Pisac Ruins

sights / Historic

Pisac Ruins information

admission with boleto turístico
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Lonely Planet review

This hilltop Inca citadel lies high above the village on a triangular plateau with a plunging gorge on either side. Though it’s a truly awesome site, it gets relatively few tourists, except midmorning on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, when tour groups flood in.

The most impressive feature is the agricultural terracing , which sweeps around the south and east flanks of the mountain in huge and graceful curves, almost entirely unbroken by steps (which require greater maintenance and promote erosion). Instead, the terracing is joined by diagonal flights of stairs made of flagstones set into the terrace walls. Above the terraces are cliff-hugging footpaths, watched over by caracara falcons and well defended by massive stone doorways, steep stairs and a short tunnel carved out of the rock. Vendors sell drinks at the top.

This dominating site guards not only the Urubamba Valley below, but also a pass leading into the jungle to the northeast. Topping the terraces is the site’s ceremonial center , with an intihuatana (literally ‘hitching post of the sun’; an Inca astronomical tool), several working water channels, and some painstakingly neat masonry in the well-preserved temples . A path leads up the hillside to a series of ceremonial baths and around to the military area. Looking across the Kitamayo Gorge from the back of the site, you’ll also see hundreds of holes honeycombing the cliff wall. These are Inca tombs that were plundered by huaqueros (grave robbers), and are now completely off-limits to tourists.

The site is large and warrants several hours of your time. To walk there from town, take the steep but spectacular 4km trail. It’s about two hours up and 1½ hours back. It’s highly worthwhile, but undeniably grueling: recommended training for the Inca Trail! Taking a taxi up and walking back is a good option.

The footpath to the site starts from above the west side of the church. There are many crisscrossing trails, but if you keep heading upward toward the terracing, you won’t get lost. To the west, or the left of the hill as you climb up on the footpath, is the Río Kitamayo Gorge; to the east, or right, is the Río Chongo Valley.