With a maze of stalls in its quaint village square and a hilltop of astonishing Inca ruins, you’d be foolish to pass up a Sunday day-trip to Pisac from Cusco.

Arrive early for the morning market bustle and wonder through temporary market alleys of bright reds, blues and greens, delighting in animals, vegetables and huge variety of traditional textiles, arts and crafts.

Expect locals in colourful indigenous attire and fabulous ceramics with traditional zig-zag, circular and square checker, maze and dot designs. Stone and timber carvings of exceptional detail and craftsmanship await you: an exquisite stone carved, upwardly conjoined, snake, puma and condor  (totemic representatives of the three levels of Inca existence: underworld, earth and sky) for example, or timber carved Inca chess pieces battling it out against Spaniards on beautifully rendered chess boards. Richly coloured clothes, rugs and clothing rise up in multicoloured walls around you, gourds bear disturbing anatomical resemblances… and the atmosphere is unbeatable.

Relax al fresco in one of the surrounding cafes or perch yourself on a balcony overlooking the square. There are tasty empanadas fresh from wood fire ovens, some quality western culinary offerings and all manner of sweets and hot beverages to devour.

Then walk or catch a taxi to the ruins above. The two-to-three hour walk up the steep mountainside (obligatory on the way down) is challenging, but highly rewarding: glades of Eucalyptus, the perfect parabolic arcs of terraced agriculture climbing the escarpment, and a small river stream with wooden bridges and a beautiful waterfall.

At the top, the ancient Inca fortress of Pisac will not disappoint. Like Machu Picchu, Pisac is believed to have served as a defensive compound against surrounding Indian tribes. Whatever its purposes, the extensive ruins here offer temples, palaces, solstice markers, baths and water channels that are a wonder to explore. The ceremonial and religious structures of upper Pisac are particularly impressive. The stonework is incredible and at the Temple of the Sun you’ll see how Inca astronomers tracked the movements of stars.

To get to Pisac, many hotels arrange transport or you can jump on a mini-bus at Av Tullumayo. The trip takes roughly 45 minutes. Catch a bus back at night or stay in one of the hotels available.

 

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