The former Inca city of Pisac in the famous Valle Sagrado, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, is now a popular sight in Peru with its widely known market and time-honoured Inca ruins.
Pisac, also spelled "Pisaq" in Quechua, is located in southern Peru at an altitude of 3,000 metres above sea level about 33km northeast of the royal city of Cusco on the Urubamba River. The exact date of Pisac's foundation is not known, but experts estimate that it was founded around 1440.
Like Ollantaytambo in the north, Pisac probably guarded the southern entrance to the Valle Sagrado in southern Peru. The historical site thus had a threefold significance for the Incas: as a fortress, a ceremonial site and for agriculture, which is still practised today on the countless terraces.
In the 1530s, Pisac was destroyed by the Spanish conquistadors. The present appearance of the town dates from the 1570s and was rebuilt on the orders of the Spanish Viceroy Toledo.
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PICTURES: Inca city of Pisac
Pisac's widely known market, which is extremely popular with tourists, takes place at the central Plaza de Armas. Here, the market women set up their stalls every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. The adjacent alleys then also become an open-air shop - usually quite crowded.
On offer are all kinds of sweet potatoes, fruit, onions, maize, quinoa, jewellery, paintings, handmade products made of leather and wool, colourful tapestries, hats and jumpers, and of course lots of tourist junk.
Even if you don't want to buy anything, you shouldn't miss this market, because the girls, women and children in Pisac are all dressed in their typical Peruvian colourful traditional costumes - whether for nostalgic or promotional reasons remains to be seen.
Tip: There is also a Peruvian market with traditional costumes in nearby Chinchero. This is not quite as touristy, but primarily still serves to supply the local population.
Sunday market and traditional ceremony
Both the number of traders and tourists reaches its peak on Sunday. Every Sunday, there is an additional spectacle to watch in the main square of Pisac.
After High Mass, the mayors of Pisac and the neighbouring villages and their assistants walk from the village church to the parish house - fully equipped with official costumes and insignia of office - to confer and eat lunch together. The air is filled with the smell of "chicha" (maize beer) and fresh flat bread, which is still traditionally baked in old clay ovens.
Tip: The market in Pisac is clearly designed exclusively for tourism. The prices for the goods and also for the menus in the restaurants are often exorbitant and are sometimes increased seemingly at will. Pickpockets are also up to their mischief!
Inca Ruins of Pisac
Because of the popular market of Pisac, the ancient Inca ruins are often hardly noticed - wrongly, because they are almost as fascinating as those of Machu Picchu. There are two possible starting points for exploring Pisac's ruins via a 10km long, winding road.
Alternatively, a steep 4km path leads upwards. On narrow paths, the remains of walls and simple building structures can be visited. On the flank of the mountain, a narrow path leads from the ruins to the lower car park or a steep, direct path to the Plaza de Armas of Pisac. The descent to Pisac takes about half an hour with good shoes and sure footing.
Terraces of Pisac
The most amazing thing about the ruins of Pisac are the countless terraces that make the steep slopes of the Andes fertile through an ingenious irrigation system. The terraces also contain a fantastic secret: seen from the right angle, they form the shape of a condor with outstretched wings. This gigantic bird was regarded by the Incas as a messenger of the sun and guided the dead into the underworld. Other sources speak of a partridge, "pisaca" in Quechua, which gave the place its name.
The metre-high terraces of Pisac are still cultivated today and are connected by long staircases. At regular intervals, pegs protrude from the terrace walls, which on the one hand stabilise the wall and on the other hand make it possible to climb away from the flights of stairs. From the terraces and plateaus, spectacular views over Pisac and the Sacred Valley of the Incas open up again and again.
Ceremonial Centre, Sun Temple and Inca Cemetery
For centuries, a ceremonial centre has towered about 600 metres above the Plaza de Armas, its walls and huts still clearly visible today.
On the highest plateau in the middle of the temple area is the temple of the sun god Inti with the "Intihuatana". According to Inca belief, the sun was tied to this boulder, which probably served to distinguish the seasons.
In the background of the Inca ruins of Pisac, countless holes are visible in the rock walls. These are the entrances to over 2,000 tombs that form one of the largest Inca cemeteries in Peru, some of which still contained mummies.
Tip: The visit to the Inca ruins of Pisac is included in the Boleto Turistico (Cusco Tourist Ticket)!