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