The town of Pisac is located at the east end of the Sacred Valley of the Incas at an altitude of 9,751 feet (2,972 meters). It is famous for its Indian market that takes place every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and draws hordes of tourists from nearby Cuzco. (See my tip on the Pisac Indian market for more information). The town also has many shops that cater to tourists, particularly those that offer locally made handicrafts.
The area around modern Pisac was first settled by the Incas who established a settlement, called Inca Pisac, on a nearby hillside. That settlement was destroyed by Francisco Pizzaro and his conquistadores in the 1530s. Its ruins are a popular tourist attraction today, but they are not as popular as those at Ollantaytambo or Machu Picchu.
The modern town of Pisac was established by Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in the 1570s, and it is now a typical Andean village. The only thing that really distinguishes Pisac from other similar Andean villages (aside from the fact that it can be overrun with tourists) is its huge, spreading pisonary tree in its central square. At Pisac's altitude, trees native to Peru are extremely rare, although the introduced eucalyptus trees survive well around the town.
The village of Ollantaytambo is situated at the western end of the Sacred Valley of the Incas and is at an altitude of 9,160 feet (2,792 meters). The village was established by the Incas in the fifteenth century along the Patakancha River near its confluence with the Urubamba River. They called their settlement Llacta.
Because Ollantaytambo was built by the Incas, many of the town's buildings date from Inca times. Some of the townspeople live in traditional thatched houses that were constructed by the Incas, making these homes the oldest continuously inhabited houses in South America. And like in most towns in Latin America, the conquering Spanish built their own buildings. Ollantaytambo has a Plaza de Armas, or central square, which is surrounded by colonial buildings, as well as a colonial-style Roman Catholic church.
Ollantaytambo is a popular stop for tourists on their way to Machu Picchu. Attractions include the Ruins of Ollantaytambo (see my tip for more information), Pinkullyuna (an Inca grainery high on the steep mountainside overlooking the town), the colonial Plaza de Armas, and the traditional Inca homes. There are also several restaurants and hostels in town that cater to tourists.
The Sacred Valley of the Incas
The Urubamba River Valley is more popularly known as the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It formed the heartland of the Inca Empire and was a key area of settlement. (Technically, however, the Sacred Valley of the Incas was not part of the Inca Empire because it was the personal property of the emperor himself). The east-west oriented valley lies between Cuzco and Machu Picchu, but properly encompasses only the steep-sided and rugged ravine between Pisac in the east and Ollantaytambo in the west.
The Incas considered the valley to be sacred because it was one of the empire's main sources of gold and other valuable minerals, and because its mild climate and fertile soil made it the most productive corn-growing region of the Inca Empire. The modern Quechua Indians still use the agricultural terraces carved into the steep mountainsides centuries ago by their Inca ancestors in order to use every bit of cultivable land. The valley was also important to the Incas because it forms a natural route to the tropical lowlands, which was a source of exotic fruits and other types food not available in the high Andes.
Nowadays, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is a popular place for tourists. During day trips out of Cuzco, they can experience the traditional Andean villages of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, Quechua Indian markets, and numerous archaeological sites that were once Inca villages and fortifications.
The Pisac Indian Market
The famous Pisac Indian market is held in the Plaza de Armas every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. Local Quechua Indians bring in pottery and woven cloth to sell, as well as all kinds of locally grown produce, including fruit, vegetables, hundreds of different types of potatoes, and strange ears of corn with marble-sized kernels. Many people trade produce for such essentials as sugar, salt, flour, rice, noodles, tools, and medicine. The crops sold at the Pisac market are mainly bought by the locals and not by tourists. However, there are many souvenir shops around Pisac's square that cater mostly to tourists. They sell everything from T-shirts to postcards to locally produced arts and crafts. Most of the souvenir shops are found on Calle Bolognesi on the west side of the Plaza de Armas.
If you are looking for adventure and dont tire easily then I will recommend the following-
Take the earliest bus up to the ruins- 5:30am (if you are really in shape, walk to the ruins following the well marked path that cuts through the bus path, but give yourself about 1:30 to get to the gate that opens at 6am) Or if you are like me, buy a one way ticket and walk back to town. You will do plenty of hiking once inside the ruins and you dont want to let fatigue set in when you are at the steep parts. Most people start with the ruins but i recommend going straight for the top of Waynapicchu (follow the signs to the right as you enter.) The path is steep, you dont need a large day pack! but bring plenty of water and small snacks. Walking sticks are not necessary just more to carry....Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
You can do some great inexpensive boat trips on Lake Titicaca. If on the Peruvian side, you can do day trips from Puno, or stay overnight on one of the lake's many islands. The floating islands of the Uros people are definitely worth a visit. If it all sounds very touristy, it is. But that doesn't mean it isn't a fantastic experience.
For some photos check out www.sites.google.com/site/somephotosofperuRelated to:
- Budget Travel
- National/State Park
LEMEYBAMBA: MUSEUM AT SAN MIGUEL
This museum holds the treasures found from the burial chullpas at Laguna de los Condores.
Note that there are over 200 mummies and a huge quantity of ceramics, textiles, wooden artefacts, and everyday objects found in this site which is near a beautiful lake in the jungle of this region.
What is interesting about the mummies is that many are wrapped in cloth and amusingly, some of them had faces drawn on the cloth (like using a black marker to draw a skeletonal funny face). I swear, it looks just like someone is pulling your leg.
To get to Lemeybamba to visit the museum is quite tricky. There is a microbus that leaves Chachapoyas in the afternoon 12-1pm (but there are lots of delays, as expected) which means you arrive at 4-5pm. The museum which is still a 5-min taxi ride away, closes at 5pm. So, if you hurry and arrive, you may be able to persuade the museum official to let you enter to visit it hurriedly.
The microbus back to Chachapoyas is an even greater mystery. When I booked it the evening before, various people told me the microbus would leave at 3am, 4am or 5am. So, whatever it is, just pack everything ready and try and be half-awake between these times and wait for the beeping of the horn when the microbus comes to collect you.
this is the highlight of Peru. Dont hesitate or wait until a week before or a month before - these days you need to book it 5 or 6 months early!
It will be harder next year!
So you wanna do it. Then go now!
Get yourself on a tour for the best possiblilties or independantly for multi-millions - its your call!
Be fit and prepared, but any ages does apply. 16 to 80. If you think you are up to it. 4200m the highest point. 15kms the longest day. Hope that gives you a kind of idea.
See you in the Andes then!
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
The Amazon Jungle
A big part of Peru is mostly jungle. When you think of Peru you think of Machu Picchu, Incas, Spanish conquerors, Nazca lines, but Amazon river is born here and goes a long way across this country.
You have mainly 2 options for visiting the jungle:
- South: in Puerto maldonado, not far from Cuzco. Most of the people doing the Machu Picchu choose this jungle, as is close to Cuzco and many agencies there offer stays in lodges and excursions for 3 or more days.
- North: You have to fly to Iquitos and there take a boat that will take you far from this town (2-3 hours by the river) to the National Parks.
Both options are OK, maybe there are some more animals around Iquitos, and there is more "deep Amazon", but Manu Park in the south is also a good option for a first visit to the jungle (is not the Amazon river, but very similar).Related to:
- Jungle and Rain Forest
- Adventure Travel
- National/State Park
The Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera
The Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera in Lima is one of the many fine museums located in this underappreciated city. The museum houses the largest private collection of pre-Columbian artifacts in the world. The premiere attraction of this museum is the large collection of Moche Dynasty ceramics. There are 45,000 such ceramics held here.
The Moche lived along the northern coast of Peru from 200 A.D. to 700 A.D. and where amongst the most creative artists in Peruvian history. The museum also has a interesting collection called the Sala Erótica, which features ceramic images of animals, people and skeleton having sex intercourse. For many this is the main draw to the museum.
There is also a good exhibit of goldsmith work from the pre-Columbian world.
Prior to visiting this museum, I visited some of there great temples located Trujillo. I think that if you are also planning to visit this city that you might think about touring this museum after you have done so. This way you will appreciate the wonderful works of the Moche all the more.
The museum was founded by Rafael Larco Hoyle in 1926. He is considered the founder of Peruvian archeology. He named the museum after his father.
The museum is open from 9am to 6pm daily. At S/20 it is one of the more expensive museums in Peru to visit.Related to:
- Museum Visits
- Arts and Culture
Machu Picchu, the legend
Machu Picchu was built by the Incas during the 15th century but was mysteriously abandoned sometime before the time of the Spanish Conquest. There have been several theories suggested for why it was abandoned. These include being devastated by a plague, being overrun by a hostile jungle tribe (=Antis) and being punished by the Inca for being a rebel province. However the latest theory, based on new evidence, suggests that Machu Picchu was the location of the royal household of Inka Pachacutec (the 9th Inca , who ruled from 1438-1471) which was abandoned a couple of generations after his death. Archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built, occupied and abandoned all within the space of about 100 years and it didn’t take very long for the jungle vegetation to completely reclaim the mountain and hide the existence of the city for hundreds of years.
Machu Picchu, a mystery, but what is known? It was a small religious and political capital and it served as a dwelling for the Inka or any high ranked nobles from the Capital, as well as for a selected nobility that had the privilege of having an "Aqllawasi" that was something like a monastery for "Chosen Women" or "Virgins of the Sun". These chosen women are devoted to cult and for service of its privileged population.
According to the buildings that are found in the Inkan City, they estimate that the population has to be around the 1000 people. According to the mummies found by the Bingham expedition about 80% of the Machu Picchu population were women; that is a strong support to assume that there was an important "Aqllawasi" (House of Chosen Women) here. They were probably chosen among the prettiest and most virtuous, they were considered as the Sun's wives.
For more information and photos visit my Machu Picchu-page.
You must visit the Machu Picchu ruins, I would recommend to go via the Inca Trail and if you are not feeling up to it, you can take a buss in aguas Calientes that will bring you to the city. But doing the Inca Trail brings you in the footsteps of the old Inca’s and to the real entrance of the city.
For more information and photos visit my Machu Picchu-page.
One of the most recognizable sites in the world is Machu Picchu, which is the highlight for most visitors who travel to Peru. Machu Picchu, Quechua for "Ancient Peak," was the only Inca city not discovered by the Spanish during their conquest of Peru. This fact has given rise to the phrase "Lost City of the Incas" to describe the site. It probably escaped detection due to its inaccessible location on a narrow ridge thousands of feet above the Urubamba River. In fact, even today it is not visible to visitors until they arrive right at the top of the mountain.
Machu Picchu sits on a narrow saddle between the peaks of Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu at an elevation of 7,970 feet (2,430 meters). It is 1,480 feet (451 meters) above the Urubamba River Valley below. The river makes a loop around the peak, surrounding the site on three sides.
There has been much debate about the purpose of Machu Picchu. However, it is now generally acknowledged among archaeologists that it was proabably built as a royal residence for Inca emperor Pachacuti. The site was abandoned around 1572. Although the reasons for the city's abandonment have never been determined, it is thought that most of its inhabitants died during a smallpox epidemic. Smallpox and other diseases were introduced by the Spanish during their conquest of Peru.
Construction started around 1400 and ended around 1450. The buildings were made of the same carved stone blocks that precisely interlock and which can be seen at Inca sites throughout Peru. Because the city was never plundered by the Spanish, the buildings and other structures are relatively intact compared to other Inca sites. Notable structures at Machu Picchu include the Intihuatana Stone (probably used as an astronomical calendar), the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows. There are also numerous small buildings that were the houses of the city's inhabitants. Much of the site is made up of terraced fields that were used to grow crops. There is space to grow enough food for four times as many people that ever lived at Machu Picchu.
The ruins were rediscovered by American archaeologist, Hiram Bingham, in 1911. At that time, the buildings were covered with a thick mass of jungle vegetation. The site was excavated, making it accessible to visitors. Nowadays, Machu Picchu is the most visited attraction in Peru. No matter how many times people have seen Machu Picchu in pictures or in film, it cannot prepare them for the spectacular location and beauty of the ruins.
Visit Uros,or versus Amantani and Taquili
There are about 30 totora reed floating islands. Only about a half dozen are open for visits. These islands may seem artificially touristic to some. They are only a short distance from the dock at Puno. Amantani and Tequili are solid land islands that project out of the waters of Lake Titicaca. There are day and overnight cruises to Taquili, but Amantani being a bit further away does not lend itself to inclusion as part of a day cruise. Tequili has both a cooperative craft program and community restaurant. Different community members attend the stores on a rotating basis. The prices are set by the craftsmen on their work. The attending community member can freely negotiate the price on their own work, but are limited by parameters set by other workers on their work. Overall the prices seemed comparable to those seen in Puno at stores.
Go see the Condors Fly
It is out of the way and requires an early morning drive to be ready, but when they begin to swoop and fly, it is marvelous...This is a trip that requires planning, we had a guide take us there. It's on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, but between 6-7 am peope just gather, suddenly folks are selling things, then quiet. The condors begin to fly. Everything stops for about 45 minutes as everyone watches and takes photos, then the birds disappear as though they knew it was a performance, and you don't see them until the next day!Related to:
- Road Trip
We did not stay here, but it was pointed out to us as the hotel used for some of the VIPs that came...more
We didnt really think of coming here until we started mapping out a plan of our independant walking...more
Av. Hermanos Ayar Mz 1 L-3, Aguas Calientes, Sacred Valley, Peru
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