pisac

Ultimate Guide to Pisac: Pisac Market and the Pisac Ruins

Pisac may be a small town in the Sacred Valley of Peru, but there is nothing small about this destination. Pisac, Peru is home to some of the most impressive Incan ruins you’ll find anywhere, plus a fantastic market, great people, incredible scenery, and much more.

Don’t be fooled by the size of the town or distracted by the many other attractions nearby – Pisac is not to be missed, and a must on any Peru itinerary that includes a visit to the area.

In this ultimate travel guide to Pisac, we’re covering all of the most important details you’ll need to plan your visit, including how to get to Pisac, what to expect from the Pisac elevation, and of course, how to visit the Pisac ruins.

Plus, make sure to check out our interactive Pisac map – download it for your trip! – with all of our favorite recommendations for the town of Pisac.

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Pisac, Peru

Despite being home to less than 10,000 people, Pisac is one of the most important sites within Sacred Valley, an area that has shaped the history and culture of Peru.

Expect gorgeous views from Pisac, everywhere you look, with soaring mountains, terraced hillsides, and the beautiful valley below.

Located just an hour north of Cusco, Pisac is also a popular day trip from Cusco. Visitors can easily (and affordably!) get here on their own via bus or taxi, or many choose a guided excursion that incorporates a visit to other Sacred Valley sites in one day.

Out of all the Cusco day trips to consider, Pisac is likely the easiest one! Just an hour outside the city, you can easily spend a leisurely day in Pisac while taking in some of the most impressive Incan ruins in the area, and return to Cusco with time to spare. 

No matter how you choose to visit, Pisac should absolutely be a part of your plan to enjoy the Sacred Valley. Take some time to explore the famous Pisac ruins as well as what the rest of the town has to offer – it will make your visit to Peru that much richer.

What is Pisac Known For?

Pisac is primarily known for its impressive Incan ruins – some of the most extensive and well-preserved Incan ruins in all of Peru – and with some of the most extensive terracing on the hillside.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking these are just like the other ruins you’ll see in Peru; the Pisac ruins are truly something special.

Pisac is also one of the unique places in the Sacred Valley known for more than just its ruins! Home to the Pisac market, this town is busiest and most lively on Sundays, which is the primary market day.

Even if you can’t make a visit on Sunday, the market is open on a smaller scale all week, and absolutely worth a visit. 

Is Pisac Worth Visiting?

Pisac is absolutely worth a visit when spending time in the Sacred Valley – there is nowhere else quite like it in the Valley, combining fascinating Incan ruins with the modern-day indigenous market.

Despite being a small town, Pisac has a lot to offer visitors, and travelers are catching on fast.

Most visitors just make Pisac a day trip from Cusco, and you can see the ruins and visit the market in a day. However, you’ll also find more and more visitors spending at least two or more days in Pisac.

For those looking to acclimate to the altitude before heading onward to Ollantaytambo or Machu Picchu, this can be a great, low key place to do so.

Pisac Elevation

The elevation at Pisac is 9,751 feet (2,972 meters). This makes Pisac elevation lower than Cusco, where the elevation is 11,152 feet (3,399 meters).

Worried that descending in elevation to visit Pisac will mess with your acclimatization process before heading to Machu Picchu? Don’t be. Pisac is still higher in elevation than Machu Picchu, which is 7,972 feet (2,430 meters).

At such a high elevation, you’re likely to feel the effects of the altitude in some way, even if you’re physically fit. You’ll likely feel out of breath more easily, and feel more burn in your muscles when exerting yourself, even just when walking.

Take it slow, drink lots of water and coca tea, and try to avoid caffeine and alcohol, and within a day or two you’ll be feeling much better.

visit pisac

Getting to Pisac

Almost all travelers visiting Pisac arrive from Cusco, and thankfully, it’s relatively easy to get between the two destinations.

You’ll have your choice of transportation options, whether you take a bus, taxi, or you can even hire a private driver.

Buses and colectivos (similar to a shared 12-passenger van and just a few more soles than the bus!) depart Cusco for Pisac frequently. You can catch the bus from the Cusco bus terminal or find colectivos lined up on Puputi street.

Departing Pisac

Most visitors to Pisac return to Cusco the same way they came. You’ll find an abundance of taxis here waiting to take you back to the city, as well as frequent buses from the center of town (they depart near the Centro de Salud).

Not headed back to Cusco? You find buses to Urubamba that depart from Pisac frequently. If you’re headed from Pisac to Ollantaytambo, you’ll need to switch buses in Urubamba.

Take the bus to Urubamba and switch to a colectivo once you arrive for the rest of the journey to Ollantaytambo.

Pisac Map

We created this clickable and interactive Pisac map to accompany this article, and dropped pins in all our favorite destinations in and around Pisac that we mention in this article. Feel free to click around, and you can even download the map for your trip, too!

Pisac Ruins

If you’re headed to Pisac, you’re certainly here to see the Pisac Ruins. The Incan ruins at Pisac are some of the most important Incan ruins in all of the Sacred Valley, and some of the most-visited.

The area of the ruins is beautiful and extensive, with a variety of types of construction. You’ll have the opportunity to see terracing, buildings, and even whole neighborhoods. It’s a window into everyday life for the Incans that you just won’t want to miss.

Pisac Ruins History

The Pisac Ruins are some of the most impressive and extensive Incan ruins in the Sacred Valley, and represent and architectural triumph for the area. There are several theories about when and why the site was built.

Archeologists agree that the site was built by the Incan emperor Pachacuti – who archeologists believe also built Machu Picchu- and that Pisac was likely not built before 1440.

Some historians believe that Pisac was built to celebrate the victory of Pachacuti over other local indigenous groups, as a royal palace and monument to his victory.

Others contend that Pisac was built as a retreat from Cusco, and that it served a variety of different purposes. 

Regardless of Pisac’s origin story, the site was conquered and partially destroyed by conquistadors when they arrived to the area, and the modern city of Pisac was later constructed on the hillside below the ruins.

Pisac Ruins: What Not to Miss

While you’re free to wander and explore the different sections of the Pisac Ruins (respectfully!), there are a few main sections of the ruins that you won’t want to miss. 

Hill Terraces

Pisac is home to extensive terracing down the hillside, which makes for a very impressive welcome to the ruins. These agricultural terraces will surprise you with their massive scale, and provide an incredible view along the hillside with the valley below.

Towers

The towers throughout the Pisac site are unique to these ruins. There are over 20 towers in the site of the ruins, and many were used as watchtowers at this important site over the valley, facing Cusco. 

Cemetery

Pisac is home to the largest, and highest-altitude, Incan cemetery ever discovered. Historians and archeologists believe up to 10,000 dead were once buried here. You won’t want to miss this part of the Pisac Ruins!

Pisac’s Neighborhoods

The Pisac Ruins are divided into a few distinctive neighborhoods, each with their unique purpose and style.

Spend time exploring them all if you can, but make sure not to miss the Intihuatana neighborhood – this was home to the temples and royal residence, and has intricate and unique stonework.

How Long Does it Take To Visit the Pisac Ruins?

It generally takes about 3 or 4 hours to visit the entirety of the Pisac Ruins. While you can certainly get a good overview of the ruins in 2 hours, it’s best to budget a bit more than that to make sure you have plenty of time to walk and explore – that is half the fun!

Remember, parts of the ruins are quite steep and require a bit of a hike, which can be challenging even for the physically fit due to the high altitude here. Give yourself time (and be patient with yourself!) to enjoy the site. 

Pisac Ruins Hours

The Pisac Ruins are open every day of the week, from about 7:00 AM until about 6:00 AM. Remember, it will take you about 3 or 4 hours to explore the whole site, so don’t plan on arriving much later than lunch time if you want to see the ruins in their entirety.

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where to stay in pisac

Pisac Market

Pisac isn’t just home to incredible, jaw-dropping ruins. It’s also home to one of the best markets in Latin America! You won’t want to miss this indigenous market where you’ll find anything and everything for sale, every day of the week. 

Pisac is such a small town that you can’t really miss the market, and on Sundays it seems to take over the whole town, spilling down narrow side streets with extra covered stalls and wandering vendors.

You can’t miss it – and you certainly wouldn’t want to!

Pisac Market Days

While the Pisac Markey is open every day, Pisac’s true market day (when the market is liveliest and biggest) is on Sundays, when vendors come from all over to sell their textiles, fresh foods, and other products at the market.

Planning a trip to Pisac on a Sunday is a great choice if it fits in your itinerary, though you can enjoy the market any day.

Need another reason to visit Pisac on a Sunday? Here are two details to consider:

  • Sunday market day is not only the most lively day of the week in Pisac, but it’s also the best opportunity to see Pisac filled with locals, not just tourists. This is when locals come and do their shopping, so if you love people-watching, Sunday is the best day!
  • A lot of things in Peru are closed on Sundays: restaurants, museums, cafes, shopping, and more are all more likely to be closed on Sundays than any other day of the week. There might not be much else to do in Cusco or elsewhere on Sundays – might as well head to Pisac!

What To Buy At the Pisac Market

Pisac and the Sacred Valley in general are well known for their incredible textiles. You’ll find wool and alpaca textiles in every color and pattern you can imagine.

This is the best place to stock up on super-soft blankets, cute purses or backpacks, sweaters, ponchos, or woven bracelets.

Make sure you taste-test all of the best Peruvian street food while at the Pisac Market as well. You’ll see mountains of fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices for sale, as well as stalls selling cuy (guinea pig), roasted meats, potatoes, and more for sale. 

Pisac Market Hours

The Pisac market is open daily from around 9:00 AM to about 4:00 PM. I generally recommend getting to the market earlier in the day rather than later – this way you’ll see with the most vendors (and the fewest tourists).

pisac market

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Where to Stay in Pisac

There are countless options for where to stay in Pisac, and you’ll find a variety of options in most price ranges. There are plenty of budget options here, with some great hostels for backpackers who stick around longer than expected.

The only type of accommodation you won’t really find in Pisac is luxury accommodations – most Sacred Valley visitors looking for these accommodations choose to stay in one of the luxury hotels outside of Urubamba, like the unforgettable Tambo del Inka or Rio Sagrado Belmond just an hour away from Pisac.

El Parche Rutero Hostel ($)

El Parche Rutero is a favorite budget-friendly hostel in Pisca. This friendly, spacious hostel in the center of Pisac is a fantastic budget option, whether you’re looking for dorm rooms or private rooms.

The common spaces are large and comfortable, and the kitchen is well-equipped. This is truly an excellent hostel.

Wolf Totem ($)

Wolf Totem is a favorite in Pisac and the Sacred Valley, and you’ll hear backpackers throughout Peru talk about how much they love this friendly hostel.

Nestled in the beautiful hills about a 20-minute walk outside of central Pisac, Wolf Totem feels like a luxury retreat, even if you’re traveling on a backpacker budget.

You’ll love the terrace for yoga and events, the glass-walled dining room, and the comfortable, spacious rooms.

Pisac Inn ($$)

Pisac Inn is the hands-down best mid-range hotel in Pisac. Cute and comfortable rooms, friendly staff, and a beautiful courtyard with a fireplace to enjoy cold evenings. Located directly in the main plaza in Pisac, you couldn’t ask for a better location than this. 

The Pisac Inn’s restaurant, Cuchara de Palo, is one of the best places to eat in Pisac, worth a visit even if you aren’t staying here.

Melissa Wasi ($$ – $$$)

Located just outside of Pisac, Melissa Wasi is a retreat that feels hidden in the hills – though just five minutes by taxi, or by the free moto scooters available for guests.

This is an excellent spot to recharge or acclimate to the climate while enjoying the Sacred Valley, and includes a pool and access to large, wooded grounds with gardens.

Restaurants in Pisac

There are plenty of options for dining in Pisac despite it being a relatively small town; the amount of visitors to the ruins and market allows for it.

You’ll find a good mix of inexpensive local places with plentiful Peruvian dishes, and international food tailored towards travelers.

An easy way to save money on your trip is by eating in local spots – it’s also the best way to get a taste for authentic Peruvian cooking! There are plenty of spots in Pisac, especially around the market and at the market stalls themselves, worth trying.

Cervecería del Valle Sagrado

One of a series of taprooms located throughout the Sacred Valley, the Cervecería del Valle Sagrado is a must-visit spot in Pisac. Of course, expect to find delicious craft beer options, but they also have great food – and more options than you’d expect at a place that focuses on drinks!

Hierba Buena

Large portions of delicious, fresh food, with a mix of Peruvian dishes and international food on the menu. This is also a great spot for vegan and vegetarian options.

Jardin El Encanto

This small cafe and restaurant has floor-to-ceiling windows with a lovely, lush garden view for a beautiful dining experience. They have delicious breakfast options but are open all day and are always a great choice!

Lily of the Valley

This cute, chill cafe has a great selection of coffee and pastries, plus small plates of healthy food like veggie sandwiches and pancakes. A great stop in the center of town!