At the end of my second week I did a full day tour of the Sacred Valley. The frustrating thing about large groups and guided tours is that the companies often stop at specific artisans along the way. At first it seems like they do this to bring you to quality sites. Then you realize that they do this to get a commission of any items purchased. With a large group tour, it is more likely that more people will purchase. This gets in the way of touring the actual site. We spent 15 minutes at a small artisans shop and another 45 minutes at the market in Pisac. They took us there under the guise of seeing artisan jewelry makers who use natural colors from the environment for their work. While this is true, we spent unreasonably large amount of time to there.
When we arrived at the ruins in Pisac, the guide made a big deal about the enormity of the site. He told us that you need five hours at the site to really appreciate its magnificence. At the least, you need three hours to appreciate the main points of Pisac, the guide informed us in a serious and reverent tone. He then told us that we needed to be back on the bus in one hour. It was the same way with Ollantaytambo and Chincherro. Except at Chincherro we arrived so late that the Church was about to close and the sun was about to set, though the sunset was really beautiful. On top of all of this, when you get a Boleto Turistico, it only lasts ten days and you can only visit each site once. That is why it is better to arrange your own tours and allow time to experience these magnificent sites, but I digress.
These ruins feature so many different types of architecture, which is why you need more time to experience it. There are military, residential, religious, and agricultural edifices. The many trails and staircases offer varied and beautiful vistas of both the valley and the ruins itself. It is likely that Pisac began as a military outpost to defend against attacks by the Anti Indians in the eastern most part. This is one of the places where I wish I could have spent more time. It is a magnificent example of the ingenuity of the Incas building style, building such massive stronghold into a vertical cliff. I missed out on a lot in the hour that we had to walk to the top and back down. I may return during my trip and then I will have a lot more to tell about this, one of the greatest of Cuzco’s Incan archeological sites.
Buffet for 25 soles. The problem with this wasn’t the food or the price, though it was a little more than I desired to pay. We only had 40 minutes to get off the bus pay get our food and eat. It is not really a buffet if you don’t have time for a second, in my case, third plate. Go for the solo tour, freedom to visit sites and choose your lunch options.
This site is another example of ingenious engineering and ancient building techniques. The temple on the top is unfinished, but is an example of the immensity of Incan building enterprises. There are two hundred steps that lead to the sight of the unfinished temple. The steps have a consistent series of terraces to accompany them up to the sun. The site is most famous for the battle held here in 1537. Manco Inca defeated and nearly destroyed the Spanish Army here. The Incas held here after a long retreat from Saqsayhuaman. The Incas defeated Pedro Pizarro’s men with volleys of arrows and slingshots from the fortified terraces of Ollantaytambo. As the Spanish retreated Macno Inca had signaled his men who diverted the Rio Urubamba and flooded the plain. The unfinished temple still stands today. There are water fountains similar to those at Tambomachay. Manco Inca’s army’s ability to divert the river and flood the Spanish is evidence of the importance of water in Incan life. It wasn’t only used for agricultural and religious purposes, but in this instance for military purposes as well.
The main attraction here is the church that was built on top of an Inca temple as part of the conquest of Incan culture by the Spanish. The Church is intricately decorated and the art is fragile, so fragile in fact that they do not allow any kind of photography inside. So you are going to have to see it for yourself. There is also a famous market here that is less crowded than the Pisac market. One interesting and famous ruin is an ancient wall that people say, probably formed one wall of an Incan Palace. The best thing about the place though, was the view. The Urubamba Mountains could be seen in the distance and the post sunset glow was magnificent. If you visit here try to get here before the church and the market close, unlike the tour that I took which arrived so late that we weren’t able to enjoy much of it.
In the end, large group guided tours are for those with little time to spend in Cuzco. They give you a quick sampling of the history, but if you really want to experience these incredible sites, give yourself some time. There is a lot to see. After all in the adventure of life it is all about the journey, so let the journey last.