The Sacred Valley of the Incas: Pisac

The Sacred Valley of the Incas is formed by the Urubamba River (known in Quechua as the Willkamayu, or Sacred River), which links the Inca sites of Pisac and Ollantaytambo and then forms a natural highway as far as Machu Picchu. 

Map Cusco Sacred Valley Peru
Map of Cusco, Sacred Valley and other areas in Peru

The Incas attributed a sacred character to this valley with the river, and their astronomers and priests maintained that it was a projection of the Milky Way, in which the sacred constellations of the Incas, such as the llama, condor and tree, were situated.

In fact, a great deal of energy can be felt in this valley and its splendid geography lends a touch of magic to the places the Incas constructed there. The complexes of Pisac and Ollantaytambo were not simple shrines; they were key sites in the political and religious organization of the vast Inca state of Tahuantinsuyo. The agricultural production of this valley possessed a ritual as well as functional character and the inhabitants and farmers of the area were selected for the privilege of settling in such an important place.


Pisac Sacred Valley Peru

Pisac is located in the area of Yucay, on the right bank of the Urubamba River. Yucay means charming – The Inca king loves this place so much that he named it Yucay. Its name evokes a bird which lived in the area and resembled a partridge, and which is now thought to be extinct. The complex of Pisac can be divided into three sectors: the military area, composed of a fortress and the barracks; the religious area, composed of the shrine and Temple of the Sun; and the city, where the dwellings of those chosen to live at the site were located.

Pisac Ruins 2

Pisac Ruins 3
Look at the size of these terraces!

Using terraces like the photos above, the Incas controlled soil erosion and improved the productivity of their land.

The military constructions of the fortress area are situated on the second summit of the mountain, at a strategic point from which the entire valley can be observed. Its thick walls are inclined inwards and its location on a natural rock outcrop more than 200 meters long lends it an air of invincibility.

The shrine is located on the first elevation of the mountain and is composed of seven finely-polished stone dwellings. At the centre of this site is the Intihuatana, or main shrine, which the Incas dedicated to the Sun god, and from here there are superb views of the entire Sacred Valley. The city is composed of twenty buildings arranged in a semicircle bordering the edge of the mountain.

Varayocs, or local elders (Quechua Indians) arriving at the church in Pisac for the Sunday mass. The mass was in Quechua language. The staffs that they were carrying symbolizes their authority.

Local Elders at Church in Pisac Sacred Valley Peru

Local Elders at Church in Pisac Sacred Valley Peru

Local Elders at Church in Pisac Sacred Valley Peru

The local Sunday Markets in Pisac is an example of living Andean culture, attracting people from twelve communities. Here you can find alpaca clothing, carved wooden figures and leather goods in the artisans market, the local market features produce, flowers, dyes and more.

Have you been to Peru? I’d love to hear your experiences! Leave your comments below. If you haven’t, I hope this post would encourage you to explore this beautiful country.

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Photography Information:
Camera: Nikon D800 with Tamron 24-70mm F/2.8 or iPhone X.
Post-processing: Adobe Lightroom Classic CC.

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