Before continuing with photos of the Sacred Valley, a few words about the Inca Empire. It is amazing how people believe all sorts of stuff about the Incas, including tourists we encountered there in Peru. It is painful to see an American tourist standing on Inca ruins expressing his convictions that those were thousands years old. If he is paying $1000 or more for the trip, should he find time to read at least the Wikipedia article on the Inca Empire?
So, despite the common misconception, the Inca Empire appeared not so long ago, and didn’t last all that long. The early state around Cusco (or “Qosqo”) goes back to about 13th century, but until around 1438 CE it was a fairly small kingdom. In 1438 CE the Cusqueños got nearly wiped out by a neighboring tribe, and after coming out victorious started massive expansion under leadership of a legendary Inca Pachacutec (“world-changer” in Quechua). The three Incas after Pachacutec continued the expansion, building by 1520s an empire that occupied half of Peru, half of Bolivia, half of Chile, most of Ecuador and a good chunk of Argentina. Right at that time, however, Pizarro showed up with two hundred Spaniards, arranged a meeting with the Inca Atahualpa and captured him. The fact that Atahualpa was not a pure-blood Cusqueño and had just fought a bitter civil war with another pure-blood prince, killing much of the Inca nobility in the process, probably did not help him. As a result, the Spanish basically took over the Inca Empire without fighting.
NB: the word “Inca” refers not to the residents of the Empire but to its rulers. I.e., sort of like if we said “the Empire of the Tsars,” we wouldn’t mean to say that people who live their are all tsars. The empire was also never referred as the “Inca” empire at the time of the Incas, but was rather called “Tawantin Suyu” in Quechua, meaning “the four regions.”