If you are traveling to the Sacred Valley around Cusco, then the quaint town of Pisac, Peru is one place you don’t want to miss! Home to some of the best preserved Incan ruins, a lively market, and a picturesque old town, Pisac is one of our favorite places to visit in Peru. In this article, we’ve outlined why we think Pisac is a great place to visit and given you all the information you need to make the trip from Cusco to this overlooked gem in the heart of the Sacred Valley!
About Pisac Peru
Located just about an hour outside of Cusco, the quiet, restful town of Pisac has become a popular stopping point for many visitors to the Sacred Valley of Peru. With its tight maze of cobblestone streets, slower pace of life, and beautiful location nestled among the Andes mountains on the banks of the Urubamba River, Pisac offers an authentic glimpse into the life and culture of the Peruvian people.
That being said, while Pisac is much smaller and more peaceful than the hustle and bustle of Cusco, there are still plenty of great things to do in Pisac, Peru.
The main attraction in Pisac is the Pisac Ruins, which were some of the most impressive ruins in the entire Sacred Valley, behind the iconic and indomitable Machu Picchu. Similar to Machu Picchu, the Pisac Ruins are perched high on top of a towering mountain peak, with an impressive complex of stone structures that will leave you in awe of the architectural mastery of the Incan people.
In addition to the ruins, Pisac also features one of the best local markets in Peru, a quaint, picturesque old town area, and a warm, welcoming local population.
If you’re looking to get away from the madness that is Cusco and enjoy a slower, quieter, more authentic Peruvian experience, Pisac, Peru is the perfect place to visit!
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History of Pisac Peru
Like most towns in the Sacred Valley, Pisac has a long and complicated history. While there is evidence to suggest people have been living in the area well before the Inca, the more modern history of Pisac begins in the 15th century, when the Incan ruler, Pachacuti, conquered the area and began constructing the magnificent stone complex, whose ruins remain today in the mountains overlooking the town.
The most commonly held theory today is that Pachacuti built the elaborate complex for multiple purposes including as a residence for his extended family, a citadel, observatory, and religious site. Scholars believe Incan nobility would have spent time at Pisac between military campaigns, during dangerous times, and for religious ceremonies.
The infamous conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, destroyed the complex in the 1530s and the town of Pisca, which rests at the base of the mountain upon which the ruins reside, was constructed in the 1570s.
What’s interesting is that the first documented mention of Pisac doesn’t occur until the 1800’s, meaning that much of its early history remains shrouded in mystery.
How long do I need to visit Pisac, Peru?
While it depends on your overall Peru itinerary and what you’d like to do, we think that spending one day in Pisac is perfect. In fact, being located less than one hour from Cusco makes it the perfect day trip from the bigger city.
That being said, if you’re planning to spend a good chunk of time in the Sacred Valley and don’t necessarily want to put up with the chaos of Cusco, you could base your stay in Pisac.
It would probably be a bit harder to get around the Sacred Valley and you’ll miss out on some of the “big city” amenities in Cusco, but if you’re looking for a more relaxing experience, then you could definitely make Pisac your home base.
Where to stay in Pisac, Peru
If you’re interested in spending more time in Pisac, there are a few hotels in the area. We only visited Pisac for a day, which is plenty of time for all the best things to do in Pisac.
However, if you’re interested in really slowing it down, enjoying a taste of authentic life in Peru or would rather not base your Peruvian stay in Cusco, you could spend a longer amount of time in Pisac.
- Pisac Inn | Pisac is a small, quaint town and doesn’t offer much by way of luxury. With rooms starting at just $79 per night, staying at the Pisac Inn won’t break the bank but it does offer perhaps the most luxurious accommodations in town. Located right on the town square, with a fun, colorful vibe and breakfast included, the Pisac Inn is a great choice if you’re looking for the best place to stay in Pisac.
- Pisac Inca Guest House | With a lush courtyard, nice amenities (including breakfast), mountain views, and rave reviews, the Pisac Inca Guest House is another great option in Pisac. Rooms start at just $58 dollars per night.
- Hospedaje Inti | If you’re traveling on a budget (like us!), then the best place to stay in Pisac is the Hospedaje Inti. With rooms starting at just $18 per night, don’t expect tons of extra perks, but the rooms look clean and it has great reviews.
How to get from cusco to Pisac?
Luckily, it’s very simple to get from Cusco to Pisac and you have two great options for the journey: colectivo or private taxi.
For those who haven’t spent time in South America, a colectivo is basically a small bus or van that departs on a predetermined route when it’s full.
There isn’t a set schedule and you can’t book in advance. But they are cheap, usually pretty fast, and almost always the most cost-effective way to get you where you need to go.
Cusco to Pisac via colectivo
We traveled to Pisac from Cusco via colectivo and would highly recommend it, unless you are really, really in a time pinch or don’t mind splurging on a private taxi.
Colectivos run very frequently and cost only 5 soles. The journey takes about 45 minutes from Cusco to Pisac.
You can pick up a colectivo on Calle Puputi in Cusco. This is a popular colectivo station and any taxi driver in the city will know where it is.
When you arrive, there will be a multitude of colectivos lined up with different destinations. Drivers will usually approach you once you get to the area (not in a threatening way) and you can just tell them that you’re heading to Pisac and they will point you in the right direction.
Once you find a colectivo heading to Pisac, make sure you confirm with the driver how many people are in your group, your final destination, and the cost. You’ll pay the driver upon arrival in Pisac.
The colectivo station in Pisac is across the bridge from the main part of the city, in close walking distance to the center of town.
To return to Cusco from Pisac, Peru, make your way back to the same colectivo station. When we arrived back at the colectivo station, there was a van waiting to bring people back to Cusco. The price and timing was the same on the return trip (5 soles per person and about 45 minutes).
We’re big fans of traveling by colectivo and would highly recommend it for the journey from Cusco to Pisac. It’s cheap, easy, and likely just as fast as a taxi.
Cusco to Pisac via taxi
If you are willing to spend a bit more for the luxury and convenience of a private taxi from Cusco to Pisac, it’s certainly possible.
You can flag down any taxi in Cusco and ask them to bring you to Pisac. Of course, the driver may say no but most will be very accommodating. It’s not unusual at all for taxi drivers in Cusco to shuttle people to towns and sites outside the city.
We didn’t take a taxi to Pisac but we hired a driver for other excursions in the Sacred Valley, departing from Cusco, and found it to be pretty simple.
The price from Cusco to Pisac should be about 90 soles each way. You might be able to pay your driver to wait for you in Pisac to bring you home but we wouldn’t recommend it. You should be able to get a taxi in Pisac that will bring you back to Cusco or you can just hop on the colectivo.
7 Reasons Why You should visit Pisac, Peru
In the sections below, we’ve outlined all of the different reasons why you should visit Pisac, Peru.
1. You can visit the Pisac ruins
The Pisac ruins are the biggest attraction in town and the primary reason you should visit Pisac, Peru!
The Pisac ruins are some of the most extensive and well-preserved ruins in the entire Sacred Valley and feature amazing views of the surrounding mountains and valleys!
While the full history of the ruins remains a mystery, there are a number of theories trying to explain their construction. Similar to Machu Picchu, the ruins reside high in the mountains, overlooking the surrounding area, suggesting that the complex was made as a defensive stronghold.
However, the terraces carved into the mountainside are still used for agricultural purposes today so we know that there were some non-military reasons for the structures as well. The final theory suggests that Pachacuti, the famous Incan emperor, had the complex constructed in celebration of the Incan military victory over the local Cuyo people.
No matter the reason for its construction, the complex dates back to the 1400’s and remains one of the most picturesque and well-preserved examples of Incan architecture to this day!
The ruin complex is fairly expansive and features interesting structures such as altars, baths, (unexcavated) burial sites, and water fountains. Of course the most prominent structure is the temple to the Incan sun god, Inti.
How to get to the Pisac Ruins
Here is some practical information about the Pisac ruins to help you plan a visit. Once you arrive in Pisac, you have two options to reach the ruins: take a taxi or hike.
Getting to the pisac ruins by taxi
When you arrive at the colectivo station in Pisac, there will be a handful of taxis nearby, waiting to shuttle people up to the ruins. You can very easily snag one. The drive is about 15 minutes and costs about 35 soles.
Make sure to agree to a price before getting in the taxi. If you’re short on time, this is the best way to get up to the ruins. You can pay your taxi driver to stay at the top and bring you back down after a certain amount of time. You can also just get a different taxi to bring you down, but might need to wait a little bit.
Tip | Try to split the cost with some folks from your colectivo! Most of the people traveling from Cusco to Pisac are probably heading up to the ruins, so try to find someone who will split the taxi ride up to the ruins to save some money.
hiking to the pisac ruins
If you have more time and are looking for something a bit more adventurous, you can hike up to the ruins from the town of Pisac. We didn’t have time to do this but have heard that it’s a nice trail.
Be warned that it is steep and long – taking about 3 hours to reach the ruins on the way up! Make sure you have enough water and food to keep you sustained.
Pisac Ruins entrance fees
There is an entrance fee to enter the Pisca ruins. However, it is included in the Cusco boleto turistico. We’ve compiled all the information you need to know in a detailed guide to the Cusco boleto turistico.
Near the entrance to the ruins, they will stop your taxi and you can hop out to buy your boleto turistico. If you already have one, they’ll just check it and keep you moving.
Should i hire a guide to visit the Pisac ruins?
Whether or not you should hire a guide is entirely dependent on what you’d lke to get out of the experience. We opted not to hire a guide, mainly because we were on a budget but it would have been nice to have one.
The ruins are expansive and specific sites are well-marked so having a guide would surely give you a greater appreciation for the history of the ruins. There are guides available for hire at the entrance to the ruins. Because we didn’t use a guide, unfortunately, I’m not sure how much they cost.
How long do I need to visit the Pisac ruins?
We spent about 2-3 hours at the ruins. You could easily spend more time if you’d like but we’d recommend budgeting about 2-3 hours at the minimum. Remember this does not include any time you need to reach the ruins from Pisac.
2. The Pisac Ruins are included in the Boleto Turistico
One of the biggest reasons for visiting Pisac is that you’ve already paid for admission to the ruins if you’ve purchased a boleto turistico (either the full boleto or circuit 3). This means that visiting the Pisac ruins is a must!
The most expensive part of your journey will be the taxi ride from the town of Pisac up to the ruins! You have no excuse not to visit some of the best preserved Incan ruins in the world!
3. Cusco to pisac is the perfect day trip
Most people who visit Pisac do so as a day trip from Cusco and one day is the perfect amount of time to visit Pisac.
You can spend the morning exploring the Pisac ruins, grab some lunch at one of the many cute restaurants in town, and then meander around the Old Town and city market for a few hours in the afternoon. All while still making back to Cusco before dinner!
If you’re looking for an easy, relaxing, and cheap day trip from Cusco, then Pisac is perfect!
4. It’s an easy way to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city
There’s no denying that Cusco is chaotic. With its narrow labyrinth of cobblestone streets, indecipherable traffic patterns, and throngs of tourists and locals alike, it’s a hectic city.
After a few days, you’ll be needing a break from the constant hustle and bustle.
Luckily, Pisac is the exact opposite and the perfect respite from the energy of Cusco.
Pisac is small, quiet, and peaceful, offering a more authentic glimpse into life in the Sacred Valley of Peru.
5. You can visit the pisac market
Besides the Pisac Ruins, the most popular attraction in Pisac is the local market, which is widely recognized as one of the best artisanal markets in the Sacred Valley. Typically, the market on Sunday, which is when the indigenous Quechua people from the surrounding area come into town to sell their fares, is the largest market of the week.
However, we’ve also heard that the market now runs more frequently and you can find people selling local goods anytime of the week. We visiting during the middle of the week and there were plenty of stalls selling souvenirs and other types of fabrics, crafts, and art.
If you visit on Sunday, there will likely be more food and produce vendors than during the middle of the week.
6. The pisac Old Town is super cute
Another great reason to explore Pisac is that the Old Town area is super cute! I don’t know if there is an official “Old Town” neighborhood but the area we wandered through truly felt like a step back in time.
With cobblestone streets, stone houses, and winding alleys, Pisac certainly has a bit of that old world European feel. Spend some time bopping around the local stores, check out the stalls selling local crafts, and wind your way through the picturesque streets.
Luckily, Pisac is fairly small so unlike larger cities, you don’t run the risk of getting lost in the maze of cobblestone!
7. You can get a beer & alpaca burger while enjoying mountain views
After a fun-filled morning of ruin-exploring, market-shopping, and old town-wandering, the perfect way to end your time in Pisac is with some delicious food! Thankfully, there are plenty of great food options conveniently located in the center of Pisac.
The main square in Pisac is the aptly named Plaza de Pisac. There are a handful of good-looking restaurants around the square, serving up all types of Peruvian and international cuisine.
We stopped at La Paila, which is located on the second floor of a building right on the Plaza de Pisac. We enjoyed cold beers, a tasty alpaca burger, and an ooey-gooey chicken quesadilla with a view of the plaza and mountains in the distance. It was the perfect way to end our day in Pisac!
other Peru resources
Looking for more amazing ways to spend your time in Cusco and the Sacred Valley? Check out our Peru resources for more help planning your trip!
- How to Visit the Stunning Laguna Humantay from Cusco
- Maras & Moray: An Amazing Day Trip from Cusco
- How to Get to Machu Picchu from Cusco
- Why You Can’t Miss the Huayna Picchu Hike at Machu Picchu
- How to Spend 4 Days in Cusco, Peru
- San Blas: Cusco’s Artisan Neightborhood