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 – visiting was one of our favorite things to do in Peru.
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 is 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 to Pisac. We’re sharing including how to get to Pisac, what to expect from the Pisac elevation, and of course, how to visit the Pisac ruins.
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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. With historic Incan ruins with unmatched archeological importance, the Pisac Ruins are some of the best you’ll find in the area. Plus, the Pisac Market is a must-visit – considered one of the best markets in Latin America.
Whether you’re interested in the market or the ruins or not particularly interested in either, you will love Pisac. Expect gorgeous views everywhere you look, with soaring mountains, terraced hillsides, and the beautiful valley below, making this small town one you’ll immediately love.
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. The Pisac Ruins are 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.
The elevation at Pisac is 9,751 feet (2,972 meters). This makes the 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.
Getting to Pisac
Almost all travelers visiting Pisac arrive from Cusco, the largest city in the Sacred Valley and the transportation hub of the region. Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to get and fast to travel between these two favorite destinations.
You’ll have your choice of transportation options, whether you take a bus, taxi, or even hire a private driver to take you from Cusco to Pisac and back again.
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.
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.
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!
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 buildings, a one-of-a-kind Incan cemetery, and even whole neighborhoods. It’s a window into everyday life for the Incans that you just won’t want to miss.
Perhaps the most distinctive part of the Pisac Ruins, visible even if you don’t do a full tour of the ruins, is the extensive terracing of the hillside. Dramatically cascading down the hillside toward the valley below, it’s one of the most beautiful corners of the Sacred Valley.
Keep in mind as you’re planning your trip that visiting the Pisac Ruins requires at least a moderate level of physical fitness, as they’re quite high up and separated from town – plus, they’re at elevation. If you’d prefer to visit Incan ruins that require a bit less effort to admire, consider heading to Ollantaytambo or the South Valley of Cusco, which is an increasingly popular day trip from Cusco.
Read More: Choquequirao: Peru’s Next Machu Picchu?
Pisac Ruins History
The Pisac Ruins are some of the most impressive and extensive Incan ruins in the Sacred Valley, and represent an 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 in 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.
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.
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.
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!
The Pisac Ruins are divided into a few distinctive neighborhoods, each with its 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 lunchtime if you want to see the ruins in their entirety.
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 Market 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 into 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!
Read More: 25+ Best Things To Do in Peru
What To Buy At the Pisac Market
Pisac and the Sacred Valley in general are well known for their incredible textiles. At the Pisac Market 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.
You’ll also find a decent share of souvenirs at the Pisac Market; while the market remains traditional, it hasn’t escaped from the impact of tourism that has crept into the Sacred Valley in the past two decades or so with the tourism boom of Machu Picchu.
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 it with the most vendors (and the fewest tourists) for the most authentic experience.
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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 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. Melissa Wasi 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.
Where to Eat 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 toward 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!
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!
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.