International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987


Sacred Valley

Location: Peru


The sacred valley of the Incas was without a doubt, a key area for the kingdom of the Incas. Its agreeable climate and fertile pastures created a unique and fruitful combination difficult to find in other parts of the Andes Mountains. Furthermore, it encompassed a road to the jungle that granted the Incans access to fruits and plants of the lowland tropics. The sacred valley served as a neutral damper zone, protecting Cusco from the incursions of the Antis, a ferocious jungle tribe that frequently invaded Incan areas. Today the sacred valley continues to be an exuberant agricultural region, supplying the city of Cusco with a large part of its products such as corn, fruits, and vegetables.

In colonial documents, the valley is referred to as the Valley of Yucay. Recent investigations reveal that it was the heart of the Inca Empire. The valley extends to the intersections of the Písac, Calca, Lamay, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo rivers. The valley was formed by the Urubamba River, also known as the Willkanuta River (meaning house of the sun in Aymara), or Willkamayu (Quechua). This last name, in Quechua, the language that is still spoken by imperial Incans, means Sacred River. The guide will give a detailed explanation of each place in the Valley and its importance to Peruvian historical culture.

Chinchero is considered one of the most beautiful towns of Peru. Its inhabitants have a unique character, with ancestral traditions and costumes. The principal attractions of the town are the Colonial church of Chinchero, the archeological Inca site and the gorgeous passage to the site. This traditional Andean town is known as the birthplace of the rainbow. During our visit to the colonial church, students are able to see that it was built over Incan walls in 1607, complete with a bell tower and arched windows. In the interior of the church lies an altar with baroque decorations completely covered in gold and ornamental silver.

The Market of Chinchero, one of the typical markets of the region, occurs every Sunday and attracts local and neighboring merchants from other cities. Here it is possible to observe the exchange of goods. Students will note that people almost always exchange low altitude goods such as fruits, vegetables, cacao, and salt, for regional products such as potatoes, beans and ollucos. What?s more, there is a market for tourists with diverse artesian goods and hand-woven clothing. There, students will find jewelry, ceramic items, toys and other surprises.

Available in the following sessions