The Sacred Valley of the Incas, which also goes by the less poetic name of the Urubamba River Valley, is a sprawling region of high, sloping mountains and low, fertile plains in the Peruvian Andes. Just 20km at its closest point to the central hub of Cusco, which many travelers use as a base for exploring the Sacred Valley and the surrounding region, it was formed by the Urubamba River and gradually became part of the Inca empire between the years 1000 and 1400 CE. Its low elevation on the valley floor enabled it to become a productive agricultural zone, with maize being grown in abundance in the valley. Throughout the rule of the Inca in the region, the Sacred Valley became something of an aristocratic enclave for this ancient civilization, where royal estates, citadels and country homes were built for emperors of the Inca. The remains of some of these complexes can still be seen and visited, the most famous being Machu Picchu, which is thought to have been built for the emperor Pachacuti.
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