The heart of the old Inca empire has a wealth of Inca ruins, Spanish treasures and historic architecture to explore.
Travel bucket list idea:
Inca ruins at Pisac (and Pisac market)
Pisac, Cusco Region, Peru|
These beautifully preserved Inca ruins straddle a high mountain ridge affording wonderful views over the Andes and the Sacred Valley.
The intricate Inca stonework – pieced together without cutting implements or mortar – is some of the best you’ll see. Pisac is one of the few places with an intact Inca Intihuatana altar – used for plotting the movement of the stars and for the veneration of the sun.
Pisac’s ruins can be reached easily by cab from Cusco, or you can opt for a breathy, spectacular day hike up the mountain from Pisac village below.
Pisac is one of the few Inca ruins to preserve a sacred Intihuatana altar – most were destroyed by the Spanish, a ritual stone used for measuring the stars and veneration.
While you’re there
Picas village has a lively, colourful market every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning. It’s the ideal place to pick up souvenirs, including fine knitwear. If you don’t make it then, visit the shop on the plaza which is owned by a weavers’ collective – all the money goes to them rather than a middleman.
Also try and visit the local baker, who breaks bread in a huge clay oven, pulling it out with a giant wooden spatula.
Getting there & doing it
Pisac village is 45 minutes’ drive from Cusco, with good bus and cheap taxi connections. The CU-964 road runs to within 200m of the ruins themselves, so you don’t need to walk far to see them.
The hike up from the village of Pisac to the ruins on the mountaintop is well-signposted and takes around 2 hours one way. It’s a superb walk that winds through temples and ruins, but a stiff hike up; the best option is to get a cab up and hike down (around 1.5 hours-3 hours depending on how long you spend admiring the exceptional views).
If you wish to walk up and taxi back, be sure to organise a pick-up time with a cab driver. Catching a cab at the ruins themselves can be expensive. Numerous tour companies in Cusco offer day visits – either by car or including the hike.
Allow a few hours to explore the village of Pisac itself – which has some lovely craft shops and cafes and a lively market.
When to do it
The best days to go are obviously on market days: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday mornings. Aim to be at the ruins mid-afternoon – when the light is golden: this is a great spot for pictures.
April to October is the dry season, when the sky is blue and temperatures can drop to below freezing at night. During the rest of the year intense rain is interspersed with sunshine and the ruins can be covered in wispy cloud – so expect to get wet on a hike up.
Destination guides including or relevant to this experience
A land of spectacular deserts, high mountains and rainforests that teem with wildlife, Peru is also home to an array of dramatically situated pre-Colombian ruins, including Machu Picchu.