The Incas settled around the Vilcanota River because of its agricultural possibilities. Now converted into one of Peru’s main claims, this land hides many other treasures.
Author: Juana Reyes
Vilcanota, the star river
The Incas loved astronomy and everything that had to do with the sky and constellations. Surely, that is not something new, but did you know that the Vilcanota-Urubamba riverbed was the land equivalent to the Milky Way?
The Incas not only settled in these valleys and mountains because of its good weather conditions, but also for the mysticism they attributed to them. The river, born in the Vilcanota mountain range, joins two mountains sacred to the Incas: the Ausangate and the Salcantay.
The salt of the (Incan) earth
The Sacred Valley is one of the few places in the world where pink salt is produced naturally. This process originates in the salt mines of Maras. There are 3,000 wells dug in the Qaqawiñay mountain, continuously watered by an underground spring that is more than 100 million years old.
There is a handcrafted method to extract the salt, which has remained without variations since the Incan times: the water is allowed to evaporate naturally and then, when they reach ten centimeters thick, the crystals of pure salt are collected. Some are very pink-toned.
Platforms and agriculture
Some researchers believe that the Pisac platforms are one of the centers of origin for agriculture worldwide. The fertile lands of the valley and the Inca techniques to make the best of them explain that today some of the most precious ingredients of Peruvian gastronomy come from here.
In villages of the Sacred Valley like Chinchero, agricultural production still is the main activity and the economic engine for a good part of its population. On Sundays, villagers resort to bartering in the main square to exchange their crops.
Potato, the gift of the land
A fundamental pillar of the Peruvian diet, the potato has its own park in the Sacred Valley. With 10,000 has and about 1400 varieties, it is considered an Indigenous Biocultural Heritage. This initiative seeks to protect sustainable agriculture and Andean traditions at the same time.
The park, located near Pisac, is managed by five communities (Sacaca, Chawaytire, Pampallaqta, Paru Paru and Amaru) that show visitors the conservation techniques they still carry out. “It is a model of communal management of genetic resources, agro-biodiversity and Andean ecosystems, called the Territory of Indigenous Biocultural Heritage, based on the Andean Ayllu model.”
“Muyus” in Moray
Do you know the meaning of Moray’s concentric platforms? We neither. At least not a clear one.
Also known as ‘muyus’, the most accepted opinion is that this area of the Sacred Valley was a laboratory to experiment with different types of crops: each platform reproduced a different microclimate that required irrigation and proper care.
However, some people argue that this archeological site was an astronomical observatory from where the Incas intended to study climate changes from sunlight.