Nestled between the rushing Vilcanota River and the soaring mountains of the Sacred Valley, a tiny town of whitewashed adobe walls and red-tiled roofs boasts two outsized attractions.
First, the famous Pisac Market where skilled artisans craft ceramics, textiles, and silver jewelry with Andean motifs, and where indigenous people from surrounding communities come to barter for goods in the local language, Quechua.
Second, the impressive remains of an Incan politico-religious complex, sprawled across a mountain ridge, high above the valley floor. Exploration of the site comes with fantastic views over the valley, from the meandering river, hundreds of meters below, to the tall bulk of mountains with white-tipped peaks.
Choose Your Sacred Valley Tour
Note: Sacred Valley tours usually allocate 2 hours total in Pisac (town and ruins). But independent travelers can easily spend a full day seeing the market, hiking up to the Inca ruins from town, and/or relaxing on a balcony overlooking the plaza.
Visit Pisac Ruins
- By car: Book an organized tour or arrange your own taxi to take you to the main entrance by road (8 km). This is the best option for travelers who need accessibility. You’ll get great views of the terraces and the Inca cemetery across the narrow Quitamayu gorge.
- By foot: Take the trail from Pisac town, walking up a steep path 45min to 1 hour (one-way) depending on your pace. Requires minimum half-day and a lot of effort, but you’ll see the most exceptional sectors of ruins.
- Combination: You can take a taxi to the top, explore the ruins, and hike back down or vice versa.
There are two entrances to Pisac — through the main car park or on the trail from Pisac town. Both require a entrance ticket (boleto turistico).
Shop at Pisac Market
Knitted hats (called chullos in the Andes), bags, gloves, mittens, alpaca sweaters, blankets, jugs, vases, plate and tea sets decorated with Andean motifs, statuettes, amulets, gnomes, bead necklaces, masks used in the Virgen del Carmen festival — these are just some of the things you’ll see for sale at the mercado (market) in Pisac.
Even if shopping is not your thing or if your suitcase is already packed to its limit, the Mercado de Pisac is a Peruvian market experience you shouldn’t miss. When you’re ready for a break, head to the second-floor balcony of a cafe or restaurant on the plaza, sit back, refuel with coffee or mate de coca (coca leaf tea), and enjoy the people-watching from above.
Pisac market runs daily, but is busiest on Sundays, when indigenous people arrive with bultos (blankets full of goods and produce) on their backs which they lay out on the ground to sell. During the week, Pisac returns to quiet mode, but you can wander the side streets and explore the workshops where artisans make ceramics, jewelry, and crafts from wood and stone.
Witness the Virgen del Carmen Festival
The Virgen del Carmen festival is celebrated throughout Peru and the Catholic world. Pisac’s fiesta is small but spectacular, and was recognized as part of the national patrimony by Peru’s Ministerio de la Cultura in 2104. If you’re in Cusco or the Sacred Valley around July 16th, it’s worth a visit.
The festival spans 4 days and brings together an interesting cross-section of Peruvian village society, from the longtime mestizo residents whose families have resided in Pisac for generations to members of indigenous communities who travel from their village to pay homage to this important saint. The days are filled with parades, shows, dances, while at night, the focus is on folkloric music, more dancing, beer and food.
The hotel industry in Pisac has yet to catch up with the standards of Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Our recommendation to travelers is to explore Pisac as part of a day tour and spend the night either in Cusco or in Urubamba or Ollantaytambo where there is a greater concentration of comfortable hotels for all budgets.
Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel
Built on a 17th century colonial hacienda, along the tranquil banks of the Vilcanota River, the Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness is the picture-perfect place for a countryside retreat. The hotel showcases a fusion of minimalist and colonial style rooms and buildings, all surrounded by sweeping views of the breathtakingly beautiful Sacred Valley.
Casa Andina Premium Valle Sagrado
5to Paradero Yanahuara, Sacred Valley
A prominent member of the Casa Andina chain, the Premium Collection is a luxurious hotel, comfortably nestled in the heart of the Sacred Valley only 10 minutes from the ruins of Ollantaytambo. Combining relaxation in its luxurious spa with sports activities such as bike riding or hiking, this excellent and all-encompassing hotel has something to suit everyone’s taste. The hotel also features a delicious restaurant, playgrounds, a jewelry store, and an on-site observatory allowing guests to admire the beautiful star-filled Andean sky.
Ollantaytambo Train Station
Neighboring the Ollantaytambo train station, this quaint bed & breakfast is nicely located an hour between Cusco and Machu Picchu, making it the perfect place to rest before visiting the mountaintop ruins, the historic city of Cusco, or the surrounding Sacred Valley attractions. This hotel originally started operating in 1923, making it the first hotel to open in the area.
Patacalle 722, Ollantaytambo
Clean and comfortable rooms at a price that won’t break the bank is what you get at Hostal Iskay. To top it off, this utterly charming 7-room inn provides peace and quiet, flowering gardens, and stunning views of the Sacred Valley’s most famous fortress ruins. Its location on a typical stone-lined Inca street creates a feeling of total immersion in a glorious past, while interaction with locals in traditional dress reminds of you that Andean culture remains vibrantly present. Enjoy a buffet breakfast in the morning, use the complimentary wireless Internet to keep connected, and be sure to ask the friendly staff for tips about Ollantaytambo’s hidden treasures.
See all Sacred Valley Hotels
Where to Eat
To sample a bit of the local fare, head to Calle Mariscal, where you’ll find huge clay ovens baking artesanal empanadas, stuffed pastries filled with cheese, chicken or beef seasoned with diced onions, tomatoes and oregano. Horno Colonial San Francisco, located on 327 Mariscal Castilla, has been baking since 1830.
On the Pisac Plaza and surrounding streets, you’ll find a small selection of sit-down restaurants and cafes.
Blue Llama is a great place to grab brunch with views over the Plaza. The cafe also includes a shop where you can browse for handicrafts and check out the quirky art on the walls.
Location: Main Plaza of Pisac, southwest corner
Cuchara de Palo Restaurant
Cuchara de Palo offers a menu of traditional Peruvian cuisine and novo-Andean dishes, including some vegetarian options. Located on the first floor of the Pisac Inn which borders the Pisac main plaza.
Location: Main Plaza of Pisac
Cafe Mullu is another popular eatery on the plaza. The menu is stacked with Asian-fusion and traditional Andean dishes.
Location: Main Plaza of Pisac, southern side
Ulrike’s is a stand-by for great coffee, good food, and a lovely rooftop terrace with excellent views to the ruins.
Location: Calle Pardo 613
Prasada serves a vegetarian and vegan menu at very reasonable prices.
Location: Calle Arequipa 306
Restaurante Doña Clorinda
Doña Clorinda will fix your craving for homestyle Andean-Peruvian cooking including classics such as quinoa soup, fried trout and empanadas.
Location: La Rinconada, next to Hotel Paz y Luz
For a greater selection of eateries, continue down the road to Urubamba, which boasts some of the best restaurants in the Sacred Valley.
Get in and around
Most travelers will arrive in Pisac as part of an organized tour, where transportation is included between the town and the ruins. Independent travelers can also find local buses and shared vans that run from Cusco to Pisac to Urubamba. It’s also possible to organize private transport through your hotel. Pisac town is small enough to explore on foot.
Pisac is at slightly lower altitude than Cusco — 2,950 m versus 3,400 meters — and the elevation will continue to drop the further you go into the Sacred Valley.
It’s easy to get dehydrated at altitude. Drinks lots of water and don’t attempt overly strenuous activities immediately upon arrival to Cusco or the Sacred Valley. Drink bottled water only and avoid water from questionable sources. In Spanish, “agua sin gas” is mineral water; “agua con gas” is carbonated water — both are available for sell by vendors outside of ruins and in town, but you should plan to carry your own when you start the day.
Pisac is a very safe town, but you should take standard precautions when walking around the crowded market.
Peruvian soles are the denomination of choice for making purchases at the market and to pay for food and drink. If you find you need extra cash, Pisac does have ATMs, including one on the main plaza.
What to Pack
Temperature and weather conditions can change rather quickly in the Andes. If you’re going out on a day tour, bring layers that you can add and remove throughout the day. Your packing list should include t-shirts, long-sleeve tops, a fleece jacket, and lightweight pants. Hiking boots are ideal for walking up to and around the Inca archaeological complex, but any comfortable pair of shoes with good traction will do. Don’t forget your hat, glasses, and sunblock for sun protection.
For daily excursions, bring a daypack with snug straps to carry your water, camera, and other personal belongings. During the rainy season months, pack a waterproof jacket or a travel-size umbrella. Plastic ponchos are also available to buy in Pisac town and outside of the ruins.
What’s the best day to visit the Pisac Market?
The market at Pisac goes into full swing every Sunday. Tuesday and Thursday are also busy. If you visit on other days, the pace is quieter, but you’ll still see plenty of stalls set up in and around the plaza and the many handicraft shops that fill the surrounding streets are also open.
Is there a fee to enter the Pisac ruins?
Yes. Admission to Pisac ruins is included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket (Boleto Turistico del Cusco). The ticket is valid for 10 days after purchase and must be presented at official checkpoints outside the ruins anytime you visit a site. Your ticket will be marked to indicate you’ve visited the site. Re-entry is not permitted.
What’s the best way to get to the Pisac ruins?
- On a tour: Book a guided tour of the Sacred Valley, including a stop in Pisac. Be sure to inquire beforehand about the tour’s scheduled stops; most tours visit both the market and the ruins, but some visit just one. A typical tour departs from Cusco, stopping in Pisac, Urubamba, and Ollantaytambo. Some tours return via Chinchero, though you may wish to stay in Ollantaytambo to catch a train to Machu Picchu.
- By taxi: Arrange a taxi or private car to drive to Pisac from your destination. Fares will vary based on time and the number of stops you wish to make.
- Hiking: A popular option for independent and adventurous travelers. Find the trailhead at the end of Calle Pardo, one street over from main plaza. The trail climbs steeply to the Intihuatana and Pisaqa sectors of the ruins.
What’s the weather like?
Pisac, like the rest of the Sacred Valley has two seasons: dry and rainy. In the dry season, day are often sunny, but temperatures plummet once the sun goes down and early mornings can be quite chilly. In the rainy season, cloud covered skies are the norm, rainfall ranges from light showers to heavy downpours, and night temperatures are slightly warmer (8 C/46 F). It’s best to have an umbrella or poncho with since storms are unpredictable.