Pisac's Inca ruins and Peruvian market

Everybody knows about Machu Picchu, one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. If you travel to Peru, it is definitely a must-see. There are other Inca ruins in Peru that are less well known, and spectacular in their own right. One of these places is Pisac (or Pisaq).

Pisaq, Peru - Inca ruins and terraces The Inca ruins at Pisac, Peru, stand stop a terraced mountainside

The Inca ruins of Pisac

The town of Pisac is in the Sacred Valley of Peru, not far from the current city of Cusco. High on the crest of the hillside above town is a set of ancient Inca ruins. Built about the same time as Machu Picchu, the Inca site of Pisac was an important place, that controlled a route from Inca cities to the rain forest border.

The Inca ruins at Pisac have incredible vistas and fine stonework. There are four major areas in the ruins, with altars, baths, irrigation channels, fountains, and steps carved into the rock. The Temple of the Sun is magnificent, and a fascinating feature is the Intihuatana. This is an outcropping of rock that was carved into an Inti - a "hitching post for the sun", set up to mark the changing seasons.

Part of the Intihuatana ruins at Pisaq, Peru Stone walled Inca ruins in the Intihuatana sector at Pisac, Peru

The entire hillside was terraced by the Incas for agriculture. Enormous amounts of topsoil were hauled from lower elevations up the mountain, so that they could raise plentiful crops at this high altitude. They were so successful that the terraces are still in use today.

These terraces are also the basis for the name of this place. The narrow rows are reminiscent of the wings of a partridge (pisaca), a type of bird that is common here. This lent the name to the village and the ruins.

Smiling woman at the Pisaq market A woman at the market at Pisac

The village of Pisac today

The modern town of Pisac is in the Sacred Valley, and it's a picturesque village with narrow streets and a colorful town square. The town's main claim to fame (aside from the Incan ruins above) is the market held in town three days a week. (The largest market is on Sun, with others on Tues and Thurs).

At the market, locals come from all around town with products for sale. Everything from rice and potatoes, to handmade alpaca wool products, is sold here, and it's fun to spend an hour or two looking around. Local people haggle over produce, bartering for supplies. Many local handicrafts are sold, including silver jewelry and musical instruments.

Visiting Pisac, Peru

Most people visit Pisac as a day trip from Cusco. Some people do it as part of an organized day tour of the Sacred Valley that includes Pisac as well as Ollantayambo and Moray. If you're short on time, this can be a good option.

If you have the time and inclination, it's not hard to explore on your own. You can get here from Cuzco either by public bus or in a rental car. While the group tours may rush you out of Pisac with little time to look around, on your own you can wander about the ruins to your hearts content (and without the crowds). The ruins are high above the town, so you can either hike up, or take a taxi to the top then walk back down.

Many people rate the Inca ruins at Pisac right up there with Machu Picchu. With far fewer tourists, there's more atmosphere here, and the setting is truly incredible. If you can squeeze the time into your Peru vacation, Pisac is certainly worth a visit.

View down from terraces to the village of Pisaq View from the mountainside down over the terraces, to the village of Pisac, Peru

Comments? Questions?

Have you been to the Pisac, or would you like to visit this fascinating place in Peru? Join the conversation, and leave any comments or questions below. Thanks! 🙂

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PHOTO CREDITS:  Inca ruins (3 views) - Eduardo Zárate, Woman at market - Miguel A. Vera León


  1. Brian

    Very Cool, makes the bucket list, a must do.

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