The Sacred Valley: Pisac, Peru
November 14, 2013 | By Mitch & Jewels |
After the Inca Trail, we spent a night in Cusco (where, sadly, the water cut out on us mid-shower), then we took a bus to Pisac, in the Sacred Valley. Pisac is about an hour bus ride outside of Cusco, and a little more than $1 USD for the transport.
Town & Hotels
The town itself is super hippie and tourist-oriented thanks to these huge Incan ruins on a mountain over the town and what appears to be a thriving economy in ayahuasca ceremonies for tourists. But it has a great vibe and is in a super gorgeous area, surrounded by mountains and agricultural lands. There are a lot of great restaurants which are pricey for Peru (approx. $7 USD for a set lunch), but quite delicious. For people visiting Pisac, note that the guidebooks totally have the wrong days in terms of when there are artisan markets.
We had tried looking online and emailing for accommodations in Pisac, but everywhere was stupid expensive ($80+ USD per night). Miraculously, when the bus was coming over the bridge into the town, we saw this sweet garden and, when we investigated, found out that it belonged to Chaska Pisac, a new-ish hostel run by a couple from Barcelona. It has lovely rooms, a beautiful garden, meditation room, shared kitchen, rocking bathrooms (with a bath!), conveniently located… and reasonably priced at $30 USD per night for our lovely room. Plus, massive win with their breakfasts. It’s not included in the price of the hostel, but a legit bagel with eggs, mushrooms, tomato, olive oil (no idea how they got their hands on olive oil), plus delicious tea and juice, was super appreciated for $4 USD per person.
To note, during our explorations we investigated one of the other hotels that looked gorgeous online, the Casa del Conde. It was gorgeous but would have been a splurge ($80 USD per night). It was indeed beautiful – the gardens and surrounding mountain vistas are epic, and the owner, Jorge, was incredibly kind and welcoming. He invited us to stay for a BBQ (we declined because we had just eaten) and to enjoy the gardens for a bit (we obliged).
For a fun construction note, we noticed that some construction has been done using bottle caps instead of wide-headed nails. The photo in the slideshow was taken at the bus stop area in Pisac.
Hiking to the Incan Ruins
There seems to be a lot of confusion on the internet about how intense the hike up to the ruins is. Here’s our experience: We left the town at 10:30am after breakfast, paced ourselves reasonably on the hike up and down the mountain, and gave ourselves plenty of time for exploration, and were back in town at 2pm (3 ½ hours in total). There are tons of paths up, and they all converge and diverge at various points. To access the trail, just head up from the plaza/town center. The trailhead is just to the left of the church in the center of town; it’s hard to miss.
It’s a serious hike, but it also feels great and a strong accomplishment to hike it and not rely on cabs. I wish I could say that it was easy (or that the Inca Trail made me strong), but that may be a fib.
The ruins themselves are really neat… and MASSIVE. We were grateful for the background we got from the guides on the Inca Trail, and almost wish we had a guide to explain these. The Incans just put terraces onto every mountain – literally, terraces on every surface, even remnants of terraces on mountains that seem too steep for terracing.
We counted at least 6 or 7 clusters of Incan buildings (in addition to the terraces). A bunch of the buildings have been “restored” in weird ways, but you can still clearly see which were temples, viewing platforms, etc. It felt almost like we were looking at Incan suburban sprawl because there were just so many disparate areas of buildings on each mountain, mountain face, valley.
As we were leaving, we noticed what looked like man-made holes (dwellings) in the mountainside. Photo in the slideshow below, but we can’t find any more info on that online. Ideas?