My day trip to The Sacred Valley was amazing! Long, but amazing! Our route was to Pisac, past the Inca ruins of Saqsahuaman, pronounced Sack-sigh-womb-an. (or as the tourists inevitably have dubbed it..... "Sexy woman!)onto Urumbamba, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero and then back to Cusco. The Rio Urumbamba Valley is also known as The Sacred Valley (El Valle Sagrado) and is in the depths of breathtaking Andean countryside. The valley has Inca citadels and Andean villages with lively markets. The first view of the Sacred Valley was at a high point on the road to Pisac, and it was breathtaking. Even from here I could see the Massive Inca agricultural terraces that Pisac is famed for. Pisac: Our first stop was at the Inca ruins at Pisac. There are two sites, first the Inca fortress perched above the town and then the town itself alongside the river below.Pisac's inca citadel is high above the village on a triangular plateau. The Inca agricultural terracing flanks the mountain in graceful curves, each terrace is linked by diagonal stone steps set into the terrace walls. On top of the terraces is the Ceremonial Centre, several water channels and a temple. The hills at the back of the site are honeycombed with holes, these are catacombs where the Inca buried their dead. The bodies were buried in a foetal position as the Inca believed in rebirth. The tombs were plundered by grave robbers of course! We stopped in Pisac village and I strolled through the artisan market fending off approaches of "Lady! Special price just for you!!!". The drive from Pisac to Urumbamba afforded great views of the countryside as well as interesting Andean villages. Our guide gave us interesting information about the people, the buildings and the local agriculture. Houses are made of adobe and covered with a reddish stucco, often with reliefs of figures and animals (more so in the touristy areas of course!)Each house has a cross on the roof (catholic symbol)accompanied by two pottery bulls which signify duality and are put on the roof to bring strength and luck to the house. The bulls are often filled with "Chica" which is a local brew fermented from maize, very potent apparently. As we went through Andean villages we saw long poles sticking out in front of some houses with a red flag on the end, which marked the "Chincheros"...bars that sold this potent brew. As we passed and glanced inside we could see it was filled with men savouring the said tipple! Farming in the area is maize and quinoa and the fields are filled by campensinos fllowing the bulls as they ploughed the fields. Ollantaytambo: The village of Ollantaytambo is the best surviving example of Inca city planning. The narrow cobbled streets, irrigation channels and quaint houses make it a lovely village to visit. The mountains surrounding Ollantaytambo guard the Inca fortress which is fantastic. It has 220 steps up via the terracing, an exhausting climb in this altitude. We only managed 4 terraces at a time and then stopped for a breather! This is one of the few places the Spanish Conquistadors lost a battle. Manco Inca retreated here after his defeat at Saqsayhuaman. In 1536 the Spanish attempted to capture Manco Inca from this fortress but it proved too strong to take, arrows showered on the Spanish from the steep terracing and the Spanish were unable to climb them. The Incas victory was shortlived however, as the Spanish returned en masse and Manco Inca fled to the jungle. The citadel is as much a Temple as it is a Fortress. At the top of the terracing is a ceremonial centre with extremely well built walls that have "joints" that allow for contraction and expansion caused by the weather. The stone for this temple was quarried from a mountain that is 6 kilometres away on the opposite side of the Rio Urambamba. Transporting the huge stone blocks was feat and rather than traverse the river, the Incas diverted the river around the stones!. There are places along the river where you can see abandoned blocks of stone called "piedras cansadas" meaning "tired stones". The mountains surrounding the citadel have remains of an Inca warehouse placed very high up to protect the food it stored, a carved sundial and a massive Inca face caved in the rock. Despite the wearying climb to the top and having to contend with too many tour groups, this is an amazing place. Just avoid Sundays. Chinchero: Our final stop was to be the village of Chinchero. To get there the bus climbed to 3,800 metres and our highest point. Travelling through the Andes and seeing the mountains and glaciers was a real treat. Chinchero is the birthplace of the rainbow, sacred to the Quechua people. You can see lots of rainbow symbols in Cusco on flags outside buildings of import! Chinchero is a typical Andean village and it has a colonial church right next to it's Inca walls. It was very cold here a) because of the altitude and b) because by now, it was 5pm. On the Inca terracing we saw local women laying out potatoes to get them to dehydrate in the altitude. I got my photo taken with one of the women for 1 sole. In Chinchero we also had an exhibition of Alpaca wool dying and spinning which, whilst staged for the tourists, was still a colourful and interesting event. A long day but amazing. Big tip, go any other day than a Sunday as most tour groups choose to go the the Sacred Valley on a Sunday!