Only a short ride 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 due to its strategic location, we can guess that the main purpose of the ancient Incan city was it probably as protection for Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Another theory is that 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 you are climbing up the hill to the ruins via stone terraces, you think they can build 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.
THINGS TO DO IN PISAC
Pisac is a great and affordable option for a day trip from Cusco, but if you’re travelling a little slower then you could stop here on your way to Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu or use it as your base to explore the Sacred Valley.
THE SUNDAY PISAC MARKET
If Pisac didn’t have such exceptional ruins (see more about them below), then we wouldn’t recommend anyone to go out of their way to visit its famous Sunday market. Now, that’s not to say that the market isn’t worth visiting – but rather that it does slant slightly towards having too many of the stalls selling the same souvenirs you will see all over Peru, rather than unique local products.
However, this sprawling Sunday market which spills out over half of Pisac’s streets is a feast for the senses and continues to see its fair share of families from the surrounding villages making their weekly trip to Pisac, which provides a wonderful opportunity for people-watching and insight into local life.
If you can’t visit on Sunday, then a scaled down version of Pisac Market does run throughout the week, and Tuesday and Thursday are official market days (though less grand than Sundays).
CLIMB THE 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, you walk through the market and continued via Intihuatana street uphill where you have to buy boleto turistico (better to buy the multi-day option). From here, you 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 takes about two hours until you reach the main part of the ruins, where you meet other tourists who decided to travel on a tour or by taxi.
To get back to Pisac, you walk the same way back.
Hiking Distance: The hike to the ruins is four kilometers long and leads mostly uphill, but you are walking slowly, takking plenty of photos and wander around smaller ruins you enter
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 the Inca Trail or any alternative trek to Machu Picchu at the altitude.
Taxi + Walk: If you aren’t fit, then this is the sensible option; it’s also the most popular way to reach the ruins.
Once your colectivo has dropped you off and you cross the bridge into Pisac, you will find a group of taxi drivers who run tourists up the road for 15 minutes to the back of the ruins for around S/. 20-25 one way
Due to the inflated price, try to do this trip in a group to split the cost and don’t be afraid to haggle if you are being charged more than this. You can either take the taxi one-way and walk back down to Pisac from the ruins along the trail (our recommended option), or you can agree that the taxi driver will wait and take you back down once you’ve explored the ruins for a certain amount of time.
If you are looking for a private taxi, we have information here!
HOW TO GET TO PISAC FROM CUSCO
Connections between Pisac and Cusco are frequent and easy to find, with a journey time of 45 minutes and a one-way fare costing just S/. 5 per person (although don’t be surprised if you’re asked for S/. 6 by some drivers). If you are doing this as a day trip from Cusco and plan on hiking up and down the Pisac ruins, then leave no later 9 a.m.
Firstly, make your way to Calle Puputi in Cusco – every taxi driver will know it and it shouldn’t cost you more than S/.5 to get there from elsewhere in the old town. Alternatively, you could walk to it in about 20-30 minutes from most places in the old town.
On the street, you will find several colectivos (minibuses) going to Pisac, Urubamba and Calca, and it won’t take much time before a man tries to get you on his bus which will hopefully already have some people in it – just make sure you confirm destination and price before boarding. These minibuses, which are much better than those we experienced on our first Peru trip, depart when full.
The driver will stop at the bridge outside Pisac, and you then simply have to disembark and cross the bridge to be in the town proper.
For the return journey, cross the bridge again and wait at the opposite side of the road (there’s a small bus shelter facing the large mural billboard) – you likely won’t be the only person waiting to return to Cusco. It may be necessary to flag down the colectivo as it passes and, depending on the time of day and season, it might take a while before you can find a bus with an available seat (we actually had to stand all the way back to Cusco). If it’s dark by the time you’ve made it back to Cusco, then you can take a taxi back to your hostel/hotel.
It is possible to take a private taxi, find more information here!
ENTRANCE FEE TO PISAC RUINS
WHERE TO STAY IN PISAC
If you do plan on extending your time in Pisac, using it as a Sacred Valley base, or simply want to disconnect and savour a few nights out of the big city, then the town does have a few hostels and ma n’ pa accommodations on offer which you could simply turn up to on the day. If you wanted to book in advance however, or your budget is a little higher, then we’ve included the best options below. Note that a number of the nicest accomodations in Pisac are located a 5-10 minute walk outside the town.
Casa Intihuatana: A basic but popular hostel a little outside the centre of Pisac. Dorms and privates available, with a guest kitchen and wifi. Prices start from £10 for a budget private double – check prices and availability here.
Hospedaje Inti: A slightly more expensive hostel than Intihuatana at £16 for a double, it’s in a lovely peaceful location and has a great kitchen. Check availability and prices here.
Bamboo Lodge Sacred Valley: Just outside of the town, this is a really lovely modern hotel with lots of traditional touches throughout. A buffet breakfast is included. Prices start from S/. / £55 for a private double with balcony – check prices and availability.