When you travel to Peru, the Imperial City and its beautiful Sacred Valley will be two of the highlights to enjoy within the many destinations of Peru. In general, the Sacred Valley and Cusco are usually mandatory stops for those looking to visit the Wonder of the World. But the magnificent Sacred Valley has many attractions of great historical and anthropological value. Therefore, when you think about things to do in Cusco, these two destinations are points that you cannot ignore. Among the different places to visit, Pisac ruins are one of the most iconic and representative of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
It is often one of the most attractive and important points within the different routes. And that is why, together with the travel experts of Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared a small article about the Pisac ruins. Because being able to explore these ruins is something that no one should miss.
Everything you need to know about the archeological site of Pisac
- Location of Pisac
- History of Pisac
- Pisac utility
- Origin of the name “Pisac”
- The ruins of Pisac
- The Pisac tour
- Ways to get to Pisac
- Hike to Pisac
- Alternative things to see and do
- The best time to visit it
- Tips to consider
Location of Pisac
Pisac is located at the eastern end of the Sacred Valley map. Just a 1-hour drive from the beautiful Imperial City. Like Cusco and the different towns in the Valley, the Ruins of Pisac are located high up. Specifically, about 34 kilometers from Cusco. Regarding the ruins, these are located 3,300 meters above sea level, while the town is only 2,974 meters above sea level. This village is relatively lower than Cusco, so it is also an excellent destination to acclimatize to the altitude, and there are numerous ways to get there. It can be reached by the road that leads to the beautiful ruins of Sacsayhuaman.
In addition, the beautiful traditional city has different establishments and luxury hotels to enjoy. You will find cheap accommodation options as other much more exclusive alternatives.
History of Pisac
Pottery remains found in the area indicate that the region has been occupied for a long time. There is evidence that there were two pre-Inca settlements, the Ayarmaka and Pinaguas, between the slopes of the Vilcanota river tributaries called Quitamayo and Chongo. The remains of these pre-Inca settlements saw the Pisac area boom with its agricultural terraces and its alluvial plains. But as the threat of attack from outside tribes weakened, slowly the villagers left the zone and moved closer and closer to the regions near the main roads that now depart from Cusco and Urcos.
When the Inca Empire conquered the area, it was on the ridge of the mountain that magnificent buildings were built. The consensus states that it was constructed by the Inca emperor Pachacuti, not before 1440. Many scholars have concluded that Pachacuti designed it as a multifunctional residence. The site offers a real refuge isolated from the capital. People believe that here is where the Panacea (family and offspring of the Inca) relaxed and had religious ceremonies. Nowadays, it offers an incredible view of the current location of the city and a spectacular view of Sacred Valley.
Pisac is an obligatory stop among your things to do in Sacred Valley. The Pisac ruins are widely acclaimed as some of the best stone works, becoming comparable to those of Machu Picchu. Pisac is divided into two zones: The Inca ruins of the same name and their platform system and carved stone enclosures. The other zone is the town located on the Pisac mountain bottom. Regarding Pisac ruins, It works as a castle, observatory, and religious place, where the Panacea (Inca’s direct family and offspring) rested and enjoyed Sacred Valley weather.
Origin of the name “Pisac”
Some historians suggest that the word Pisac derives from the word “Pisaca” which means Partridge. They even propose that the numerous agricultural terraces represent the wings of a Partridge. Specifically, Puna Partridge, which was a bird abundant in the area.
The ruins of Pisac
The astonishing ruins are located high above the valley floor and the modern colonial city of Pisac. The Inca archeological site is considered one of the best-preserved in Peru, so it is not surprising to be one of the tours in the region. The entire site is spread over a vast green area of the entire mountain, so exploring the complex can take some time. Within the site, you can find a residential settlement, ceremonial baths, and the largest Inca cemetery in South America. The entire archaeological site is surrounded by numerous agricultural terraces that blend harmoniously with the landscape. The Pisac ruins are divided into four main areas:
- Ajachapata Terraces: If the visitor walks 200 meters from the Pisac main square, northbound, beginning the climb up to the mountain, he will see a series of 40 platforms, situated on its slope, these forming a Puna Partridge wing. The shortest terrace is located at the base, close to the Urubamba river’s lands, and the longest is situated closer to the mountain top. Without a doubt, Ajachapata will be the first interesting attraction to see among these Peruvian ruins.
- Towers (Qoriwayrachina): Around 20 towers are situated throughout the complex. Therefore, Pisac is known as: “The Towers city”. These buildings can be divided into two types: The Cockpit turrets; these are conical towers of well-carved stones located on the edges of mountain ledges with waterways connections. The other ones are the Watchtower turrets that are conical towers of rougher structure, compact mass fills its interior and a flat surface crown its top. These turrets were not hollow enclosures, therefore the Inca watchman had to stand on its top to spot possible far threats. The most famous among these towers is the Qoriwayrachina tower.
- Inca cemetery (Tankanamarka): It is maybe the highest Inca cemetery in all of South America. Nowadays, we find 1000 Incas tombs carved over the hillside of a cliff, at the other side of the Quitamayu river. The experts affirm that there were more than 10,000 tombs in the Incas times (the rest was looted by treasure hunters)
- The Inca Wall (The door of the snakes): This is a discontinuous structure made up of big stones. Many of these walls are distributed in necessary places. The Inca Wall has 5 doors, the main of which is called “The door of the snakes” and it was the entrance to principal neighborhoods located on the mountain top.
- Intihuatana: This part of Pisac archeological park is more beautiful and stylized than other zones. There are Inca temples and palaces that are formed by well-carved stones, fitted perfectly without mortar between them. The zone is divided into three levels and Its precincts are larger than other ones. Precisely, one of them, called “Intihuatana“, has a “D” form and contains a big carved stone in its center, with a protuberance on its top. Many theories affirm that this stone was used to measure the seasons and positions of the sun.
- Tiayanuc Neighborhood: This is a precincts series, situated around a square that has a little carved stone with a back and elbow pads seat shape. Therefore, the place receives the name of “Tiayanuc”, a Quechua word that means “That has a seat”. The precincts there are smaller than other zones, but express beauty and perfection through their well-carved stones.
- Q’allaqasa: Q’allaqasa is the highest neighborhood in Pisac Archeological park. Its precincts are situated at the top of the mountain. Many of them face to the North over an inclined plane. Q’allaqasa has many towers, chambers, and steep slopes, even a short tunnel of 3 meters long. Amazing cliffs border the neighborhood. Even, this zone is one of the most visited tourist sites in Peru.
- Kinchiracay: This neighborhood checks over all the northeast zone of Pisac. Therefore, many academics affirm that the zone was used as a lookout post. There are many houses and precincts made up of medium and small stones. The neighborhood is situated on an inclined plane. Its limits reach the river coast of Chongo creek.
- Pisaqa: 23 beautiful precincts are situated, with an amazing order, over an artificial esplanade (The Incas had to remove earth from it). The neighborhood is located 200 meters down from the Intihuatana Neighborhood. The distribution of the zone has a form of a half-moon.
The Pisac tour
Approximately 3-4 hours are perfect for a complete tour of the Pisac ruins. Once at the entrance, you will be able to appreciate a huge set of agricultural terraces. If you continue along the busiest road, you will reach the neighborhood of Q’alla Q’asa located on the side of the mountain. There you will be able to appreciate a series of ceremonial baths fed by a complex network of channels. If you continue the path along the hillside you will reach the main entrance of the temples. The undulating path continues until it reaches a narrow tunnel. As you exit the tunnel, you will be able to appreciate the beautiful residential and agricultural area known as Pisaca or Q’allaqasa.
The truth is that the archeological complex has a lot to offer. For example, the temple complex or the ceremonial center is made up of a dozen buildings. All are built with impeccable masonry work. The Temple of the Sun and the Intiwatana are the centerpiece of the site. This temple is perfectly aligned with the dawn of the winter solstice. If you were wondering: what was Pisac used for? We can deduce that like other sites, it had a ceremonial, astronomical and religious function for the Incas. But having several sites we can say that the Pisac complex was multifunctional. From the temple complex, the trail continues to a viewpoint. Although other trails can lead you to the other parts of the beautiful complex.
Ways to get to Pisac
To get to the amazing archeological site of Pisac you can do it in several ways. However, first, you have to depart from Cusco, the Imperial city. There are Puputi Bus Station (located on the street of the same name, to 5 blocks from the main square) or Pavitos Bus Station (located to 7 blocks from the main square). The bus trip lasts 45 minutes until Pisac town. From there, you will have two options to get to the same Pisac archeological park.
For those adventurous hikers, they can reach the Pisac ruins through a short trek. The ruins are a steep 90-minute walk, depending on your fitness level. This hike is intermediate to advanced level with uphill sections and steep steps. But without a doubt, the hike is worth it. You will get magnificent and spectacular panoramic views up and down of the Sacred Valley and the Peruvian Andes.
The return is a walk down, which will take about 45 minutes on foot. It’s a great idea, too; you will enjoy an impressive walk back to the traditional town of Pisac.
Taking a taxi
Although, if you are not a fan of hiking, you can also take a taxi from anywhere in the city. The taxi is usually not expensive at all, and it will save you a little time. On the main road of Urubamba, you will find several taxis specialized in taking tourists to the site. Make sure to arrange with the taxi driver to take you to the entrance and not to the checkpoint. Although certain tours of the Sacred Valley already frequently include transportation and entrance to the site. If you are looking to visit Cusco, make sure to enjoy these wonderful places surrounded by enchanting landscapes.
Sacred Valley Tour
Usually, Pisac ruins are included in a complete tour package. This receives the name of “Sacred Valley tour” and it typically includes Ollantaytambo archaeological park and Chinchero town, too. The journey offers private transportation and the service of a tour guide. The tour begins around 7 or 8 am and finished in the same Cusco at 5 or 6 pm. The cost is many, however, if you want to reach the best service and price. We can help you!
Hike to Pisac
The hike is suitable for anyone of any age. As long as you have a good disposition and will to see amazing Inca ruins. From the small town, you can follow the path that leads to the back of the town and slowly climbs up the mountain towards the ruins. In general, most of the trail goes downhill, except for the first section that can go from top to bottom. Also, the path follows the mountainside, making it quite difficult to get lost. The entire route is well signposted, but we recommend enjoying this route with a certified guide.
When you reach the top, you will have to make your way through the different buses and taxis stuck in the parking lot. From there, you will be able to appreciate the different terraces that descend the side of the mountain. The Pisac return hike from the top to the traditional market does not usually take more than 2 hours. But of course, the time can vary depending on how long you walk through the ruins and the type of tour you choose to do.
Alternative things to see and do
- The Town: Pisac is much more than an archeological site, it is also its wonderful and picturesque town as its iconic market. The archeological complex bears the same name as the picturesque village. The town is surrounded by beautiful mountains. Its beautiful square and church are some of the busiest places.
- The Traditional Handicraft market of Pisac: The town itself hosts a traditional market which is one of the most famous in Cusco. It draws many visitors to the Sacred Valley, especially on Sundays. This authentic and colorful market was an important commercial place for centuries. You can find hand-painted ceramics, articles related to the Inca culture, hand-woven products of alpaca fiber, jewelry, and other handicrafts, as well as food, fruits, and vegetables. The Pisac market is one of the best places to find souvenirs to buy in Peru.
The best time to visit it
We recommend visiting the Pisac archaeological park between March to November (Dry Season). Perfect weather, hard sun rays, warm breezes inter alia.
Is Pisac worth visiting? Of course, it is one of the main places to visit in the Sacred Valley. A remarkable visit has to include this kind of natural beauty, don’t you think?
Tips to consider
Despite being a route suitable for all audiences, here are some tips to take into account. These will make your experience a much better one.
- By your Cusco tourist ticket that includes the entrance of Pisac among other tourist attraction entrances like Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, museums inter alia. The cost is $36 (The complete ticket) and $21 (the Partial ticket)
- Wear comfortable hiking boots, to avoid sprains and accidents, and also clothing for high altitude and outdoor hikes.
- Be prepared for extreme sun, cold, and possible rain. So, bring layers of clothing for sudden temperature changes.
- Bring water in your backpack and some snacks. A small bottle of water will be vital for the walk, although there are also often street vendors.
- To understand the history of the Pisac ruins, we suggest hiring a tour guide. Most tours include this service, but it is possible to hire one at the front door.
- Make sure to bring sunscreen, as the hike can be quite exposed to the sun. Avoid burning yourself!
- The ruins are open every day of the year from 7 AM to 6 PM.
- You will need at least a Partial Tourist Ticket to enter the ruins of Pisac.
- If you are traveling during the rainy season, we recommend doing the trek in the morning. Since the most frequent rains occur during the afternoon.
- The hike is well signposted, but if you’re not sure which way to go, remember that the mountain should stay on your right.
“A RUIN SHOULD ALWAYS BE PROTECTED BUT NEVER REPAIRED – THUS MAY WE WITNESS FULL THE LINGERING LEGACIES OF THE PAST”
We hope that this little guide on the Pisac ruins has been helpful to you. Without a doubt, the views and constructions of Pisac come to rival those of Machu Picchu. Not for nothing is it considered one of the most popular attractions in the Sacred Valley. The Machu Travel Peru team hopes to have encouraged you a bit. If you want to know more about everything that this magical Sacred Valley has in store, you can consult with our team of advisors. They will be happy to help you with the tours of the beautiful Sacred Valley of the Incas.