Visiting Pisac Ruins in Peru

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Sacred Valley of Peru
The view from my front door; I look up at the Pisac ruins every day (they’re atop the mountain on the right, mostly blocked by my fragrant jasmine).

It’s funny; sometimes the most easily accessible things to us are the ones we take most for granted. I stared up at the Pisac ruins – which are practically on my front doorstep – for almost seven months before I finally wandered up there.

But finally, in the company of a visiting friend, I made the hike up the Pisac ruins, and I’m thrilled I (finally) did.

This article was originally published in 2015, and has since been updated for accuracy of content and links.

Here's some information about Pisac Ruins in the Sacred Valley of Peru, with tips for visiting. #traveltips #Peru #Pisac #Pisacruins #Incaruins #SacredValley #TheProfessionalHobo
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How to Get to the Pisac Ruins

View of Pisac and the Sacred Valley of Peru from the Pisac Ruins high above
The town of Pisac, as viewed from the Pisac Ruins

There are a few different ways to ascend the Pisac Ruins, which sit atop a mountain overlooking the town of Pisac. Most (normal) people take a taxi to the top, and sometimes walk down the path that spills directly out into the Pisac market. Other people will hike up and back down from the market; the hike up takes about 1.5 hours; longer if you’re not fit and well acclimatized to the high altitude of the Sacred Valley of Peru.

But be it out of a sense of adventure, or cheapness (not wanting to pay for a taxi or the admission price to walk up from Pisac), or just a simple desire to do things differently, I chose door number three: climbing up to the ruins from the other side of the mountain.

This wasn’t the easiest route to find, and certainly not the easiest to climb, but it was certainly very rewarding.

Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo, hiking across a long on the way up to Pisac Ruins

“Just follow the river, and look for a log across it. You go up from there,” was the full extent of the technical hiking specs I received from a friend whose advice I wasn’t sure I could trust to begin with. After meandering and bushwhacking uphill along the river and wondering if I was going the right way the whole time, the log appeared, and indeed, it was all up from there.

Steep terraces on the way up to the Pisac Ruins (Intuitana)

The picture above looks a bit innocuous, but each terrace is over eight feet high, with 2-3 rocks jutting out as makeshift steps. It’s a bit of hands-on work to climb them, and it left me breathless after a relentless hour of terrace-hopping.

The Professional Hobo climbing the steep terraces in Peru

Close to the top, I had a great view of my house, which is in the cluster of buildings by the river.

View of the Sacred Valley from above, at the Pisac Ruins
A view of my house from the Pisac Ruins

After reaching the top (which took about 1.5 hours of hard work), I was rewarded with sprawling ruins running along the whole mountain ridge and beautiful views in every direction.

About the Pisac Ruins

Pisac Ruins

The Pisac Ruins are reputed to be the second most sacred site in Peru aside from Machu Picchu. Indeed, there’s quite some magic up there, and in its heyday it served many purposes.

If you look at the Pisac Ruins from the town (and tilt your head and squint a little), the agricultural terraces running up from town and into the ruins all form the shape of a huge condor, which is a very significant animal in Andean cosmology. (Andean cosmology is seen in many facets of Peruvian construction; for example, the city of Cusco is said to have been built in the shape of a giant puma).

The shape of Pisac Ruins is steeped in cosmology

These ruins above Pisac are reputed to have served military, agricultural, and religious purposes. It’s a logical place to defend the southern entrance to the Sacred Valley, there’s an Intihuatana (temple of the sun) similar to the temple of the sun found at Machu Picchu for religious rites, and the remains of tombs, agricultural buildings, and living quarters are scattered throughout.

A view of the Pisac Ruins from above

There are still-functioning fountains, baths, and water channels, which date back to at least the Inca times, if not earlier. (There’s much debate in Peru about whether the hundreds of architecturally brilliant constructions such as Machu Picchu were actually built by the Incas – or just discovered by them).

Beauty on my Doorstep

The Professional Hobo, Nora Dunn, posing in Peru

Living in Peru is an incredible experience, full of history, beauty, mystery, culture, colour (and a new language for me to enjoy learning). The beauty of the Pisac ruins – which are right on my front doorstep – is indicative of the beauty that is everywhere in the Sacred Valley, and of all the many places I’ve yet to discover…on my front doorstep and beyond.

For more of my Peruvian adventures, check out a selection of these great hikes and sites I’ve visited:

The Pilgrimage to Huchuy Qosqo

Trekking the Andes (Part 1): Birthing Llamas, Abandoned Villages, and Rain

Kinsa Cocha: Stunning Pictures of High Andean Lakes

Inca Ruins of Moray: Agricultural Lab or Landing Pad?

Maras Salt Mines: Unlike Any Other Mine You’ll See

Lares Hot Springs

Climbing Pachatusan, and Taking Refuge in a Quechua Home

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25 thoughts on “Visiting Pisac Ruins in Peru”

  1. Aside from Saqsaywaman, Pisac was our first introduction to the Inca (before the 4 day trek to Machu Picchu) and we loved it! We did a day trip from Cusco and the only bad thing was that we didn’t get enough time to explore every nook and cranny!

    Reply
    • Hi Emily,
      Yes, a lot of people only visit the Sacred Valley on day trips, and many of them end up wishing they’d spent more time here! It’s a very special place indeed….and I’m glad you got a chance to explore it, even for a short time.

      Reply
  2. Looks stunning. Can’t wait to see them myself! Good for you not taking a cab! Great exercise, and more money saved = more money to travel!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Rebecca! There’s still SO much to explore in the Sacred Valley….it’s almost overwhelming! (Good thing I’m here for a while…) 😉

      Reply
  3. Hi Nora – Absolutely wonderful photo essay. What a spectacular part of the world you live in! I can’t believe how gorgeous your view is from your home, and what an amazing area you are able to hike in such a historically rich and panoramic area whenever you want! Thanks for showing this to those of us who have not been here yet 🙂 I hope you will come to visit my travel website and would love you to leave me a comment on any article that you might enjoy! As you know, having contact with our peers and friends in the travel blogging industry is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of our work! Nice to meet you!

    Reply
  4. Pisac was our first exposure to the Incan ruins on our trip last year. We made it to the top around late afternoon and were treated to a rainbow over Pisac. Our guide told us that you can often see the Milky Way over the Sacred Valley at night. It must be wonderful to live near Pisac!

    Reply
    • Hi Angela,
      How magical that you saw a rainbow over Pisac! Wow! Indeed, the Milky Way makes an appearance quite often when the moon isn’t too strong….glad you had a lovely time in Pisac.

      Reply
  5. The first photo on this page made me think you’re in Takht-e-Soleyman, Iran. It’s a World heritage site the goes back to 3000 years ago and has got some stone made structures, from temples to palaces and so on.

    Peru must be a fantastic place to visit. Your photos has shown it so well one wants to go there right now.

    Reply
    • Hey Rahman,
      Interesting that the photos remind you of Iran…indeed these ruins are very ancient; funny how there are similarities in ancient ruins around the world, despite massive distances!

      Reply
  6. Hi Nora,

    I’d like to replicate your hike to the Pisac ruins. Was it the Kitamayo river you followed? Do you have any other tips and pointers for properly appreciating the ruins?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle,
      I had a look at Google Maps to get the name of the river, which reads (further up) as Riachuelo Chongo. It spills into the Urubamba river just outside of the town proper, although if you’re starting in Pisac, you can catch the river beside the Royal Inka hotel and start following it up from there. Remember – there isn’t really a path to the log; it’s a matter of following beside the river as best you can until you see the log and can cross from there.
      Enjoy the hike!

      Reply
  7. Thanks Nora for the directions. I’m not as steady as you and had to crawled over the two logs. I much preferred Pisac to Macchu Picchu. It gives a sense of intimacy you cannot find at MP.

    Reply
    • Hi Michelle,
      I’m thrilled you found the route (which as you now know, is far from well-marked). That log crossing is scary, huh? 😉
      And I’m glad you enjoyed Pisac ruins so much. They’re very special.

      Reply
  8. Hi Nora,
    Thanks for sharing! We followed your tips and found the place easily…unfortunately a guard/guide came to us as soon as we were on top of the ruins and asked for our tickets and threatened to call the police. I calmed him down and in the end we were told to go down to the entrance and buy the ticket. We went all the way down and left without paying… At least we managed to see the ruins and enjoy the way up through the terraces. I wonder if you had any problems with guards and what time did you go.

    Reply
    • Hi Alberto,
      Sorry you had trouble with the guards! I’d never heard of that happening when I was there, but maybe they’re catching on to the idea that people are climbing up the back and not paying, so they’re becoming more vigilant about it.
      When I went (I did it twice), I believe I arrived at the top around mid-late morning.

      Reply
    • Hi Ethan,
      It’s a very unofficial route up to the ruins, and difficult to describe in writing. Best thing to do is ask around in Pisac – lots of people who have been there for a while will know. Have fun!

      Reply

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