Pisac Ruins and Pisac Market: A Day Trip from Cusco
Less than an hour from Cusco, when you enter Sacred Valley, lies the town of Pisac famous for the market and Pisac Ruins towering atop the hill. Read our guide on how to explore the Inca ruins, how to get from Cusco to Pisac, if it's better to travel independently or with a tour, how much things cost, and tips on how to best enjoy this popular one day trip Cusco.
Pisac Ruins, perched atop a mountain overlooking the valley and Pisac town below, has its rightful place on our list of the best ruins and one-day trips we've done from Cusco.
Pisac town is a gateway to the Sacred Valley, and although we still can only guess what was the main purpose of the ancient Incan city (it probably served as protection for Cusco and the Sacred Valley, or it was a major trading point), nowadays we can be grateful that Inca people built one of the most picturesque sites in even more beautiful settings.
But frankly, when we were climbing up the hill to the ruins via stone terraces, we thought they could've built it almost anywhere.
That's how beautiful this part of Peru is.
In the past few years, Pisac town and its market has become a must-visit place and hike to the ruins the top thing to do when in Cusco, but as we are not much into shopping, the main attraction why we wanted to travel to Pisac were the ruins scattered across the hill where we could admire how advanced Incas were when it came to construction and agriculture.
Here's our guide on how to visit Pisac, and how to get to the ruins.
HOW TO GET TO PISAC FROM CUSCO AND BACK
When we checked-in in our hostel in Cusco, the owner asked us what we plan to do, and when we outlined our plans, saying we are not sure we can make it to Pisac, he told us that we simply couldn't miss out the market and ruins, so from this time we started to look for all the information about Pisac and how to get there and back on a one-day trip from Cusco.
Apparently, there are three options on how to get from Cusco to Pisac: you can travel with a tour, independently by colectivo or by private transport.
We opted for the cheapest way to reach the town, by colectivo, but here we will tell you more about each possibility.
Tour | There are plenty of travel companies in Cusco offering a trip to Pisac ruins and Pisac market, but because the town is so close, the itinerary usually combines other sights in the Sacred Valley as well. This well-rated tour includes Pisac ruins, the market, and other attractions in the valley.
Private Transport | Getting to Pisac by public transport is so straightforward and so easy, that to be honest, we don't see a single reason why should you pay numerous times more for the private transport. However, we understand some travelers prefer higher comfort and freedom - in that case, walk around the city center, and ask drivers for the price - always bargain, do not take the first price they offer you.
Colectivo | Getting from Cusco to Pisac town is super-easy. When possible, we always prefer to travel independently, so we did it here in Cusco as well. Colectivo is a minivan without a fixed schedule which leaves when full, but the good thing here is that many locals travel between Cusco and Pisac daily, so you won't have to wait long for the van to fill up. Colectivos leave from Puputi Street (it is within walking distance from the city center) frequently, and you should not pay more than S/.5. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes.
The van stops either at the bridge outside Pisac town on the intersection to ruins or in the town near the church, so you can decide where you want to get off. If you want to hike to Pisac ruins, it is better to get off closer to the town's center and market, but if you want to see the ruins quickly without hiking, get off at the bridge, where you need to take a taxi.
To get back from Pisac to Cusco, you can either flag down any colectivo on the Pisac's main street, or wait at the bridge on the opposite side of the road.
HOW TO GET FROM PISAC TOWN TO PISAC RUINS
We've already outlined that there are two ways how an independent traveler can get from Pisac town to Pisac Ruins.
The first option is easy but quite expensive - you need to take a taxi from the intersection at the bridge where colectivo dropped you off, but one ride costs around S/.25 which is a lot considering the distance. If you think hiking uphill to the ruins would have been too challenging for you, it is possible to take a taxi to the gate, and then walk downhill to the town, so you will at least save money for one ride, plus you will see the whole site.
If you wan to visit more ruins and attractions in Sacred Valley and around Cusco, read our article 8 Best One-Day Trips from Cusco.
We recommend you to walk at least one way if you can because the ruins are scattered along the way, and if you arrive and leave by car, you will most likely see only a part of it.
The other option on how to visit Pisac ruins is hiking, and unsurprisingly, this is what we did.
HIKE FROM PISAC TOWN TO PISAC RUINS
Hike to the Pisac ruins is not super-hard, but don't expect a leisure stroll either.
We promise you one thing, though.
If you decide on hiking to Pisac ruins, you will be rewarded by stunning vistas, and you will see more ruins than the average visitors who usually wander around the upper part of the ruins. We must admit, that despite Pisac ruins are such a famous site near Cusco, we were quite surprised that the trail was almost empty.
To get to the trailhead, we walked through the market and continued via Intihuatana street uphill where we had to buy boleto turistico (we bought the multi-day option as we wanted to see more places in Sacred Valley). From here, we followed the narrow, but well-signposted path via terraces uphill. After some time we started to discover what was left from Pisac fortress which was once scattered all over the hill, and seen from a large distance.
It took us about two hours until we reached the main part of the ruins, where we met other tourists who decided to travel with a tour or by taxi.
To get back to Pisac, we walked the same way back.
The hike to the ruins is four kilometers long and leads mostly uphill, but we were walking slowly, took plenty of photos and wandered around smaller ruins we entered during the hike, so it did not feel somehow difficult.
Pisac is lower than Cusco, 2972 meters above sea level, so you need to gain almost 400 meters because the top of the ruins is 3347 meters high.
Either way, this hike is good training if you plan on doing other treks in Peru at the altitude.
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ENTRANCE FEE TO PISAC RUINS
When you plan on visiting sights around Cusco, especially in the Sacred Valley, you will soon learn a new term, boleto turistico.
Generally, you must buy this ticket, but you can choose whether you purchase the 10-day boleto turistico which includes 16 sites around Cusco for S/.130, or if you want to see only a few sites including Pisac, you can buy a two-day ticket for S/.70 which allows you to see three other ruins, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero and Moray.
PISAC TOWN AND MARKET
Except for the ruins, there is another reason why Pisac has its rightful place on Peru itineraries.
The reason is the traditional market where people from Pisac, Cusco, and communities nearby sell handmade crafts and textiles and clothes. If you can, try to visit the Pisac market on Sunday, when most of the vendors have their stalls open, but even during other days, there are plenty of shopping opportunities.
To be honest, we found the market in Pisac too touristy, but it was still nice to have a look at what local people make and sell.
When you want to buy something, try to bargain a bit, because the price first offered is usually only a test price if anyone would be willing to pay that much.
Pisac town has a pretty town center with a stone-built church, but except for walking a couple of cobblestoned streets, there is not much to do.
WHERE TO STAY IN PISAC
Nowadays, the number of accommodation options in Pisac is growing. Why? Many people found out that staying in this small market town is more relaxed and still more authentic than in Cusco. You can get from Pisac regularly to Cusco, plus you can explore from here the Sacred Valley as well. Another advantage is that prices are lower here than in Cusco.
We've handpicked three best hotels and hostels in Pisac for every budget.
Budget | El Parche Rutero Hostel B&B - A pretty house hides one of the best budget accommodations we've seen in the area. Clean rooms, wifi, well-equipped kitchen, and cute common areas where you can hang out and chat with other travelers.
Mid-range | Pisac Inca Guesthouse - Chilled out place surrounded by greenery and hills you can watch from the garden, clean rooms, and great breakfast, that's all for a reasonable price.
Luxury | Florencio Casa Hacienda - Fantastic authentic accommodation features a private botanical garden and beautifully-appointed rooms.
If you want to stay in Cusco and visit Pisac only on a one-day trip, you can search for accommodation via this link.
Alternatively, search for your accommodation via Hostelworld.
WHAT TO PACK FOR PISAC TOWN AND PISAC RUINS
The climate in Pisac is similar to the climate in Cusco and Sacred Valley. You can experience here two seasons - wet, from November to April when it rains more but temperatures are higher, and the dry season from May to October when you can mostly experience clear blue skies, but it can be a bit chilly.
We recommend you to pack five following essentials you should have with you no matter when you travel.
- Backpack for Him & for Her | Make sure your backpack fits extra clothes, water and snacks for all day. It is worth to invest in a backpack with a back support and waist strap.
- Fleece Jacket for Him & for Her | Packing layers is a must-do when traveling outside Cusco for a day as you never know how the weather turns out, and even when its a hot day, the cold winds can blow up there.
- Waterproof Jacket for Him & for Her | To be protected against rain and wind, pack a good-quality jacket which will also keep you warm when you stop for a break.
- Sunscreen | Sun is incredibly strong higher you go, do not forget a quality sunscreen. We used 50+ SPF, and it worked well.
- SteriPen | It is not possible to drink tap water in Peru, so in order to keep your plastic waste to minimum, buy this useful travel gadget.
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