The Urubamba Valley

The Río Urubamba cuts its way through fields and rocky gorges beneath the high peaks of the Cordillera. Brown hills, covered in wheat fields, separate Cuzco from this beautiful high valley, which stretches from Sicuani (on the railway to Puno) to the gorge of Torontoi, 600 m lower, to the northwest of Cuzco. That the river was of great significance to the Incas can be seen in the number of strategic sites they built above it: Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu among them. Upstream from Pisac, the river is usually called the Vilcanota; downstream it is the Urubamba.

Getting there

The road from Cuzco that runs past Sacsayhuaman and on to Tambo Machay climbs up to a pass, then continues over the pampa before descending into the densely populated Urubamba Valley. This road then crosses the Río Urubamba by a bridge at Pisac and follows the north bank to the end of the paved road at Ollantaytambo. It passes through Calca, Yucay and Urubamba, which can also be reached from Cuzco by the beautiful, direct road through Chinchero .

Getting around

Paved roads, plentiful transport and a good selection of hotels and eating places make this a straightforward place to explore. You can choose either a quick visit from the city or, better still, linger for a few days. Don't hurry; most organized tours are too fast. A regular day tour costs US$14.50, not including entry tickets. Explore it on foot, by bike or on horseback. Using public transport and staying overnight in the Valley allows much more time to see the ruins and markets.

Best time to to visit

April to May or October to November. The high season is from June to September, but the rainy season, December to March, is cheaper and pleasant enough.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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