Cusco is by far the most popular city in Peru. And there is nothing to be surprised, because in itself is very interesting and has a lot of things to offer. And in the case when you have the time and inclination to explore the region of Cusco, can be a perfect base for all your expeditions.
For me one of the most interesting places near Cusco, is charming town of Pisac and the Inca ruins located just above it, on a hill. The narrow streets of Pisac, its small central square with the market, as well as located on a hill, ruins with extensive traces of the former Inca Empire, lend a unique character for this town. It is one of the best thing to see in Cusco region.
How to get there?
You can reach Pisac by bus, taxi, or even on foot. Last option is rather only for those of you who miss long walks and have a lot of time.
You can go there on your own or with a tour. All depend how much money you have and simply what you prefere!
If you will choose basic tour (not private one), do not expect miracles. It will be fast trip, in the package with other cities and ruins located in the Sacred Valley of the Inca (Pisac, Ollantaytambo and perhaps Chinchero), without too much time for resting, admiring, trekking. This option is ideal for those of you who do not have time to stay a little bit longer in the region of Cusco, or do not like walk too much, or do not want to organize the trip by themselves.
For those of you who have at least two days available I recommend a completely different option. Spend one day in Pisac and do nice easy trekking there. Then during the second day visit Chinchero, Moray, Maras and maybe Ollantaytambo(if you will start the tour very early in the morning, around 6 am).
Why Pisac for whole day?
Simply because there is a lot to do.
In addition to exploring the ruins, you can arrange easy trekking towards the ruins and then from the ruins towards the city (or just in one site). And some kilometers before Pisac there is a small zoo, also worth seeing, so do not miss this opportunity!
My suggestion for a successful day with Pisac ruins in the lead role
The best option is to start the trip very early in the morning. No later than at 7 am you should leave Cusco and take a bus or taxi to the viewpoint (mirador), located a few kilometers before Pisac.
Here you can enjoy the view of the wide valley of Urubamba and then I recommend you a small trekking towards Pisac.
You have to find a path leading straight to the town – shortcut, thanks to which you will cut the main road, which in this part has a lot of turns. The matter is not so simple, but if you will be very careful, you will notice it. Descent at that abbreviation takes about 45 minutes.
After arriving to the town, I recommend you to choose a taxi, which will take you up the hill, where the entrance to the ruins is located. Here you can start trekking, initially traversing the ruins, and then, going down towards the town of Pisac, through beautiful agricultural terraces.
With this option, you will save a lot of energy, strength and possibly avoid or minimize the risk of altitude sickness.
Of course, as someone has great physical condition, and spent already some time on the high altitude, may hike up the hill from the town of Pisac till the ruins and then come back with the same route to the town. This option is definitely harder because the first part of the hike, about 2 hours, leads only uphill, but definitely cheaper because you do not have to pay for a taxi. Decision like always belongs to you.
What are the costs?
The bus to Pisac costs maximum 4-5 Peruvian Nuevo Sol (PEN). The cheapest is the local bus. A little bit more expencive but also faster are small buses. The prices of a taxi are difficult to identify because everyone sets them up to date with the taxi driver.
Admission fee to the ruins is included in the so-called Boleto Turistico. It is a special ticket valid for 10 days, which opens its holder the door to a number of tourist attractions. That pleasure costs 130 PEN, which is at this moment around 44 $. You can also choose the validity of the ticket for two days. Then you will minimize the cost of the ticket by almost half, because to the amount of 70 PEN, but there will be available only some of the attractions.
If you will decide to take a taxi from Pisac to the ruins, for this pleasure you will have to pay not less than about 25 – 30 PEN. If you will choose this option, I recommend you to ask the driver to drop you off further than just at the gate, where is located tickets control. Thanks to that you will save around 20 minutes of walking.
After arriving to the ruins you need to go through all the ruins and follow the route in the direction to Pisac.
It is a beautifully laid out trail, you cannot get lost. In this option you will not have to do the same route in both sides.
After reaching Pisac, it will be impossible to avoid passing through the local tiny central square and market. You can find here a lot of things, but I am not sure, if it is worth to buy anything there, because the same things can be found in Cusco, or in Chinchero, and sometimes much cheaper.
Where to stop for a meal?
Definitely in Pisac. You can always find here something delicious to eat. Look for a small restaurant/cafe bar with a great botanical garden outside. I do not remember the name of this place, but it is my favourite one. The prices of the plate are very affordable around 18-25 PEN and the quality is just mazing.
On the way back to Cusco – visit the ZOO
As a perfect ending of the trip to Pisac, I highly recommend you to visit a zoo, located on the road Pisac- Cusco. How to find it? Just ask the bus driver to stop near the zoo, and for sure he will understand you and fulfill your request. For this attraction you need up to 30-40 minutes. There are, among others, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, condors. The cost of the entrance is only 5 PEN and the joy from the meeting with the most popular Peruvian animals, priceless.