A Day Exploring Pisac

Pisac is not one of my favorite places because it is far too “touristy” for my tastes. It seems as if the town itself is dominated by foreigners looking for New Age solutions to age old problems.

Still, the town itself and the impressive ruin complex that dominates the mountain above keeps drawing me back over and over for a variety of reasons.

My most recent visit was a couple of days ago when I wanted to combine a little picture taking with a hike up the mountain trail to the explore the ruins of Pisac.

Getting to Pisac is easy and cheap. Simply head over to Calle Puputi (about 10 minutes from the Plaza de Armas) and hop on any of the hordes of colectivos for the 40-minute ride. The cost if only 4 soles (weekday) or 5 soles (weekend).

You can also catch a taxi for a quicker ride for 1-2 soles more, but I strongly recommend the experience of riding in a colectivo full of Peruvians. (Note: they do not leave until they are full and they’ll likely pick up more people along the way!)

The colectivo will drop you off before the bridge crossing the Rio Urubamba (or Rio Vilcanota as it’s known up river). Cross the bridge and go straight ahead to reach the market of the lower entrance to the ruins.

Sunday is the big market day in the central plaza next to the church. People from all over the area come to town early in the morning to sell and incredible variety of fruits and vegetables of the highest quality. While the market itself is dominated by hundreds of booths aimed at tourists, there are always some cool bargains and unique items to found.

I chose to climb up the mountain from the town below as it provides fantastic views of the valley along the way and the chance to see parts of the ruins that would be missed by taking the easier taxi route up the back side of the mountain.

It’s a tough climb just to get to the entrance. There you show your Boleto Turistico ticket. (I have the advantage of being a resident so I just show my residency card, sign in, and enter for free.)

Seeing how far you have to climb is intimidating, but worth it!

There begins the climb up through a large agricultural sector until you get a split in the trail. The left path is easier though it takes a little longer, but I chose to go to the right up the steeper path up the mountainside. (The views of the Sacred Valley are worth it!)

My main goal for the day’s hike was to visit the Intihuatana sector — the most important religious area of all major Inca sites. Of course, like all but one site, the Intihuatana is located at nearly the highest point so a lot of climbing is involved to get there.

Needless to say, it was more than worth than effort as the views of the Intihuatana stone itself and the surrounding countryside were incredible. On my last visit, I didn’t even see the Intihuatana and only realized of it’s existence after reading about it.

The Intihuatana sector features some of the finest examples of Inca construction.

The stone itself is very impressive and it enclosed by a curved wall — very rare in Inca architecture — and accessed through a massive door which opens to a view of the river valley below. Most Intihuatana stones were destroyed by the Spanish as part of the attempt to extinguish the Inca religion, but I know of three that still exist.

The Intihuatana stone sits in a spectacular setting overlooking the Rio Urubamba valley.

No one knows the real purpose of the stones and even the name Intihuatana (loosely translated to “hitching post of the Sun”) was probably first coined by Hiram Bingham in the early 20th century. Their importance to the Incas, however is undeniable and they possibly played more than one role in the religious and cultural life of Inca civilization.

Every trip to every ruin site is a unique experience different from previous trips. I always notice new things and learn more as I build upon previous knowledge and experience combined with lots of research between trips!

Each time I am reminded how lucky I am to live in one of the world’s most wonderful places surrounded by both breathtaking beauty and sites of profound historical significance.

The qantu — the sacred flower of the Incas and the national flower of Peru.

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