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9 Things Not to Miss in The Sacred Valley of the Incas

Anyone making their way to Machu Picchu must first traverse The Sacred Valley of the Incas (Valle Sagrado de los Incas), and we were no exception. But this was no tedious trek, it was a fascinating adventure in its own right.
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Anyone making their way to Machu Picchu must first traverse The Sacred Valley of the Incas (Valle Sagrado de los Incas), and we were no exception. But this was no tedious trek, it was a fascinating adventure in its own right.

Flying into Cusco, you don't have to descend very far from your cruising altitude. Just make an insane hairpin turn between mountains and land at one of the world's highest commercial airports, over 11,000 feet up in the Peruvian Andes.

In the small town of Chincheros, get a first hand look at every step in the weaving process of the people of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Learn about what goes into the dyes that create the brilliant colors (absolutely amazing and a "wee" bit off-putting!), the ingenious way the yarn is spun, and how the patterns are crafted. More on this weaving cooperative...

The locals swear by the leaves of the coca plant, the plant that produces cocaine, as an antidote to the thin air. Tea is made from the leaves and is easy to find. Other ways to get your fix is through candy or simply chewing the leaves themselves. For those hesitant to try the coca, we have more suggestions on how to cope (and NOT to cope) with the altitude.

On the roofs of most of the houses in the Sacred Valley are small shrines that include a cross indicating the family is Christian, ceramic bulls for strength and fertility, a cask of corn beer to tie them to their ancestors, and a vial of holy water to sanctify the house. (This shrine was in the town of Chincheros)

One of the many mysteries of Ollantaytambo is how the massive rocks were hauled up the mountain without the use of wheels. It is also unknown how the stones were cut, because no metal hard enough to cut granite was available at that time. Since the Quechua language was not written, and the Spanish destroyed most evidence of methods used in construction, we may never know the answers. More Ollanyaytambo...

This popular, overly sweet, yellow beverage turned out not to be our cup of tea. BUT it's a must for any adventurous visitor!

PeruRail operates several trains a day to the town of Aguas Calientes, below Machu Picchu, along track originally laid in 1928. It's the second highest railroad in the world, after the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. The narrow gauge ride down the Urubamba River showcases spectacular Andes mountain scenery and, with several events onboard, PeruRail turns the journey into an adventure on its own! More on the train to Machu Picchu...

Machu Picchu is not really the name for the city - that name is lost forever. When Hiram Bingham arrived in 1911, the locals told him of the ruins between Machu Picchu (old mountain) and Huayna Picchu (young mountain). When Bingham told the world of his "discovery," (how does one discover something that lots of people already knew about?) the name stuck. More on Machu Picchu...

These cousins of the camel pretty much have the run of Machu Picchu. The nimble buggers are everywhere, hiking side-by-side with visitors, stubbornly blocking paths and standing around looking pensive. More on the pensive llamas of Machu Picchu...

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

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