PISAC and OLLANTAYTAMBO
There’s a very good reason why all Sacred Valley travel adventures visit Pisac and Ollantaytambo, and we don’t miss either of these on our visit either! Every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday the village of Pisac hosts the largest indigenous market in the Cusco region. Farmers from the highlands decend upon the valley to barter and sell all sorts of goods ranging from corn and potatoes to sheep, llamas and mules! With so many visitors coming to see the local market, a "gringo" market sprung up years ago too. Here, you can feast your eyes on the vibrant colors of Andean textiles and ceramics.
High above the present day village of Pisac lie the impressive Pisac ruins. The ruined city provides one of the finest examples of Inca archeological achievement. The main buildings of the ruins are built with precision cut blocks of stone. The blocks are cut perfectly straight on all sides. Although no mortar was ever used, the walls of Pisac have withstood numerous earthquakes and years of harsh weather. Pisac has two obvious sections of dwellings. The upper section is of poorer construction than the lower section and archeologists speculate that the upper segment housed residents of lower social status. This is speculations and others others believe it was merely the first and temporary residence of Inca nobility until the nicer section below was completed. Below the main buildings are some of the most impressive pre-Columbian terraces in Peru. The terraces are masterly layed out with diagonal stone steps inlaid in the terrace walls for easy access from terrace to terrace. The terraces reach almost down to the village a thousand feet below.
Our Peru tours end their journey in the Sacred Valley in the village of Ollantaytambo. We arrive late in the day after the buses of visitors have returned to Cusco, and so we get to enjoy the local hospitality and charm in easy peace. Ollantaytambo lies at the gateway to the Amazon rainforest along the mighty Urubamba River. From here, all visits to Machu Picchu or treks along the Inca Trail begin. Ollantaytambo itself is a gem for the visitor that few people get to know. The enormous Inca fortress that towers over the village is steeped in history. It is here that the invading Conquistadors of Pizarro met their first and one of their only defeats at the hands of the Incas. Utilizing thousands of men, the Incas diverted the nearby Urubamba River to flood the plane below the ruins. Pizarro’s horses were made nearly useless in the resulting mud and muck. Upon seeing the fast flowing Urubamba River, visitors get an idea of the near super human feat of diverting such a natural force with little more than stone tools.
In the village below the ruined citadel, houses are built atop Inca masonry. Most streets are two narrow for a car and rows of houses are whitewashed in typical Colonial fashion. If you visit the ruins at twilight or after dark, the silent stone walls seem to whisper with the voices of the ancient battle. In the early morning, Ollantaytambo hums with activity as young men with bright colored ponchos prepare to set out on the Inca Trail, young boys and fathers wander by herding a cow and the family sheep, and women in striped and checkered aprons chat with each other in doorways after cleaning up the morning breakfast. Ollantaytambo is a favorite for travelers fortunate enough to discover its charms after the tourist buses have left.