Peru’s identity is rooted in the history of the Inca Empire, which once stretched along the west coast of South America from modern-day Ecuador, through Peru, Chile, and into Bolivia and Argentina. Tours in Peru take you to iconic and lesser-known sites prove the might of the once-powerful Inca Empire, bringing this history to life around you.
The Salt Ponds of Maras
The salt ponds, partitioned shallow squares of varying shades of whites and tans, climb up the sloping hill and make for a unique and stunning sight. Built on descending tiers, the salt ponds of Maras are located north of Cusco, and present a unique resource for the people in the area. Local community members harvest the salt in the ponds, which are filled with saltwater from a nearby stream. The intricate network of thousands of ponds and interconnecting water channels took many generations and much ingenuity to master. At the top of the terraces is a controlled outlet where a small but steady stream of water flows down, filling the sprawling ponds. Once they are filled, the flow of water is turned off to let the water evaporate.
The shallow pools of water in the ponds evaporate in the dry, blaring sun. Once the salt precipitates into varying sizes of crystals, the workers scrape the salt with wooden batons into baskets, where it will drain. The cooperative practice of salt harvesting has roots back before the Incas, to the Chanapata Culture’s time in the years 200 AD-900 AD. This site has always been isolated and difficult to reach, but it was an invaluable resource in Inca times nonetheless. Although the area is much less active today, visitors can understand the significance of this practice reaching back thousands of years. The site is a testament to inventiveness and enduring traditions.
Ruins Near Cusco: Ollantaytambo
From Cusco, historically the capital of the Inca Empire, travel to the impressive ruins of Ollantaytambo, nestled in the Sacred Valley. At the start of the hike “The Inca Trail,” the still-inhabited buildings and cobbled streets draw numbers of tourists hoping to relive the majesty of the Inca Empire. The site once served as a temple and fortress, and was the location of the victory of Manco Inca over the Spanish in 1536. Manco Inca was the leader of the resistance against the Spanish conquistadors during their conquest through the region, and Ollantaytambo served as a temporary Inca capital after Cusco fell to the Spanish. Though the Spanish later returned with stronger forces and chased Manco Inca to the jungle, this victory was important to the Inca resistance. The ceremonial center of the complex includes the Sun Temple, which features the Wall of the Six Monoliths.
Now, find old, agricultural terraces and pieces of the immense walls of the temple scattered in the setting. Inhabited continuously from Inca times, the town retains much of its historical roots. It’s easy to wonder if the city has changed much in the past few hundred years, with “the fountain of the princesses” and other waterworks still trickling and voices filling the streets.
The Glory and Might of Machu Picchu
Finally, visit the most well-known site of the Inca Empire: Machu Picchu. The citadel was nearly lost until the American explorer, Hiram Bingham, rediscovered the site in 1911 with the help of locals who were familiar with rumors of Inca ruins in the area.
Now, anyone can discover the famed Machu Picchu. With an impressive backdrop of mountain peaks stretching into the clouds, the citadel’s ruins hold secrets of a once-powerful Empire stretching thousands of miles through the Andes. Take time to revel in the moment and breathe in the fresh air, imagining what the complex looked like hundreds of years ago. The crumbling ruins rise and form complete structures: roofs lay over upright walls, people dressed in typical Inca clothing appear, overgrown flora recedes and in its place grow rows of planted vegetation. Networks of residences, religious buildings, and other structure sit on the upper terraces of the city, while the farming plots constitute the lower section. Views of this citadel are iconic, beautiful, and awe-inspiring.
To truly get a unique experience, take a day trip on the luxury Hiram Bingham or Vistadome trains, which take you through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu from Cusco. Take unique rides through the stunning scenery, where large, panoramic windows unite the interior of the train with nature. Snacks from local foods and cultural entertainment and traditions ensure that the trip is enriching as well as beautiful.
Visit these sites and many more on luxury tours to Peru from Palace Tours. You will take a deep look into the history of the Inca Empire in Peru, Spanish conquest, and how modern-day Peru has emerged from these influences. Don’t forget to follow Palace Tours around social media for more updates: Facebook Twitter Instagram Pinterest YouTube Linkedin