Our first trip in the Sacred Valley was to see the Inca ruins at Pisac. (For information about our base in the Sacred Valley, and for tips and resources for travelling in Peru please follow the links).
We were advised by hotel staff to get a taxi to Pisac, but decided to be a bit more adventurous. So we got a taxi just as far as Urubamba, and then continued by local bus – which was quite an experience. We were squashed into the rickety old minibus so tight that we could hardly breathe. And I am sure my rucksack was pushed up against someone’s face – sincere apologies if they read this!
Arriving at Pisac we discovered that a ceremony or festival was taking place in the town square. After watching for a while we found the obvious stone steps leading up the hillside. We climbed, accompanied by the sound of drums from the festivities below. This really added to the atmosphere of the occasion!
It is quite a steep climb up to the ruins, but on really good paths, and there are great views into the valley. You can get a taxi up to a carpark next to an entrance to the site, but if you can manage the walk it is so much nicer.
After some exertion we got our first look at Inca ruins. Hugely impressive. Like all the Inca sites we visited the setting struck us as much as the ruins themselves. How did they build such perfect structures in such difficult terrains?
The ruins at Pisac are around 600 years old, and despite the harsh environment they are remarkably well preserved. Footpaths lead around the site with many buildings and terraces to explore. There is the beautifully constructed Citadel and Temple of the Sun, the remains of various dwellings and hugely impressive agricultural terraces which follow the slopes of the hillside.
If you get the chance to visit allow plenty time to wander and take in the atmosphere of this very special place.
You can climb above the Citadel and Temple for fantastic views from above.
Notes on visiting Pisac
To visit the Pisac site the best option is to purchase a ticket which covers most of the historical sites in Cusco and the Sacred Valley (the Boleto Turistico). This can be bought in Cusco, or at the entrance to any of the sites, and is valid for 10 days. If you do not have time to visit other sites, more limited tickets are also available.
If you prefer an organized tour Viator have a range of tours in the Sacred Valley, including Pisac.
Pisac has a market on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays which is hugely popular with tour groups. Great if you enjoy busy markets, but if, like us, you prefer to see the site when it is quiet it is best to avoid these days. The day we visited the site (in August) was wonderfully uncrowded, as you can see from the photos.
As we walked back down to the town we saw hardly anyone at all until we came across a lone man playing panpipes. The sound was hugely evocative, and, like the drums going up, really added to the special atmosphere of the day.
If, like us, you choose to walk up from the town, take plenty of water and take it slowly if you have not acclimatized to the altitude. Pisac is not particularly high (just below 3000m), and I certainly didn’t expect to have problems because we have often been higher in the Alps. But I got a really severe headache on the way down, which I think was due to a combination of dehydration and walking up the steep climb too quickly on our first day at this altitude. This did improve the next day, but was quite frightening at the time.
Please remember that this site is based purely on our own experiences – therefore kindly note the Disclaimer.