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The Urubamba river or also called Vilcanota river derives from the quechua language Urupampa which means “plateau of spiders”, is one of the main and important rivers of Peru, important source of the tributary of the Ucayali river and the Amazon basin.

The course of the Urubamba River protects the areas of the Machupicchu Sanctuary, Megantoni Sanctuary and the Otishi National Park through the Lower and Upper Urubamba River.

The sacred valley of the Incas settled on the banks of the Vilcanota River, which in its lower course is called Urubamba River, the meaning derives from the Quechua word Willcamayu or Sacred River, Some chroniclers and theories indicate that the Incas called it sacred because the Urubamba River joined with the Milky Way according to the Andean cosmology, because as we know the Incas were excellent astronomers, which devoted many years to study their god the Sun (Inti), the stars and the moon.


The Urubamba river is born in the Vilcanota knot, in the department of Cusco in Peru, where most of its waters pass through the region of Cusco and take the name of the Vilcanota River, and when it passes through Urubamba it takes the name of the Urubamba river. Thanks to the river the Sacred Valley or Urubamba Valley has a temperate climate throughout the year, suitable and conducive to develop agriculture.

The Urubamba River, passing through Ollantaytambo, narrows, geographically a rugged area of the Torontoy Canyon where Machupicchu is located until it reaches the Mainique lake towards the Amazon.

It has an area of 58,734 km2.


The Urubamba river is located between latitudes 10º10′, 14º37′ and longitude 70º48′, 73º45′ West, with an approximate extension of 76 200 km2. Its highest point is the Ausangate snow-capped peak (6 384 masl) and the lowest point (240 masl) is in the town of Atalaya, located between the departments of Cusco and the south of the department of Ucayali in the eastern vertex of the Andes.

The Urubamba River Basin is formed by the Vilcanota, Yanatili, Yavero, Cumpirusiato, Camisea, Sepahua, Pichá, Mishagua and Inuya river basins, until it reaches the Tambo River, forming the Ucayali River. The Urubamba River has a course of 862 kilometers in an area of approximately 76,200 km2, born from the thaws of the snow-capped Cururana (5,443 masl) which is located northeast of the town of Santa Rosa and with the name of Vilcanota, it crosses the high plateau of Queque Pampa and flows from southeast to northwest.


The main tributaries of the Urubamba River are:

  • Huarocondo
  • Cusichaca
  • Santa Teresa
  • Huamanmarca
  • Chuyapi
  • Huacayoc
  • Yanatile
  • Chapo
  • Coribeni
  • Cirialo
  • San Miguel
  • Cumpirusiato
  • Yavero or Paucartambo
  • Mantal
  • Ticumpinia
  • Timpia
  • Camisea
  • Picha
  • Yali
  • Huitiricoya
  • Paquiria
  • Sensa
  • Miaria
  • Mishahua
  • Sepahua
  • Sepa
  • Inuya
  • Huao


Among the species that inhabit the waters of the Urubamba River we highlight the torrent duck, blackbird, pissonay trees, queuña, orchids, mosses, lichens, hummingbirds, tanagers, pudu (small deer), emerald-colored beetles and a large number of butterflies.

The large number of rivers that flow through the lands of this valley, makes this Sacred Valley as it was known by the Incas a fertile land for agricultural production and a place to settle people with customs that exist to this day.