytambo, another impressive, large complex, complete with ground level buildings and terraces leading up to more buildings on the top of the mountain.

The Inca Ruins at Ollantaytambo

Across the street from the complex there is a mountain with the face of the Inca god Wiracochan carved into its side, as well as Inca storehouses built into the mountain. These and the other ruins on the Sacred Valley tour are nearly as awe inspiring as Machu Picchu itself.  If you can only take one local tour from Cusco, this is the one to take.

The mountain across from the ruins featuring the carved monument of Wiracochan,
the storehouses (to the right of the face), and some other ruins.

After our guided tour and some free time we returned to the bus for the ride home (this is the point where Captain McStinky left us, so I had a pleasantly smell-free ride back). Before returning to Cusco we made a stop in Chinchero to view the church and had some nice sunset views of the countryside.

Chinchero Sunset

I finally got back to my hotel in the evening. It was too late to meet my uncle for dinner given how early we had to be up the next morning for the bus ride to the Inca Trail, so I went out to a place nearby and had some pizza, half of which I brought home to have for breakfast in the morning. Then I finished packing for the hike and tried to catch a few hours of sleep before my 4am wake up call. In retrospect, scheduling an all-day excursion the day before the hike was probably not the best idea because my subsequent lack of sleep would come back to haunt me later, but that’s a story for another day.

Stay tuned for Part 4, which will cover the first day of my Inca Trail hike. In the meantime, follow the link below for more photos from my tour of the Sacred Valley.

Photos from the Sacred Valley of the Incas

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