Pisac: The Other Must-See Inca Ruins in the Sacred Valley, Peru
The sacred valley is packed with fascinating Inca ruins — if you think Machu Picchu is the only site worth visiting then you are very much mistaken. Pisac is a sprawling ancient city located less than an hour away from Cusco. It makes for a great day trip and is, in my opinion, the other must-see set of Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley. Here’s what you’ll see and how to do it independently (it’s cheap and easy!).
The Pisac Market
Pisac is a small town which overflows with market stalls every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. It’s one of the best craft markets we went to in South America — we bought a few souvenirs and they were really cheap. It’s definitely touristy but we enjoyed it — just don’t expect an authentic ‘local’ market.
The Pisac ruins
We took a taxi to the start of the Pisac ruins and planned to walk back into town. The ruins are so spread out that it’s more like a collection of small villages connected by a narrow path. The first section of Pisac, featuring giant terraces, a jagged hill full of crumbling buildings and a panoramic view over the Sacred Valley, is truly awe-inspiring. We walked up the rock-strewn hill and wandered through the ruins, and from there we headed along the path to see what else Pisac had to offer.
The rest of the site didn’t disappoint. The crowds thinned out as we made our way towards the next set of ruins. We passed through a small gate, up and down some steps and eventually arrived at a viewpoint overlooking another cluster of buildings. These ones were in remarkably good shape. The skilled Inca stone workers built lots of structures like these and they are always fun to explore.
There is a hill above this group of buildings but we opted to continue downhill towards town. We could see another little stone village further down the hill — these ruins (and all the others at the site) are surrounded by great scenery, which makes Pisac the 2nd most photogenic Inca site in the Sacred Valley (after Machu Picchu of course!).
We kept heading downhill, passing some more modest terraces and structures. The path got a little rougher as we neared town. It also got a lot quieter. It seems not too many people walk all the way through the ruins and back into town but it’s the best way to do it. We eventually arrived back in town to be enveloped by the market once again.
Visiting Pisac FAQs
- Should I take a tour or do it independently? You’ll find lots of tours in Cusco that will take you on a quick-fire trip through the Sacred Valley. These would be fine if you’re in a hurry but if you have the time it’s easy and cheap to do it yourself. This also allows you to find quieter spots and really breathe in the atmosphere of Pisac. If you take the Sacred Valley tour I don’t think you’d have time to explore everything that Pisac has to offer, which would be a shame.
- How much does it cost to visit Pisac? You’ll need a Boleto Turistico (tourist ticket) to enter Pisac. You can get a ‘half ticket’ for 70 soles or the full one for 130 soles. The full ticket includes entry to lots of historic sites over a 10 day period. It’s definitely worth it — we visited Ollantaytambo, Pisac, Moray and Saqsaywaman and enjoyed them all.
- How do you get to Pisac independently? We took a colectivo (shared van) to Pisac from Cusco. They cost 3 or 4 soles and the ride takes about 45 minutes. From town you can take a taxi to the ruins (or walk, but it’s all uphill). We paid 25 soles for the ride (around 15 minutes) which isn’t particularly cheap — try and team up with some other travellers and share the cost. Getting back to Cusco is easy — just ask someone where the colectivos leave from (there are a few different companies) and jump on one (confirm the price before hand though).
All up the day trip to Pisac cost us around 70 soles each ($20 USD), including transport and a quarter of the Boleta Turistica (we visited 4 historic sites using the ticket). It was a great day out — if you only visit one other set of Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley (after Machu Picchu), make it Pisac!
Further reading: The Wonders of the World: Machu Picchu, Peru. Also, check out Conquistadors — a documentary about the Spanish conquest of the New World. It’s about a guy who retraces the footsteps of the Spaniards; it’s really interesting. You should be able to find it on Youtube or other video streaming sites.
Would you like to visit the Sacred Valley? Are you convinced that Machu Picchu isn’t the only historical site worth visiting? Let me know in the comments below!