Posted by: Jessie Kwak | January 21, 2010

Bambas, Tambos, Markets and Rocks: Sacred Valley, part 3

This is Part 3 of our adventures in the Sacred Valley. Did you miss Part 1? What about Part 2?

Moray: more terraces!

No Sacred Valley Tour is complete without a visit to the agricultural oddity of Moray. Terracing has been used in the Andes for millennium to several purposes: a) to create more farmland on inhospitably steep slopes, b) to prevent erosion and defend against landslides, and c) for defensive fortifications.

The Moray site is unique in that instead of long terraces climbing up the hillside, these circular terraces are built into the ground, a descending series of rings that would make Dante happy. The way these depressions were constructed catches the sunlight and protects the crops, creating microclimates in which, the theory goes, the ancient Andean people developed and refined crop strains.

Click here for more Moray photos.

The site itself consists of three of these depressions. The biggest has been restored and you’re able to enter it by climbing down the stonework stairs built into the terrace walls. The smaller two are in the process of restoration.

From Moray we began the long walk back to Urubamba, where we would collect our belongings and head to the last punch on our tourist ticket:

Ollantaytambo: them’s some big rocks.

These days Ollantaytambo is seeing more traffic than usual, since the tourist train to Machu Picchu isn’t leaving from Cusco, and busloads of tourists are being shuttled through it’s narrow streets to Ollanta’s train station. It’s always been rightly famed for the ruins perched just above the town itself—they were the site of one of the few effective attempts to repel the Spaniards.

We checked into the hotel where we were to stay the next five nights (much to the bemusement of the staff; no one seems to spend more than a night in Ollantaytambo), and began to wander the city streets. Apparently Ollanta is one of the few Peruvian cities that still takes the form of the Inca settlement it was built over, and many of the old Inca buildings have been preserved and are still being used.

Click here for more Ollantaytambo “The City” photos.

Just walking through the streets is fascinating—there is no car traffic in the main body of the town, and many Inca doorways remain, leading into barnyards and restaurants and tiendas.

We went the next morning up to the ruins of the fortress where Manco Inca retreated to make a stand against the Spaniards. The defenses are formidable—steep terracing augmenting the natural cliffs, huge walls cutting off any attack.

The most famous structure is an unfinished platform whose single finished wall is made of six massive monolithic stones. Theories abound as to why the platform was never finished, but other equally massive stones lie on temporary platforms, as if the work crew had just gone off for lunch and will put them up after they get back.

Click here for more Ollantaytambo “The Ruins” photos.

Getting to Moray: The closest town is called Maras (see Salineras in Part 2’s post). To reach it, take a bus from Urubamba or Cusco (S/.2 [$0.60] from either direction) and ask to be dropped off at the road to Maras. Drivers wait at the crossroads to take you to either to the town (S/.1 [$0.30]) or to Moray (S/.15 [$5.25]). You can either walk back to town (about an hour and a half), or walk down to the Sacred Valley via a nice gravel road just below the smaller depressions (about 2 hours).

Getting to Ollantaytambo: From Cusco, either take a car directly to Ollantaytambo (S/.10 [$3.50]), or take a bus to Urubamba and then a combi or collectivo to Ollantaytambo (S/.5 [$1.75] in total). You can’t miss the ruins. Ollantaytambo is surrounded by interesting things to do and see (mostly ruins), and there are several tour agencies located in the Plaza de Armas waiting to take you rafting or horseback riding.



  1. Great photos! Keep up the good work…

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