Some 40 minutes from Cusco in the eastern end of the Sacred Valley is the small village of Pisac. Visited principally for its vast Inca ruins set high up on the mountain top, this small slightly backward village has grown in popularity in recent years for its daily artisan and food market. Why is it so popular and what can you find there?
The busy pathways between stalls
Even in the Inca times more than 600 years ago, the area of Pisac (often spelt Pisaq) was of great agricultural importance. The wide flat lands around the Urubamba River and the vast mountain terraces were used to cultivate crops such as corn, quinoa, potatoes and kiwicha. The Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro and the conquistadores destroyed Inca Písac in the early 1530s, and the modern day town of Pisac was built in the valley by Viceroy Toledo during the 1570s. Early written accounts show that the main plaza soon became an important trading area for produce, and the Pisac market as we know it was born.
Today Pisac market is a sea of random and closely packed wooden stalls. Principally located on the cobbled main square ‘Plaza de Armas’, the expanse of stalls lead off into the narrow streets surrounding the plaza, creating a complex maze of walk ways. During the week the Pisac market is much smaller, and the majority of the vendors are only selling artisanal products. On Sundays the market is much larger, and every last inch of floor space is taken up by additional fruit and vegetable vendors, and several kitchen stands cooking strange and wonderful concoctions.
ENTERTAINMENT TIP: If looking for fun at night, or to watch sports during the day, or even a taste of home, visit the Wild Rover Hostel Cusco for great food, sports and beer! Entrance to their bar is free even for non-guests
Take some time to meander through the food section, and explore what is on offer. However wonderful the food looks, it is advisable not to indulge yourself, as this is often a source of up-set stomachs. Look out for unique produce such as the Ricotto Pepper a very potent spicy pepper only found in Peru, or the Pacay an unusual fruit that resembles a giant bean pod, with a sweet, refreshing, cotton like edible fibre on the inside.
Sampling Pacay Fruit at Pisac Market
The artisan section of the market is full of the traditional tourist things that you can really find at just about any other market in Peru. However, you will find at the Pisac market fine alpaca table cloths or bed covers, high quality handmade tapestries, a wide selection of music CDs and some unique pieces of jewellery. Remember to barter when purchasing an item, but also remember that a few extra Soles will make all the difference to a market vendor, but will hardly be missed from your pocket.
Getting to the Pisac Market
If you are not travelling as part of a group tour, and want to visit the Pisac Market independently, then it is very simple and cheap to travel from Cusco. From Plaza de Armas in Cusco jump in a taxi, and tell the driver to take you to Calle Puputi where the collectivos leave for Pisac. You can share a modern small mini-van to Pisac for 3-5 Soles per person, or you can negotiate with a taxi (around the same street) to take just you personally, which typically costs 30-40 Soles per taxi.
A collectivo van from Cusco to Pisac
To make a full day of Pisac you may also want to incorporate a tour of Pisac ruins. You can take a taxi to the ruins (from the Urubamba road) for around 15 soles per taxi, and walk down through the ruins to the village. The hike take 2 – 3 hours, depending on your pace, and finishes in the main Plaza of Pisac. Don’t be too afraid as there is only one route down, and it is very hard to go the wrong way.
Did you know - The Lima Walking Tour leaves from the Tourist Information Center at 799 Avenida Jose Larco in Miraflores every day at 10:15 am. Visit our Blog for more information!