What to see in Pisac?
Only a short ride from Cusco, as you enter the Sacred Valley, lies the town of Pisac famous for its colorful market and Pisac Ruins towering atop the hill. Modern Pisac has gained a lot of popularity with expats looking to settle into the Andes and live an organic tranquil life, which has created the most fascinating dynamic between its inhabitants. Its still one of my favorite small towns to heard out to for the day, to just hang out with friends and relax or to enjoy a festival.
Pisac town is a gateway to the Sacred Valley. Due to its strategic location, we can guess that the main purpose of the ancient Incan city was to protect Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Another theory is that it was a major trading point. Nowadays, we can be grateful that the Inca people built one of the most picturesque sites in the most beautiful of settings.
But frankly, when you are climbing up the hill to the ruins via stone terraces, its astonishing how the Incas were able to construct these magnificent architerally sound structures in such unforgiving terrain.
This part of Peru is so beautiful and mind baffling.
What to do in Pisac?
Pisac is a great and affordable option for a day trip from Cusco. But if you’re travelling a little slower, than you could stop here on your way to Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. Another option is to use it as your base to explore the Sacred Valley. It’s also a great alternative if trying to acclimatize to the altitude. It has an eclectic group of permanent residents. For those interested in an alternative lifestyle, with different religious options and a variety of specialty foods, then Pisac is the place for you. Pisac still has a large number of indigenous people still living here. Immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy the many authentic Peruvian festivals that take place quite frequently.
The Sunday Pisac Market
If Pisac didn’t have such exceptional ruins, then we wouldn’t recommend anyone to go out of their way to visit its famous Sunday market. Now, that’s not to say that the market isn’t worth visiting. But rather that it does slant slightly towards having too many of the stalls selling the same souvenirs prevalent throughout Peru, rather than focusing on unique local products. However, this sprawling Sunday market which spills out over half of Pisac’s streets is a feast for the senses. It continues to see its fair share of families from the surrounding villages making their weekly trip to Pisac, which provides a wonderful opportunity for people-watching and insight into local life.
If you can’t visit on Sunday, then a scaled down version of Pisac Market does run throughout the week, and Tuesday and Thursday are official market days (though less grand than Sundays).
Climb the Pisac ruins
The hike to the Pisac ruins is not super-hard, but don’t expect a leisurely stroll either.
If you decide to hike the Pisac ruins, you will be rewarded by stunning vistas. You also get to see more ruins than the average visitor who usually wonder around the upper part of the ruins. We must admit, that despite the famous Pisac ruins being so close to Cusco, the trail was almost completely empty.
To get to the trailhead, you walk through the market and continued via Intihuatana street uphill. On arrival you have to purchase a boleto turistico to enter. When you purchase your boleto turistico it’s better to buy the multi-day option. From here, you follow the narrow, but well-signposted path via terraces. After some time, you discover what was left from Pisac fortress which was once scattered all over the hill. It takes about two hours until you reach the main part of the ruins, where you meet up with other tourists. You have the option of not hiking up, so a lot of the tourists always opt to just walk down.
To get back to Pisac, you walk the same way back.
Hiking Distance: The hike to the ruins is four kilometers long and mostly uphill, but you are walking slowly, taking plenty of photos, wondering exploring smaller ruins on the way.
Pisac is 2972m above sea level, so you need to gain almost 400m in elevation because the top of the ruins is 3347m high.
Either way, this hike is good training if you plan on doing the Inca Trail or any other alternative trek to Machu Picchu.
Taxi + Walk: If you aren’t fit, then this is the sensible option; it’s also the most popular way to reach the ruins.
Once your colectivo has dropped you off and you cross the bridge into Pisac, you will find a group of taxi drivers who run tourists up the road for 15 minutes to the back of the ruins for around S/. 20-25 one way.
Due to the inflated price, try to do this trip in a group to split the cost and don’t be afraid to haggle if you are being charged more than this. You can either take the taxi one-way and walk back down to Pisac from the ruins along the trail (our recommended option). Another option is to ask your taxi driver to wait for you and take it back down once you’ve spent some time exploring the ruins.
Public transportation from Pisac to Cusco
Connections between Pisac and Cusco are frequent and easy to find, with a journey time of 45 minutes and a one-way fare costing just S/. 7 per person. If you are doing this as a day trip from Cusco and plan on hiking up and down the Pisac ruins, then leave no later than 9 a.m.
Firstly, make your way to Calle Puputi in Cusco. Alternatively, you could walk, it takes about 20-30 minutes from most places in the historical center.
On the street, you will find several colectivos (minibuses) going to Pisac, Urubamba and Calca, and it won’t take much time before a man tries to get you on his bus which will hopefully already have some people in it – just make sure you confirm destination and price before boarding. These minibus only depart when full.
The driver will stop at the bridge outside Pisac, and you then simply have to disembark and cross the bridge to be in the town center. For the return journey, cross the bridge again and wait at the opposite side of the road (there’s a small bus shelter facing the large mural billboard) – you likely won’t be the only person waiting to return to Cusco. It may be necessary to flag down the colectivo as it passes and, depending on the time of day and season, it might take a while before you can find a bus with an available seat. If it’s dark by the time you’ve made it back to Cusco, then you can take a taxi back to your hostel/hotel.
It is possible to take a private taxi, find more information here!
Entrance fee to Pisac Inca ruins
When you plan on visiting sights around Cusco, especially in the Sacred Valley, you will soon learn a new term, boleto turistico. So, you need the boleto turistico to enter inti Pisac ruins.
This is where things become a little more complicated!
There are four boleto turistico options, which are all valid for different lengths of time, include different sites, and have different prices.
1.- BOLETO TURÍSTICO GENERAL / FULL CUSCO TOURIST TICKET – WE RECOMMEND THIS TICKET
This is the standard and most economical if you want to visit more sites over a span of more than one day which includes 16 sites.
Price: S/. 130 / $35 for non-Peruvian adults. S/. 70 / $19 for non-Peruvian (see below for more information).
Time: Valid for 10 consecutive days (i.e. it will expire 10 days after you purchase it, regardlenss of how or when you use the ticket).
Tip: Note that the Quoricacha aspect is only access to the outdoor gardens – an additional entry has to be purchased for the museum or Inca temple inside, fee 10 soles.
2.- UN DIA BOLETO TURISTICO PARCIAL / ONE DAY PARTICAL CUSCO TOURIST TICKET
The partial ticket is the ideal option for those on a tighter budget, or who only wish to visit a handful of specific sites. There are three different ‘Circuitos’ / Circuits available:
What’s Included: The ruins which lie just outside Cusco: Saqsayhuamán, Q’enqo, Puka pukara, Tambomacha. These are best visited on a single day-trip.
Price: S/. 70 / $19 for non-Peruvian adults
Time: Valid for 1 day only.
What’s Included: The Cusco Museums: Contemporary Art, Museo Historical Regional, Monumento Pachacuteq, Tipon, Quoricancha, Museo de Arte Popular, Centro Quosqo de Arte Nativo. Pikillaqta.
We imagine that this is the least purchased Cusco tourist ticket because a number of these museums ain’t great.
Price: S/. 70 / $19 for non-Peruvian adults
Time: Valid for 1 days.
What’s Included: The Sacred Valley Ruins: Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Moray.
Price: S/. 70 / $19 for non-Peruvian adults
Time: Valid for 1 day. This is a good option for a stand-alone ticket, but with it being valid for only one day, it’s actually a bit of a challenge (unless joining a Sacred Valley Tour) to visit all of these sites in one day. It is absolutely possible with a combination of taxis, public transport, and walking to visit them all but a challenge to do so in one day.
***On the full boleto turistico, international students can receive a 50% discount – making the ticket just S/. 70 / $19 . To take advantage of this offer, you have to be 25 or under, and need to bring your original student or ISIC card and passport. Children are also charged a discounted price.
Tickets will be required at the checkpoint for each site and it’s essential that you don’t lose it as we’ve heard that no replacements are issued and this is a strictly adhered to.
Treks and Tours to Pisac and the Sacred Valley
1. Sacsayhuaman and Pisac 1 Day Tour
This day tour visits the famous archeological site of Sacsayhuaman, three more archeological sites near Cusco and the ancient town of Pisac! Sacsayhuaman with its impressive Inca military construction protected the northeastern part of Cusco from invaders and is adjacent to the large Cristo Blanco Statue above the city. We also explore the archeological sites of Q’enqo, Puca Pucara and Tambomachay, which are located on the way to Sacred Valley and Pisac.
The Inca Village of Pisac has the largest handicraft and textile market in the region of Cusco and the archeological ruins of Pisac are considered to be one of the most interesting Inca archeological sites in the country – besides Machu Picchu of course! The Inca tunnel and the Sacred Temple are constructed from pink granite. We will also explore one of the biggest Inca cemeteries with more than 2,000 tombs and admire the farming terraces built into the mountain. At the colorful Inca market in Pisac, you will have plenty of opportunities to test your bartering skills, interact with the local artisans and purchase their hand-made souvenirs, although you do not need to buy anything, but it is still fun to look around.
2. SACRED VALLEY + ATV TOUR (Pisac + Moray + Maras + Ollantaytambo)
The Sacred Valley is vast and stretches for miles with many small indigenous towns, secluded weaving villages, outdoor handicraft markets and ancient Inca Ruins including Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Urubamba. Orange Nation also includes the Salt Mines in Maras which has thousands of ponds carved into the mountainside and the Terraces of Moray, which are built in the form of an amphitheater and have different temperatures at each level to grow different crops. It was watered through a complex irrigation system and allowed the cultivation of the Incas to grow over 250 types of vegetables. We end the tour at the fascinating and imposing site of Ollantaytambo, a truly impressive Inca ruin!
3. Sacred Valley Of The Incas Tour With Moray & The Salt Mines
The itinerary allows you to enjoy the best highlights of the Sacred Valley, such as the archeological sites of Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Moray and the Maras Salt Mines, rather than just focusing on various markets for shopping. All of this is provided in a small private tour with a guide who is passionate about Inca history.
The valley between Pisac and Ollantaytambo is known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. On this tour, we will drive through the mountains of the Sacred Valley, which played a key role in Inca culture and history. The Valley has a milder climate and is at a lower altitude than Cusco.
No other travel agency besides SAM Travel Peru visits all of these sites in their Sacred Valley Tour!
Where to stay in Pisac?
If you do plan on extending your time in Pisac, using it as a Sacred Valley base, or simply want to disconnect and savor a few nights out of the big city, then the town does have a few walk-in hostels and hotels on offer. However, if you want to book in advance and want something upscale and dependable, then check out a few of the recommendations below. Note: the best options in Pisac are usually located about 5–10-minute walk outside of town.
Pisac Inn : A small charming hotel. The best thing about it is its location, right in the middle of the historical center. It has great views of the mountains and river.
Nunu Boutique Hotel: A slightly more upscale hotel. Located just outside of the town of Pisac in Lamay, this place is surrounded by nature and great place to recharge.
Pisac Inca Guest House: This family owned guest house has a lot of amenities on offer. Enjoy a free hot breakfast and daily housekeeping. They also have a yoga and meditation room. The terrace has amazing views and great spot to relax and enjoy a cocktail.
Recommended Tour Operators for Pisac and the Sacred Valley
SAM Travel Peru
SAM Travel Peru (10 years in business) is a highly professional tour & trekking company that focuses on treks and tours for all age travelers, making sure everyone has the best possible tour experience. A key feature offered by SAM Travel is small group
sizes and personalized service. They never exceed ten trekkers per group, unlike many operators who will happily reach the maximum group limit of 16 or more people. They work with each group to personalize their tour if needed. One size does not fit all. What’s more, the company’s Peruvian owner, Saul Alvarez, has been working along the Inca Trail since the age of 18, as a porter and later as a guide. He understands trekking better than most and the needs of the hiker. Please check all of its great reviews on TripAdvisor.
Orange Nation Peru
For a while, this relatively new start-up company has been on my list of Inca Trail tour operators to consider. The company focuses on quality treks and tours for those that are budget conscious. The company tour guides, porters and cooks have shares in the company, and earn a fair amount for their level of contributions. When you choose this company, you make a direct impact to all the lives of the people that make your adventure memorable. The company has also has plenty of excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. Definitely, one to consider.
Spider Travel Peru
SPIDER TRAVEL PERU is a new innovative professional adventure travel company and Inca Trail Operator that offers unparalleled experiences to unknown and untouched wilderness areas. Spider has adventure treks that are carefully designed to cater to all of the possible options its clients might desire. Its passions are sharing the incredible landscapes of the Andes and the history and culture of the Inca people! Make sure you consider its many options!
Glamping Peru Treks
Glamping Peru Treks creates treks and tours that offer unsurpassed luxury and comfort while hiking off the beaten track. All accommodations, food, and services are of the highest quality and standards. If you are looking for something upscale and luxurious
while trekking or touring, this is the absolute best option for you. Do not be afraid to work with their service operators to create your dream personalized luxury trek or tour. The company group size averages 2 to 4 people, not exceeding 8 people. If you love your privacy, be sure to ask for a private tour.