Peru Travel-The two sides of Pisac

The Sacred Valley is replete with towns and villages influenced by both the ancient legacies and modern day life. Because of the duality of past and present, many of these towns have two distinct sides. Pisac, which sits about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Cusco, boasts such a binary: a hybrid modern-colonial village lying on the riverbank and an Inca fortress on a mountain spur about 600 meters (1,970 feet) above.
For most of the week, the colonial town of Pisac is a quiet Andean village with little to do except relax in the plaza or enjoy fresh bread baked in an old-fashioned clay oven. But the village comes alive on Sunday when the famous weekly market takes place. Pisac’s Sunday market is a riotous occasion, attracting locals and international tourists alike.The main square gets crowded, especially after the mass, which is celebrated in Quechua. The congregation leaves the church in a colorful procession, led by the Mayor holding his silver staff of office.



The Pisac Archaeological Site above the village is the largest fortress city of the Incas and one of the largest of ancient America. Visitors can reach the site either by a 10-kilometer (6-mile) paved road up the Chongo Valley, or by a short but steep footpath about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the plaza. It is a stupendous complex of the finest Inca stonework, all guarded by walls, gates, and towers. Inside, there are many attendant buildings; baths and storehouses; exceptional flights of terracing; and an array of tombs. The site features examples of almost every aspect of Incan architecture, with religious, administrative and residential constructions.


The site sits on a hilltop with a gorge on either side, spread out into clusters on the mountain spur. The central, dominant figure of the Pisac temple group is an outcrop of rock jutting above two levels of platform, surrounded by a D-shaped wall of the finest masonry. There are four rock projections in the Pisac temple group known as inti-huatanas, which in Quechua means hitching place of the sun (inti). They were intended for solar observation and worship. Beside the Pisac inti-huatana is a magnificent two-domed rectangular building, which may have been the temple of the moon. Immediately above the inti-huatanas is a group of houses surrounding a courtyard, where there is a rock sculpted into a seat for resting. From the courtyard is a path that leads to a climb up the western flank of the mountain.


Pisac is known for its agricultural terracing, which was an essential part of Incan survival. In the vertical world of the Andes, flat agricultural land is scarce and landslides are a constant threat. The Incas solved both these problems by building agricultural terraces. Entire hillsides were tamed by great flights of terraces that followed contours like the layers of an architect’s model. A typical Inca agricultural terrace, pata, would be between 1.5 to 4 meters (5 to 13 feet) high and contained by walls of field stones roughly to fit one another. Such walls might be 60 to 75 centimeters (23 to 30 inches) thick. Native farmers filled the surface of the containing walls with fertile soil and the base cavities with stones for drainage.Though there is expert terracing throughout the Incan archaeological sites, the most magnificent terraces are at Pisac.


Above the terraces are some cliffhanging footpaths, defended by massive stone doorways, steep stairs and, at one point, a tunnel carved out of the rock. Walking along these paths is thrilling, and the views are stunning. The defensible site guards not only the Urubamba Valley below, but also a pass into the jungle to the northeast. Pisac’s main religious center near the top of the terrace features sturdy rooms and temple