The Sacred Valley that begins just outside Cuzco and extends just beyond the town of Urubamba (about a quarter of the way to Machu-Picchu) is a narrow valley that winds through the Andes and is generally considered to have been one of the Inca’s most productive agricultural areas. It was also a principal source of the massive granite boulders used to build their cities.

The valley includes a number of outstanding Inca ruins, including Pisac and Ollantaytambo, and is also the starting point for several challenging mountain hikes. Several small boutique ranches in the area have converted to small and attractive tourist resorts to accommodate the growing number of tourists actually spending at least an overnight while visiting the area.

Many archaeologists consider the Pisac ruins among the very best examples of Inca engineering genius. The ruins seem to be principally a depot for storing grain and secondarily, for astronomical observations. Pisaq town holds a colorful crafts market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.

Ollantaytambo was one of the last cities built by the Incas before the arrival of the conquistadors. Many of the structures are unfinished, clearly abandoned on a moment’s notice, and this gives scientists fabulous clues to actual Inca construction techniques.