These days the valley seems to have traded in some of its holiness in exchange for tourist blessings. Although it's not nearly as overrun by vacationers as Cusco... With the exception of that famous site at the end of the road.
We ventured on two overnight trips to the sacred valley to get away from the Gringo crowds in Cusco. It all started very pleasant on our first trip to the town of Pisac. As soon as we boarded the minibus in Cusco's Tullumayo terminal we immediately felt that we had been trans-beamed into the real Peru again. Sharing the crowded bus with locals in their colorful traditional dresses and their loads of baggage was a good sign that the Sacred Valley would be a Sanctuary to cure our overdose of package tour vacationers.
|Rubbing shoulders with the locals|
|Let's have some "Chicha Beer"|
before we climb to the ruins
|Beautifully decorated houses...|
|gives Pisac a charming but |
|Old Inca warehouses?|
|Intihuatana, the ceremonial center |
of the Pisac ruins
|Magical sunset atmosphere|
Reaching Pisac town just in time before the sun retired into complete darkness, we both agreed that the Pisac ruins are well worth a visit – especially if you go there after 4pm when you will be almost alone at the site. After a wonderful 2 hours in the ruins, we were also delighted to see that all the tour buses had left. Pisac's early evening tranquility was very much to our liking. There are also quite a few Western hippies living there and some trendy/alternative restaurants which gave it an interesting twist.
|Waterways that snake through|
the entire town
We left Pisac the next day around noon when the flocks of tourists once again descended onto the central square. Apparently the Pisac market is no longer 3 times a week, but daily... at least in high season.
|High altitude landscape near Chinchero|
|Is that a sheep on the roof ???|
The trip from Cusco to Ollanta takes quite a bit longer than to Pisac and required to change in Urubamba. The high altitude Pampa landscape en route near Chinchero is even more scenic than the trip to Pisac.
|Perfect for people watching, |
this is real Ollanta
We read rave reviews about this new place on TripAdvisor and were not disappointed, a truly unusual and cozy place. The other guests were interesting, if a bit eclectic, people our age – also a refreshing contrast to the backpackers in their 20's at many of the other places.
One of the reasons why we chose to spend time in Ollanta is the nearby Inca ruins of Pumamarca, which were highly recommended to us by a woman traveler that we met in Pisac. The ruins are a 2 hour uphill trek from Ollanta and rarely visited.
|On the way to Pumamarca |
(view towards Ollantayatambo)
Despite asking for directions along the way we managed to get lost. We realized that something was wrong when the steep path after 30 minutes turned into a totally overgrown footpath that was hardly passable. Time to turn around... and from this high vantage point we could see the path that we should have been on. Looks like we missed the turn nearly at the bottom of the mountain. We, of course, did not want to go all the way back down and then up again, so we turned on what looked like a shortcut to the main Pumamarca trail...
|Overgrown farming terraces from |
|At last! Pumamarca|
We didn't mind the tents as much as the campervan, thinking that the only way to reach the ruins would be through some good amount of legwork.
|I'm not living here... just visiting|
|Smiley face house?|
|Tourist shop amidst ruins|
|Yoga pose or aiming for the perfect shot?|
|and this is the end result !|
The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the town, now that the tourists had left. Ollanta is even more overrun by day-trippers than Pisac. Strangely, few people remain to stay a night or two and explore more of the area. Yes, Ollanta is also loaded with restaurants to cater to people enroute to or from the Inca attraction, yet no one sees the charm beyond this focal point: Ruins, souvenirs, food.
|Moon setting over the Ollanta ruins|
|The first minutes of the Sunrise|
|Pinkullyuna Inca shop-houses|
|Sun-bath on Ollantas Inca ruins|
|Why don't local men use the |
right side for their "business"?
Despite the entire daytrip tourist scene that crowds the Sacred Valley during the day, we really liked spending time here, particularly from the hours from 4pm to 10am which are pleasantly quiet. Spending the night in Pisac or Ollanta was a wonderful way to get away from the increasing number of tourists in Cusco. The temperatures in the valley are also slightly warmer as the altitude is nearly 700 meters (2300 ft) below Cusco which helps to cure altitude sickness and chilled bones.