Pisac Village and Market (2,970m)

Pisac Market Peru

Modern Pisac is a picturesque Andean Village, typical except for the huge, spreading pisonary tree that dominates the central square. The village is best known for its Sunday market, which draws hundreds of tourists each week. In spite of its popularity the market retains much of its local charm, at least in the part where villagers from miles around gather to barter and sell their produce. In the tourist section of the market you can buy a wide variety of handicrafts - mostly the same things you see in Cusco. Many of the guide books state that handicrafts are cheaper than Cusco but in recent years I haven't noticed much difference in price. My advice is if you like something in Cusco, buy it! And likewise in Pisac. Don't wait around hoping you'll find it a few dollars cheaper elsewhere. Pisac is a good place to buy the local ceramics including a huge and varied collection of hand-painted multi-colored beads. There are smaller markets in Pisac on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


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Pisac Ruins

Pisac Ruins Cusco

A vital Inca road once snaked its way up the canyon that enters the Urubamba Valley at Pisac. The citadel, at the entrance to this gorge, now in ruins, controlled a route which connected the Inca Empire with Paucartambo, on the border of the eastern jungles. Set high above a valley floor patchworked by patterned fields and rimmed by vast terracing, the stonework and panoramas at Pisac's Inca citadel are magnificent. Terraces, water ducts and steps have been cut out of solid rock, and in the upper sector of the ruins, the main Sun Temple is equal of anything at Machu Picchu. Above the temple lie still more ruins, mostly unexcavated, and among the higher crevices and rocky overhangs several ancient burial sites are hidden.


Pisac Andens

Most people visit Pisac to see the market on Sunday, but there are smaller markets on both Tuesday and Thursday. However Pisac is a pretty village and has plenty of small handicraft shops and is worth a visit on any day of the week. There are local buses departing from Cusco every 15 minutes for the one hour ride to Pisac village. Local buses cost about US$1 each way. A taxi can be hired for about US$10 each way. There is no public transport up to the ruins. You can either hike up, starting from the plaza (allow two hours round trip). Alternatively you can negotiate with a local taxi driver to take you there (about 20 minutes following a long winding road) and either return by taxi or walk down hill to the plaza. (A local taxi costs approximately US$5 each way)

The Sacred Valley

Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley of the Incas was undoubtedly a key area of settlement to the Incas. Its agreeable climate and fertile plains make a rare and fruitful combination for the high Andes. It was also the route to the jungle and therefore an area with access to the fruits and plants of the tropical lowlands. The Sacred Valley served as a buffer zone, protecting Cusco from incursions of the Antis, the fierce jungle tribes who from time to time raided the highlands.

Today the Sacred Valley remains a lush agricultural region supplying the city of Cusco with much of its produce such as maize, fruit and vegetables.

Most people visit the Sacred Valley as part of an organized one-day tour. The tour includes a visit to the market at Pisac, a stop for lunch in Urubamba, a visit to the beautiful Inca village and fortress of Ollantaytambo and a quick stop at the quechua village of Chinchero on the way back to Cusco. Some companies also include a visit to the ruins at Pisac but you'll have less time at the market if you do this. You'll find plenty of tour companies in and around the Plaza de Armas in Cusco offering these tours costing between US$15 and US$20 for a pooled service (up to 30 persons in a group). This price doesn't include your meals or entrance fees to the ruins. Entrance fees are included in the tourist ticket ('boleto turistica') which can be purchased in Cusco for US$10 adults and US$5 students. Departures are usually on the market days of Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. If you only have one day to visit the Sacred Valley you'll find the convenience of the tour well worth while since the entire circuit is over 170km in length. If you want to do it in a small group you can hire a taxi for the day (approx US$60) and take a guide (approx US$60). Alternatively you can also visit the Sacred Valley on your own, travelling by local bus. It can be quite tiring to try and see Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero all in one day by local transport so we suggest visiting Pisac ruins and the market on one day and then visiting Chinchero and Ollantaytambo on another day, using Cusco as your base from which to explore.

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Tambomachay (Cavern Lodge)

Commonly referred to as the 'Baños del Inca' or Inca baths, Tambomachay was a site for ritual bathing. The excellent quality of the stonework suggests that its use was restricted to the higher nobility, who maybe only used the baths on ceremonial occasions. The ruins basically consist of 3 tired platforms. The top one holds four trapezoidal niches that perhaps were used as seats; on the next level an underground spring emerges directly from a hole at the base of the stonework and from here cascades down to the bottom platform, creating a cold shower just high enough for an Inca to stand under. On this platform the spring water splits into two channels, both pouring the last metre down to ground level.

Practical Information for Visitors

The Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Q'enko, Puca Pucara and Tambomachay are situated quite close by to Cusco and can easily be visited in half a day, either independently or part of an organized tour.

The ruins are located along the road to Pisac, with Sacsayhuaman being the nearest ruin to Cusco. Entrance to the ruins is included on the tourist ticket (see Cusco City information). If you're planning on visiting the ruins on your own then there are two interesting alternatives:

1) The first is to take a bus from Cusco on its way to Pisac and get off at the furthest ruin Puca Pucara. After visiting this Inca hillfort you can cross the road to visit Tambomachay and then walk back along the road to Q'enko and Sacsayhuaman. In the valley immediately to the left of the huge Inca stones of Sacsayhuaman you'll find a small path leading down to Cusco. (total walking distance about 8km). Instead of the hassle of catching a local bus you could take a taxi to Puca Pucara for about $6-10.

2) Alternatively you could walk up to Sacsayhuaman. From the Plaza de Armas just climb the steep street of Resbalosa, past the church of San Cristobal and follow the well marked path up to the ruins at the hairpin bend in the road. If you head to the left of the huge white statue of Christ on the hill overlooking the city you won't go too far wrong. It takes about 40 minutes from the Plaza and it's a good test to see if you have acclimatized and are fit to undertake the more difficult treks such as the Inca Trail. From Sacsayhuaman you can hire a horse and a horseman to take you on a round trip of the other ruins (3-4 hours). The cost of hiring the horses depends on how many there are of you (and how rich you look), but 2 horses plus a horseman to show you the route should work out at about $6 per person.

Many tour agencies in Cusco offer an organized tour of the ruins. The afternoon tour by bus accompanied by a guide usually includes a visit to the Cathedral and the Koricancha (Temple of the Sun) and costs about US$10 per person (not including entrance fees). Most travel agents have tours leaving daily at 2pm returning to the Plaza at 6:30pm.


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Q'enko (Zigzag)

This is one of the finest examples of a rock artfully carved insitu showing complex patterns of steps, seats, geometric reliefs and a puma design. The rock is an excellent example of the Inca 'Rock Worship'. In Inca cosmological beliefs the Incas held large rocky outcrops in reverence, as if they possessed some hidden spiritual force. On top of the rock are zigzag channels which served to course chicha (local maize beer) or sacrificed llama blood for purposes of divination; the speed and route of the liquid, in conjunction with the patterns made in the rock, gave the answers to the priest's invocations.
Inside the rock are large niches and a possible altar. This may have been a place where the mummies of lesser royalty were kept along with gold and precious objects.

Puca Pucara (Red Fort)

Situated on a hill with superb views over the surrounding countryside Puca Pucara was more likely a tambo, or kind of post house than an actual fortress. Travelers may have lodged here with their goods and animals before entering or leaving Cusco. An alternative theory is that it served as a guard post controlling the flow of people and produce between Cusco and the Sacred Valley.


Visitors to this magnificent Inca fortress, which overlooks the city of Cusco, cannot fail to be impressed by the beauty and monumental scale of this important Inca construction. Sacsayhuaman can be variously translated as 'speckled falcon' or 'speckled head'. The last interpretation refers to the belief that the city of Cusco was set out in the form of a puma whose head was the hill of Sacsayhuaman. The origins are uncertain but the fortress is generally attributed to the period of Inca Pachacuti, the man who essentially founded the Inca empire.

The main ramparts consist of three massive parallel walls zigzagging together for some 400m, designed to make any attacker expose his flanks. The massive blocks, the largest being 8.5m high and weighing nearly 300 tonnes, are fitted together with absolute perfection. The foundations are made of Yucay limestone brought from over 15km away. The outer walls are made from massive diorite blocks from nearby, and the inner buildings and towers are made from dark andesite some of it brought from over 35km away. With only natural fibre ropes, stone hammers and bronze chisels it must have been an enormous task. The chronicler Cieza de Leon, writing in the 1550's, thought that some 20,000 men had been involved in its construction: 4000 men cutting blocks from the quarries; 6000 dragging them on rollers to the site; and another 10,000 working on finishing and fitting them into position. According to legend, some 3000 lives were lost when one huge stone that was being dragged uphill broke free.

Sacsayhuaman played an important part in the final defeat of the Inca Empire by the Spanish. Pizarro's party entered Cusco unopposed in 1533 and lived there securely for more than two years before finally being caught unprepared by the rebellion of Manco Inca in 1536.

Manco's troops took the fortress of Sacsayhuaman, overlooking the city, and used it as his base to attack the Spanish. After weeks under siege in the city the Spanish broke out and charged into the surrounding hills to the northwest above the city. They then doubled back to capture the rocky outcrop opposite the fortress. From this outcrop they made repeated attacks across the flat plaza against the walls of the fortress. All the Spanish reinforcements on their way from Lima to Cusco had been massacred, so if the Spanish failed to take the fort they were doomed. In the evening, against all odds, the Spanish eventually broke through the Inca defenses and scaled the walls of the fort driving the defenders into the fortified complex dominated by 3 towers (foundations only remain today). After two more days of fighting the Conquistadors finally overwhelmed the natives, putting them all to the sword. It was said that during the battle a leading Inca nobleman, armed with a Spanish sword and shield, caused havoc by repulsing every enemy who tried to scale the last tower left in Inca hands. Having sworn to fight to the death, he leapt from the top of the tower when defeat was inevitable, rather than accept humiliation and dishonour.

Santo Domingo Church & Koricancha / Qoricancha (Inca Temple of the Sun).

Santo Domingo was built in the 17th century on the walls of the Koricancha Temple of the Sun. The uninspiring Baroque decoration of Santo Domingo makes a poor contrast to the superbly crafted Inca masonry - in fact much of the cloister has been gutted to reveal four of the original chambers of the great Inca Temple. The finest Inca stonework in existence today is the curved wall beneath the west end of the Church. In Inca times the walls of the Koricancha were lined with 700 solid-gold sheets weighing two kilos a piece. There were life-size gold and silver replicas of corn, golden llamas, figurines and jars. All that remains today is the stonework; the conquistadors took the rest - unfortunately all the exquisite treasures ended up being melted down; nothing survived. However the fist conquistadors to arrive did not remove the holiest religious symbol of the empire, the golden sun disc, though they reported its existence. This solid gold disc, far larger than a man, mysteriously vanished before the main party of Spaniards arrived. It has never been found to the present day. The disc was positioned to catch the morning sun and throw its rays into the gold-lined temple, filling it with radiant light and bathing the mummies of the dead Inca rulers in sunshine which were seated in niches along the walls.

The entire temple complex was also an intricate celestial observatory. Every summer solstice, the sun's rays shine directly into a niche - the tabernacle - in which only the Inca was permitted to sit. Along with the main temple dedicated to the Sun, there were others for the adoration of lesser deities - the Moon, Venus, Thunder and Lightning, and the Rainbow.

El Triunfo

El Triunfo is on the right hand side of the Cathedral and was the first Christian church in Cusco. It was built on the site of Suntur Huasi (the Roundhouse), the main Inca armoury where the Spanish were trapped during Manco Inca's siege in 1536. When the Incas burned the city the thatched roof of Suntur Huasi caught fire, but then mysteriously went out. The Spanish later broke out and recaptured Sacsayhuaman, ending the siege. The church was built to commemorate this victory and the miracle.

La Compania de Jesus

Cuzco Plaza de Armas, Cuzco, PeruLa Compania de Jesus church is located on the south-east side of the Plaza de Armas and rivals the Cathedral in grandeur and prominence. The original structure was built in the 1570's by the Jesuits on the site of Inca Huayna Capac's palace, known as Amaru Cancha or Palace of the Serpents and was said to be the most beautiful of all the Inca palaces). Huayna Capac was the last Inca to rule over an undivided, unconquered empire. The first church was destroyed in the earthquake of 1650. The present day building was finally completed 18 years later in 1668. The most impressive feature of La Compania is the incredible baroque facade with two majestic bell towers. The interior is cool and a little gloomy apart from a stunning gilded altar-piece which is often lit up at night. The church also posses several important works of art from the Cusquena School.

On the right hand side of the church is the Lourdes Chapel which is now used as an exhibition centre to display local paintings and handicrafts.


The Cathedral dominates the north-east side of the Plaza de Armas and sits squarely on the foundations of the Inca Viracocha's palace. The Cathedral was begun in 1550 and completed nearly 100 years later, constructed in the shape of a Latin cross. The three-aisled nave is supported by only fourteen massive pillars. It contains nearly 400 colonial paintings including the Last Supper by Marcos Zapata showing Christ and the Apostles about to dine on guinea-pig, washed down with a glass of chicha! In the sacristy there's a painting of the crucifixion attributed to Van Dyke. Ten smaller chapels surround the nave, with the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, and the Chapel of El Señor de los Temblores (The Lord of Earthquakes) are worthy of special attention.

The Cathedral's real magic lies in the mingling of history and legend. It is said that when the Cathedral was built an Inca prince was walled up in one of the towers and that when the tower falls the Inca will emerge to claim his birthright and free his people. After the earthquake of 1950 thousands of believers waited hopefully for the tower to collapse, but despite severe damage, they did not and were later repaired.

The Plaza de Armas (Main Square)

Cuzco Plaza de Armas, Cuzco, PeruThe Plaza de Armas (main square) was the centre of Inca Cusco and, still today, remains at the heart of modern Cusco. During Inca times the Plaza was known as Huacaypata (the Place of Tears or the Weeping Square) and was a place of ceremonies and military parades. It has been said that when the Inca's conquered new lands they would bring back some of the soil to be mixed with the soil of Huacaypata, as a symbolic gesture to incorporate the newly gained territories into the Inca empire.

The Plaza was once flanked with Inca palaces. The remains of the ancient walls of Inca Pachacutec's palace can still be seen on the north-west side of the square (inside the Roma Restaurant close to the corner of the Plaza and Calle Plateros.

The northern and western sides of the Plaza are now lined by arcades with shops and travel agencies. There are many restaurants, bars and coffee shops with beautifully carved wooden balconies overlooking the Plaza - a great place to relax and enjoy the view.

The Plaza's north-eastern edge is dominated by the Cathedral which is flanked on the right-hand side by the El Triunfo church.

On the south-east side is the smaller but more ornate church of La Compania de Jesus with its impressive pair of belfries.

Cusco Tourist Ticket

Admission to many of the most popular places of interest in Cusco can only be made using a 'Tourist Ticket' (Boleto Turistico). This ticket allows you entrance to many sites in and around Cusco and costs US$20 (US10 for students with an ISIC card). The ticket is valid for 10 days and can be bought at the OFEC office at Garcilaso on Plaza Regocijo (Mon-Fri 8am-6.30pm , Sat 8am-2pm) or at any of the sites included on the ticket below.

Places included on the tourist ticket are:

Santa Catalina Convent and Art Museum, Museo de Historia Regional (Casa Inca Garcilazo de la Vega), Museo Palacio Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo, the Museo Arqueologico Koricancha (but not Koricancha itself), Museo de Arte Popular, Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo, Monumento Pachacutec

Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman, Q'enko, Tambomachay and Puca Pucara.

Pisac, Ollantaytambo and Chinchero. These sites are normally visited as part of the Sacred Valley day tour.

Urcos: Pikillacta (the only major pre-Inca ruin in the Cusco area) and Tipon (mainly Inca terracing).

Entrance tickets to the Cathedral (US$3), Koricancha / Qoricancha /Temple of the Sun (US$1.80), San Blas church, the Inka Museum (US$3), Museo de Arte Precolombino (US$4.60), Museo de Arte Religioso del Arzobispado (US$3) and La Merced (US$0.90) are sold separately.

Cuso Atracctions

During daytime or night time, Cusco is a city full of charms and attractions.
The mornings are ideal to walk by the streets, to know the churches, to pass by the legendary artisan neighborhood San Blas or to visit the towns and the archaeological remains in the surroundings. At night, when the city is covered with lights, the discotheques, pubs and restaurants are the greatest attractions. Nightlife in Cusco offers a great variety of fun choices satisfying the most demanding tastes.

If you visit Cusco, it is compulsory to know the following places: the Koricancha (The Sun Temple), the Ajlla Wasi, the Churches and Convents, the Archaeological Remains, mainly Machu Picchu, Sacsayhuamán and Ollantaytambo.


During the time of the Incas it was called Huacaypata or Square of the Warrior. It was the setting of various crucial events throughout the history of Cusco. Every year, people celebrated in this place the Inti Raymi or Sun Festivity; and this was also the place in where Francisco Pizarro proclaimed the conquest of Cusco. With the Spaniards arrival, the square was surrounded by stone arches that even today embellish it. (Centre of the city).

Cradle of legendary feats, the Main Square of Cusco was called "HuacaYpata" or "Square of the Warrior" during the time of the Incas. It reminds us of times when it was a significant ceremonial place where, every year, they carried out the spectacular celebration of Inti Raymi or "Sun Festivity". It was the place where Francisco Pizarro, together with his Spanish entourage, proclaimed the conquest of Cusco, or the setting in where the Indigenous caudillo Tupac Amaru was executed.

The square was transformed with the Spaniards arrival. The stone arches, as well as the constructions that even today surround the square, were built during that period. It is surrounded by a beautiful arcade that was constructed during the conquest. In this place are also located the churches of the Cathedral and the Society of Jesus, which make up a real tourist temptation.

Entertainment at Lima

Having Fun in Lima

Lima is a city that has much to offer in the way of entertainment, as it is a confluence of the latest rends and the most traditional aspects of local culture. Walking around it, one can always find somewhere that is open late and has an attractive rustic air, or alternatively is loud and eclectic.

After an enjoyable night, a visitor's firts point of reference is the so-called Pizza Street in Miraflores, a meeting place for the young and not-so-young. Another good alternative is the neighbourhood of San Isidro, which has places that are much more modern and contemporary.

However, if a bohemian atmosphere is what you are looking for, then Barranco is the place to go. This district is famous for its interesting cultural attractions, including art galleries, cinemas and alternative theatres. It also has nightclubs to suit all tastes, including "peñas", smalls clubs dedicated to Peruvian music and rhythms.

And speaking of traditional neighbourhoods, none is more representative than Lima Cercado, which contains some of the oldest and most interesting bars in the city. For example, the Taberna Queirolo, in Calle Quilca, or the famous Bar Cordano, opposite Desamparados station.

For visitors who like live music, Lima has a large number of places where you can appreciate just about all musical styles. In any of the popular "salsodromos" -as salsa clubs are known locally - the orchestra will tempt the most reluctant onto the dance floor. Places such as Brisas del Titicaca hold folk music shows where the rhythms and colours will surprise the most phlegmatic audience. And for those seeking other options, Lima's rock, punk and jazz concerts will not disappoint them.

Not only is there a wide choice of music, the city also has many other forms of culture to enjoy. The large number of theatres and cinemas cover the complete range of genera at many different times of the day. In addition there are museums and art institutions which are always holding exhibitions and multi-discipline events of great interest. The galleries of the Cultural Centre of the Catolic University, in San Isidro, as well as those of the Municipality of Miraflores often have attractive exhibitions, as do the Museum of Art in Lima and the Museo de la Nacion in San Borja.

The city is also a small paradise for gaming enthusiasts, who will find a growing number of casinos and slot arcades in which to chance their luck.