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the sacred valley of the incas
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THE SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS:

A visit to the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba just has to include a number of places mentioned here in no particular order: Ollantaytambo with its Inca fortress built for defense against the invading Chankas and its living Inca village. If you have time climb up to Willoc, a small hamlet of weavers, to see the ancestral textile tradition of the area. Pisac, for a walk to see its archaeological ruins, as well as to go to the handicrafts market for which this village is famous. Not forgetting Maras and Moray. The soils of Maras are rich in salt and the community has made a living since time immemorial extracting it from the white slopes and terraces.
Moray was a sort of laboratory used by the Incas for research into different crops grown on circular terraces corresponding to different ecological floors.

MARAS:

District of the Urubamba province, possible to be reached through a paved road from kilometer 50 on the road Cusco to Urubamba. It is located towards the west of Cusco at an altitude of 3300 mts. (10824 feet); over a plain that in prehistoric times was a huge plateau, from which it is possible to observe the range of mountains of Urubamba including the snow capped mountains of Weqey Willka (today "La Veronica", 5682 mts., 18641 ft.) and " Chikon" (5530 mts., 18143 ft.). The town was founded in colonial times by Pedro Ortiz de Orue. It was declared “Villa of Saint Francis of Assis of Maras" (Villa: city or town that had certain privileges). By that time it had much more importance than the Urubamba settlement; but, today it is a town that languishes due to its isolation and development of modern life. It has a church made with sun dried mud bricks, typical of the village religious architecture, in which front patio is a cross carved in granite. Inside the church are Cusquenian school canvases representing the Apostles, and some other very nice ones, the artist being Quechua painter Antonio Sinchi Roqa Inka. He was native from Maras and painted carefully for its church; he was contemporary of Bishop Mollinedo y Angulo and became famous by the middle of XVII century.
The Maras "salt works" to which some people call "salt mines" are constituted by about 3000 small pools with an average area of 5 m² (53.8 ft²), constructed in a slope of the "Qaqawiñay" mountain. People fill up or "irrigate" the pools during the dry season every 3 days, with salty water emanating from a natural spring located on the top of the complex, so that when water evaporates the salt contained in it will slowly solidify. That process will be carried out approximately during one month until a considerable volume of solid salt is obtained; about 10 cms. (4 inches) high from the floor. That solid salt is beaten thus granulated, then packed in plastic sacks and sent to the region's markets; today that salt began being treated with iodine, thus, its consumption is not harmful.

Moray:

About 7 kms. (4.3 miles) away southwest from Maras is Moray a very unique archaeological site in the region. It is possible to reach it by car through the dusty road and the path departing from the town. Those are enormous natural depressions or hollows in the ground surface that Inkas used for constructing irrigated farming terraces around them. What is surprising is that the difference of average annual temperature between the top and the bottom reaches even about 15°C (59°F) in the main depression that is about 30 mts (100 feet) deep. In those natural formations, nature has created an environment, conditions or micro climates that in modern times people create in greenhouses or hothouses. Moray because of its climate conditions and many other characteristics was an important center of domestication, acclimatization and hybridization of wild vegetable species that were modified or adapted for human consumption. 


ALTITUDE AND CLIMATE:

  • Elevation: 2800 m.s.n.m / 3400 m.s.n.m
  • 82% humidity
  • Daytime maximum temperatures (monthly average): In summer (December to March): 10 ° C - 22ºC - In winter (June to September): 05 ° C - 20 ° C
  • Minimum night temperature (monthly average): (December to March): 10 ° C - 22 ° C in winter (June to September): 1 ° C - 20 ° C

GETTING THERE:

  • bus

The best of Cusco
5 days / 4 nights   Difficulty: 1/3
The classics of the south of the Peru
4 days / 3 nights   Difficulty: 1/3
Machu picchu and the Sacred Valley
2 days / 1 night   Difficulty: 1/3