Pisac: 2972m (9751ft)
The Inca ruins at Pisac can be found at the far eastern end of the Sacred Valley, approximately 45 minutes from Urubamba or 1 hour from Cusco. Set high into the mountainside overlooking the market town of Pisac, this archaeological site is considered by many to be one of the finest Inca sites in the region. The views are also incredible.
After negotiating your way through all the tourist buses undergoing 10-point turns in the tiny car park, you enter the site through the remains of an ancient residential settlement. Tell the children to see if they can spot where the doors in the house used to be (clue: there are holes in the door frames where the hinges once were!). They should also look out for the large boulder that resembles a giant guinea pig. Guinea pigs have always played an important role in Peruvian culture. Besides being a local delicacy they were often used in religious and social ceremonies as well.
A path leads the way via an impressive set of rippling agricultural terraces to a series of ceremonial baths that flow with water sourced from a lake at 4500m. Here our guide, Roosevelt, told our children that the Incas would wash themselves under these jets of water and clean themselves with Moonquartz. He handed them each a sample stone to try for themselves.
Opposite these baths is the cemetery – a steep hillside marked with lots of large holes. The Incas were buried in the foetal position within these holes, together with many of their valuable possessions to take with them to the after life.
From here the trail passes through a beautiful doorway – built in the shape of a trapezoid to resist earthquakes – and alongside a spectacular Incan stone wall. A bit further down the path cuts its way through the mountain wall, forming a little tunnel, much to the children’s delight.
If your children allow you to (ours were getting too tired) the path eventually leads to a temple complex further down the mountain. From here is it possible to walk all the way down to Pisac at the foot of the valley – a 1.5 to 2 hour walk (or so we’re told!), but be warned, there are sections of the path where the signs disappear and you are forced to follow your inner compass.
The town of Pisac is home to a very good artisans market, open on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. A smaller version operates on the remaining days of the week.
Although we didn’t have lunch in Pisac, Ulrikes Restaurant is recommended by many online guides and publications. 613 Pardo Street, Sacred Valley, Pisaq (+51) 84 203 195 9am – 9pm
Watching artisans at work in one of Pisac’s jewellery workshops.
Take a video tour of Pisac in The Sacred Valley, Peru.
Excluding the walk down to Pisac you should allow at least 1.5 hours to explore the Inca ruins and another hour in the market, or longer if you’re having lunch there.
Pisac is located in the eastern end of the Sacred Valley, around 45 minutes drive from Urubamba or 1 hour from Cusco.
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