Pisac is a small, quiet hamlet in a peaceful valley setting, surrounded by tall mountains and next to a sparkling river. Imposing Incan ruins and stone terraces stand guard on the mountainside behind, overlooking the city. But until recent years, it has seen little action. Thanks to increased tourism to Peru, Pisac has become a bustling town on market days where tourists come by the thousands to shop. Hundreds of natives dressed in traditional attire sell and barter their colorful textiles, pottery, and thousands of other items.
Perhaps the most visited market in all of Peru, traditionally, it has been a Sunday event. Still, tour companies began bringing busloads of tourists on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so there were slightly smaller markets then. But there are quite a few vendors on the main square any day of the week.
The Sunday market begins to get crowded after the 11 am mass (in Quechua) is let out, with a procession led by the town’s mayor. The Plaza and its tall Pisonay tree center the action, but stalls are set up throughout the colonial center, crowding every street. The natives come from miles away, from remote mountain villages, in their traditional dress, selling alpaca textiles, jewelry, leather, antiques, rugs, ceramics, and much more. Bargaining is a must. Prices tend to equal those in Cuzco, but the quality is much better. The markets usually wind down by the afternoon.
Standing high on a breath-shortening hill above Colonia town, you will find the other half of Pisac. This Inca site is one of the most extensive ruins in the valley, the terraces rivaling those of Ollantaytambo or Machu Picchu. It does think that they once were a city combined with a fort, a ceremonial center, and an agricultural complex.
Much of the ruins consist of stone terracing, most visible from the valley floor. The terraces on the far side are the most spectacular and lined in a semi-circular pattern.
The Intihuatana section is the most significant part and the ceremonial center. It holds the Solar watch, or the hitching post of the sun, which helped the Incas determine the growing season. You can also find the remnants of the palaces of the moon and stars and water channels that led to a ritual bathing site. The views are picturesque, including Colonial Pisac’s layout and the farms.
The Q’allaqasa, or military section, is connected to the last part through a claustrophobic stone tunnel. If you look across the gorge from this site, you will see hundreds of hollowed-out holes on the opposing cliffs.
These were Inca tombs that Huaqueros raided or grave robbers. The Q’allaqsa connects through a short path to Kanchiracay, the agricultural area, where buses and taxis back to Pisac await. There are two ways of getting to the ruins.
One is by taxi or bus, going the back way around the mountain for roughly 10 km/six miles. This trail will take you right to one of the main structures. There will still be some walking to do. The other way is by walking from behind the market.
You must pass the control booth and show your Tourist Ticket. From there, you head up the way most locals do. You follow the stone stairs and path until you come to what seem to be endless rows of agricultural terraces. It would help if you climbed up each of these (look for the small stone stairs that jut out from the walls).
A path will eventually form that snakes up the mountain to the right. Much of it goes straight up over stone stairs. The five km/three miles aren’t easy, and bringing a water bottle is necessary.
The climb up should take about an hour and a half. Although the altitude is minor than Cuzco, you still need to take it slow and be in relatively good shape. The ruins are open daily from 7 am-3:30 pm.