Last weekend I was able to visit the Inca Ruins and the Sacred Valley which is between Cusco and Machu Picchu. Most of the farming in Peru is done here because it’s very lush and green.

sacred valley inca ruins

Naively, I came to Peru thinking that Machu Picchu was the one and only big Inca ruin and that everything else would just be like minimal little bonuses I got to see along the way. However, I learned that the only reason Machu Picchu is such a big deal is because it’s the only Inca town that was never discovered by the conquistadors and therefore, was untouched until Mr. Bingham discovered it in 1911. But there are still tons of other towns that are even larger! They just aren’t as well preserved because the Spanish pillaged them.

inca ruins

I rode a horse to one of the ruin sites which was really cool. I hadn’t been on a horse since 1997 at Lake Lawn Lodge in Delavan, WI. My cousin Julie and I were both in tears when our horses got spooked by some ducks. My sister was only 5 at the time so she had to stick to the ponies. Even she had an equally traumatic experience when her thumb got stuck in Lucky’s saddle. Fifteen years later, I was back in the saddle, riding a white caballo to an Incan town….just like the Spaniards did. Awkward.

inca ruins

The ruins I saw in the Sacred Valley were Pisac, Ollaytantambo, and Tipon. All of which were ginormous!! I was totally shocked. Pisac and Tipon were agricultural villages so they weren’t as fancy as Ollaytantambo which is close to Machu Picchu and had a Sun Temple. Food was número uno for the Incas and they farmed on these huge terraces:

inca ruins

I learned some pretty cool things about the Incas and I really kinda wish I could time travel and be one, at least for a day. Some things I didn’t know before, which stuck out, were:

FACE CARVING:

 The Incas carved faces in mountains. This is a side profile (look for the nose) and it is perfectly positioned for the Winter Solstice (June 21 – seasons are opposite here). On that day, the sun rises and aligns with the eyes of this face and hits the altar in the Temple of the Sun. How they figured out how to do that is beyond me.

inca ruins

HUGE STONES

: They moved huge stones around like it was no big deal. I took the picture below while standing in the Sun Temple at Ollaytantambo. If you look at that dark peak across the way with the light gray area next to it, THAT is where they got the stones for the temple from. You can still see their trail on the mountainside. They carried these suckers all the way down and back up.

inca ruins

STAIRS OF DEATH:

 They were in amazing shape. I think you would be hard-pressed to find an obese Inca. How do I know this? Because they have the longest, most difficult staircases I’ve ever seen in my life. And these stairs are in the Andes at a fairly high altitude. I can’t lie and pretend I did these gracefully. Some swear words were said. But I have a whole new appreciation for the Incas and their athletic ability.

inca ruins

REINCARNATION

: The Incas believed in it so they buried all their dead in the fetal position facing East where the sun rises. El Sol was their most important God. They also left special treats with the bodies for the next life, kinda like the Egyptians did with their mummies. If you look really closely at this picture, you can see all the little holes in the side of the mountain. This is an Inca cemetery and those are their graves.

inca ruins

WATER:

 The Incas created little canals to bring running water to all their crops. You can’t tell from this picture but being here, it sounded like a waterfall. They were such amazing engineers that the water still flows to this day. Quite impressive.

inca ruins

Overall, the Incas were pretty fascinating and seeing all these ruins got me super excited for Machu Picchu which is in T-17 days. However, the Inca staircases have me a little worried about the Inca Trail….but I figure if all these other turistas can do it, then I can too.