The Urubamba (Sacred) Valley is formed by the Urubamba River as it flows from high Andes peaks in the east near Pisac to Machu Picchu in the west, 100 kilometers (62 mi) distant.  The river elevation ranges from 3,000 meters (9,800 ft) at Pisac to 2,050 meters (6,730 ft) as it passes below the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. On both sides of the river, the mountains rise to much higher elevations, especially to the south where two prominent mountains overlook the valley: Sahuasiray, 5,818 meters (19,088 ft) and Veronica, 5,893 meters (19,334 ft) in elevation. The intensely cultivated valley floor is about 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) wide on average. Side valleys and agricultural terraces (andenes) expand the cultivatable area.

Urubamba, population around 3,000, is the largest city in the Sacred Valley. Urubamba is only 30 miles as the crow flies from Cusco, the Inca capital. Even today, the drive takes more than an hour. The Urubamba Valley was the most important area for corn production in the heartland of the Inca Empire. Access through the valley to tropical areas facilitated the import of products such as coca leaf that the Inca used in their daily diet and as one means of facilitating control of their empire.

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