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The World Famous Pisac Market and Town, Peru
Pisac is 32 kilometers from Cusco, so it is easily and cheaply accessible by bus (from Calle Tullumayo) or 12-passenger transport (from Calle Puputi). The 45-minute walk, in itself, is amazing, offering panoramic views of the city of Cusco as you leave, as well as incredible views as you near Pisac and descend 600 meters to the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The village sits on the banks of the Urubamba River, dwarfed by the impressive Peruvian Andes mountains that rise on either side of the valley and nestle below the narrow ridges that descend steeply from the ancient Inca complex above. It is said that these steps represent the wing of a peacock – pass in the Quechua language – hence the name of the village. Apparently, snails can be seen in the area at night, and the Inca had a habit of making their habitats like sacred birds and animals.
The Inca settlement in Pisac was destroyed by the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro and his conquerors in the early 1530s. It was the rule of the Spanish colonists to force the local people to live in villages, in order to better control them, hence the modern town of Pisac was founded in the valley below the ruins of Viceroy Toledo in the 1570s.
Like all Peruvian villages, the town is based on a central plaza, which has a wide spread. pisonay (erythrina diseaseprice. The I don’t care and a variety of beans – in particular, one of the largest beans in the Peruvian Andes, it has bright red flowers that are pollinated by hummingbirds, and is considered sacred by the Incas. The Giant of Pisac I don’t care may be 500 years old.
As well as its Inca ruins, Pisac is world famous for its traditional market, and it’s often difficult to see the huge price of all the plastic that fills the place. The largest market takes place on Sundays, when local women fill the square to sell their homegrown fruits and vegetables, meats and herbs, food and clothing.
But, during the main tourist months from May to September, the main tourist markets are also held on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the smaller ones are held every day, walking in the streets around the area. The selection of goods for sale is very close. The list of paintings and sculptures and souvenirs includes but is not limited to: local precious stones (“Serpentine is the stone of Machu Picchu”, the seller will tell you); silver jewelry and small items (many of which contain the same precious stones); super soft and super warm alpaca and wool clothing, if you want to sweat it out; hats of all colors, sizes, fabrics and designs, from amazing designs chulo (brimmed hat) to leather sombreros; llama fur carpets made with traditional Inca symbols; handmade textiles with natural dyes; intricately carved doves; as well as the usual range of travel t-shirts and hats.
But you can’t just go to Pisac to shop, nice as that is. The town is also a delight for epicureans. There is a traditional bakery, with a large dobe oven, in the street of the main square. It provides a cooking space for the community who do not have an oven – they provide their raw food and pay a few soles to cook it. Take the opportunity to try a delicious empanada, hot from the oven, but be warned – this is the place where you will see pork cooked straight from the oven. Unsurprisingly, in one corner of the baker’s yard, there is a house with lots of live pigs – so you can see them dead and alive with a simple turn of the head.
As well as these fresh empanadas, Pisac has many restaurants, from local restaurants to those run by other tourists who have made Pisac their home. You can easily try your favorite foods or satisfy your cravings for a brownie or apple pie with ice cream.
And you have to wander around the city. Your search will be interrupted by pictures of interesting artworks in front of the buildings; wooden doors and carved windows; a small botanical garden; a happy cemetery; and impressive bulls on the roof.
Despite the daily hundreds of tourists, whisked away from their air-conditioned bogies on their whirlwind journey to the Sacred Valley, the town retains a sense of culture. The women wear their beautiful traditional clothes, not just for the few tourists who pay to have their pictures taken.
At the end of town, there is a small colonial church, where Sunday morning Mass is offered in Quechua, and traditionally dressed men enter and leave the church before and after the service. You may have the opportunity to visit Pisac for its annual Virgen del Carmen festival from 15 to 18 July. It’s a noisy and fun time, with statues of saints, musicians and dancers singing in the streets, the explosion of noisy sculptures and lots of partying and drinking.
A walk outside the town will give you a glimpse of the local farming methods – depending on the time of year you visit, you may see cows being used to plow the fields, or men cultivating their small farms; the beautiful yellows, oranges and reds of quinoa – a fresh new food – ripening in the paddocks; irrigation canals dating back to Inca times, and spectacular views across the Sacred Valley towards Machu Picchu.
Have I enticed you to visit this charming Andean town? Be sure to include a trip to Pisac in your trip to Peru
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