En Route To Machu Picchu Are Many Unique Places. Take Sacred Valley

En route to the popular Incan stone citadel known as Machu Picchu, our tour group, guided by Michael from Machupicchu South America Co., stopped at a few small towns along the road from Cusco, and finally at what is known as Sacred Valley Of The Incas. Located on Peru’s Urubamba River, the valley is not acknowledged as often as the main attraction is (Machu Picchu), but it’s interesting enough to warrant an extra day trip.

Leaving Cusco, our main anchoring point, by private van, we quickly came upon an animal sanctuary, Cochahuasi, funded by the Peruvian government. Stray condors, llamas, alpacas, vicunas, guinea pigs, dogs and the like were prevalent, being nursed back to health, often from abuse or injury. There is an Incan museum there, as well as ladies in colorful dresses weaving sweaters from the fur of alpacas and llamas, the softest of which is baby alpaca. No surprise, a gift shop is there, too, where some of us picked up souvenirs.

After that, we motored several more kilometers through small towns, the abject poverty on display. The COVID-19 pandemic had pretty much brought Peru to a standstill for a few years, as it did many other countries. Then there was the recent deadly political unrest, which also served to scare tourists away. As a result, many dwellings in the towns are unfinished. Why? Partly for tax reasons. As encouragement to build new dwellings, no property tax is charged to Peru’s citizens if they don’t complete construction on their new houses.

After lunch at a posh restaurant called Don Angel Inka Casona, in Urubamba (a stark counterpoint to the poverty we had just seen), it was on to Sacred Valley, at one time the operational center for the Incas. One attraction for the tribe is its lower elevation – 9,000 feet versus 11,000 feet for Cusco – allowing an important Inca crop, maize, to flourish. In addition to food, maize is used in the production of chichi, a fermented drink consumed at Incan ceremonial gatherings. There is gold and silver in them there Sacred Valley hills, as well.

Near the end of the day, we boarded a train at Ollantaytambo Station en route to the foothills of Machu Picchu, arriving late in the evening. The Ferre Hotel, where we stayed, is at a lower elevation than Cusco, around 7,000 feet, so our group slept better, and without the use of the altitude-sickness drug Diamox. The following morning it was on to the main attraction – Machu Picchu – and we wanted a good night’s rest. I said a silent prayer for the good weather we had had that day. No guarantees in the Amazon Jungle.

(Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series about the Machu Picchu region of Peru. The first, about Machu Picchu, has already been published – see below. The Cusco part will be posted soon.)

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