Today, head down from the high plains to explore the fertile Sacred Valley of the Incas. Once the bread-basket of the Inca Empire, it was heavily populated in imperial times and scores of archaeological sites remain, where well-preserved ruins bear witness to the highly developed society that the Incas created. The drive passes through or close to several of the villages and temple fortresses that pepper the valley.
The Pisaq complex, set high above and visible from the eponymous colonial village you will visit, is built on terraces carved into the steep hillsides. The engineering and preservation are unrivalled. From the flat valley floor this intricate hillside ruin rises up like a green staircase to the heavens. Lunch at Rancho Wayra, with a Peruvian pace horse show and traditional dancing.
Continue along this picturesque, patchwork valley to the temple of Ollantaytambo, the snow-frosted Andean cordillera forming a stunning backdrop. Ollantaytambo, sits strategically at the gateway to the Amazon basin. The citadel was built at the top of steep, walled terraces to enhance its strategic position. Within the site, the Temple of the Sun occupies the highest point and its rose-coloured monoliths are an exceptional example of Inca masonry.
You spend the night beneath the dome of a vast, clear Andean sky in the little town also known as Ollantaytambo which lies at the foot of the Inca fortress and is itself built on top of an Inca town.