Today we leave the sultry jungle for the mystical higher altitudes of Cusco and the Sacred Valley. We are starting in Urubumba to avoid the sudden altitude change – being a lifelong ground level dweller; my previous experience with altitude has not been good. Urubumba also allows for some relaxation before the next couple of weeks of non-stop moving around. We have ensconced ourselves in the Sol y Luna which, I must say, is an amazing property to just sit around and do nothing. Fantastic grounds, great food, friendly staff and a relaxing spa made this a place we did not ever want to leave. Our villa with Jacuzzi, two separate living rooms and 400 square foot bathroom certainly didn’t hurt either.
After we pried ourselves away from paradise, we manage to take a day to see the other sights of the valley. First stop, Chinchero some well-kept ruins and a colonial church are the focal point of this tiny white-washed town. Afterwards, we were off to the Salinas Salt flats, where family plots of salt ponds cascading down the mountain to the valley floor, have been passed down over generations as a way for families to produce income. In Morey, we saw the circular Inca terracing where people have hypothesized the native culture used to test out crops at different altitudes and micro climates. After a whirlwind day around the valley, we found ourselves in the small and charming town of Ollantytambo.
Ollantytambo, the old royal estate of Incan Emperor Pachacuti, is the site of some of the most important Incan ruins in Peru. The terrace-carved mountainside and ceremonial ruins are impressive and captivating. It's also a really good workout. No need for a StairMaster here. The old town is built around the original Incan design and provides both a pleasant walk and a view into more traditional Peruvian life. It is also the easiest place to catch the tourist train for the next part of our journey – Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.