Intriguing Inca Ruins in the Sacred Valley

Pisac is one of the intriguing Inca ruins in Peru. It is located in the heart of the famous Sacred Valley. The hills around the village are covered with steep but ingenious agricultural terraces. In addition, it was a defensive stronghold of the Incas. According to archaeologists, it was probably also a spiritual centre for them. These are the sights of Pisac with recommendations for your visit and how to arrange the tour yourself from Cusco.

Peru has many surprises when you travel around. This was one for me. I had deliberately not read too much about the Sacred Valley. I did have several days to visit various places during my tour of the country. Where I only made the planning the day before depending on the weather forecast.

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Day Trip from Cusco

There are several day trips from Cusco I noticed. Where you visit several ruins, but probably also a factory where they make rugs, for example. Don't just look at the price, but make sure that the time at the ruins is long enough. Lunch is sometimes included and sometimes not. There is a stop in the program for lunch. This is at a good restaurant with (almost) Western prices. Although you can usually also eat at another restaurant.

The higher grounds of Pisac. ©Corno van den Berg

Impression of a Day Trip

I did a day trip from the city of Cusco on a small bus with a guide. So that you get a lot of information on the way and on the spot about the locations on the trip. We also visited the excavations of Ollantaytambo. I had over two hours at the excavation, which was just about enough.

Keep in mind that you have to walk up a mountain to see the top. This is not very steep, but the walk will easily take you 20 minutes. I had also time to walk through the village with many souvenirs. And drink some coca tea at one of the cafes.

Pisac Architecture

When you arrive at Pisac you suddenly see the famous terraces that are built steeply against the mountains. Above it the characteristic houses where people lived, but which were also used for storage. It is not only ingenious but also remarkably safe on steep mountain slopes. Even now. Any attackers were spotted from afar so that measures could be taken. In addition, I also think it is beautiful, as everything fits into the impressive landscape of the Andes mountains.

Pisac probably formed the southern defence of the southern entrance to the Sacred Valley. Ollantaytambo served as a defensive fortification to the north, while the lesser-known Choquequirao formed the western frontier. Many excavations are currently being carried out at the latter. In addition, there are plans to make this very remote place accessible to tourists via a cable car.

Four Complexes in One

The famous terraces on the mountainside in Pisac. ©Corno van den Berg

The complex can be divided into four areas: Intihuatana, Pisaqa, Q'allaqasa and Kinchiracay.


This complex has a number of baths and temples, which you can still see today. The Temple of the Sun has a volcanic opening to the sun (or Inti). This serves as the centrepiece. The corners of the complex in this case seem to indicate that some kind of astronomical feature is being built.


This is the citadel or fortified city. It was ingeniously built on top of the mountain on a natural spur and forms the main vantage point over the valley.


Pisaqa was the area where most inhabitants lived. You find here houses, warehouses and terraces laid out around it. This is a wonderful area to stroll through.


These are the large terraces, which you see when you arrive. They are built on mountain slopes in a circular shape. The amount of (rain) water was regulated so that the crops could grow well.

Inca Cemetary

The cemetery of the Incas in Pisac. ©Corno van den Berg

When you walk around you will see numerous cavities in the steep rock wall on the right. This is an ancient Inca burial site, which you can only view from a distance. The Incas held many ceremonies here and buried their dead along with their belongings. Archaeologists believe that some 10,000 Incas were buried there. About 5,000 graves were plundered by the Spaniards, they stole the belongings of these graves. It is estimated that there is probably the same number of graves still intact. According to the Peruvians, these do not need to be mapped, as the dead deserve their rest.

The Origin of the Name Pisac

According to archaeologists, the ruins are shaped like a partridge. Pisaca, it's where the name Pisac comes from and the birds live in this area. The terraces should form the wings and the citadel the head of the animal. There is also a similar story at Machu Picchu. Even if it were an Andean condor. Various terraces are still used at Pisac today, which is clearly visible.

Stay Overnight in Pisac

The souvenir market is perfect to end the day. ©Corno van den Berg

If you travel around yourself, you can spend the night perfectly in and around Pisac. The village has everything: hotel, hostels and bed & breakfasts. But also small restaurants where you can get local, but also international dishes. Staying here has a great advantage. You are ahead of all day trippers and can then go up the mountain early in the morning. Which is perfect for photography and videos. Or you can go in the late afternoon when most of the tourists are back on their way to Cusco.

Find the best accommodations for your stay in Pisac .

Location of Pisac

The ruins of Pisac are located near the village of the same name and 35 kilometers from the city of Cusco. By car it takes about 50 to 60 minutes to get there. This depends on traffic and weather.

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