While in Cusco, we journeyed to Pisac for two reasons: to see the Incan ruins and to shop one of the best handmade textiles markets in the region. Along the way, Daniel and I unexpectedly learned a lot about how to travel in Peru. We negotiated hard with vendors and taxi drivers. The ruins captured our hearts so quickly that the staff had to kick us out at closing time! We even took two separate day trips to Pisac because we couldn't get enough of the market. Enjoy our short but sweet guide to Pisac.
Upon arrival in the village, we decided on our itinerary: browse the market first, then hike the ruins in the mid afternoon, and finally return to town around closing time for some hard negotiations with the feisty ladies at the market.
what to do
Pisac Market - the market sits at the center of the tiny town, spans for many blocks, and is open every day of the week from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. On Sundays, the market is not only packed with textiles and local goods, but is the one day of the week where the local farmers pack in their homegrown fruits and vegetables to sell. Part of us wished we had visited on a Sunday, but we were also grateful for the minimal crowds. The vendors are typically dressed in traditional Peruvian attire, which creates a cultural experience and authentic atmosphere. Women wear the brightest colored clothing from head to toe (coordinating colors and patterns are optional) topped with a funky shaped, and sometimes tiny, hat. Most women have braided hair down to their waists with pom poms tied at the bottom. Children and alpacas wander the streets. Even if you are not into shopping, which we promise you will be, it is a great place to people watch and snap some photos.
When it comes to negotiating with vendors, I am quite shy and therefore horrible at it. I know that these women are working long hours weaving textiles to sell for a fraction of their face value. It's a moral battle knowing whether or not to bargain (which everyone says is expected) or paying them what they deserve in order to provide for their families. Daniel likes the challenge of bargaining, so I sat back and laughed watching Daniel and the local women go round and round and round, never quite knowing who would win. I think that the vendors love the challenge just as equally and love playing the 'who will win' game. Either way, we walked away with our backpack stuffed to its maximum capacity. The market has everything imaginable, including bracelets, blankets, ponchos, hats, sweaters, and even some of the cutest (and creepy) alpaca plush figures.
Pisac Incan Ruins - Instead of hiking to the top of the ruins from the market, we decided to grab a taxi to drive us to the top. We'd heard that the hike can take 4 or 5 hours round trip at moderate difficulty in the blistering sun. Our market browsing took a bit longer than we expected, so we grabbed a few cheese empanadas and flagged down the first taxi we saw on the east side of town. Daniel negotiated 23 soles (almost $7 USD) and we headed up, up, and away into the mountains. Along the way, the driver stopped at the ticket booth so that we could purchase our tickets. In rapid-fire Spanish, we gathered that the tickets cost 70 soles ($21 USD per person), but the driver said we just needed one ticket for both of us. A bit perplexed, we went with it and continued in the taxi. Upon arriving at the top of the ruins, the driver demanded 30 soles even though we negotiated 23 soles. He argued that because he stopped at the ticket booth for us (a mandatory stop), he deserved an additional $2 from us. We weren't having this, so after a few minutes of arguing, we handed him the 23 soles and exited the car. Not a week goes by that we don't argue with at least one or two taxi drivers.
how to get to pisac
Getting to Pisac from Cusco is short and simple. Head to Puputi Street where you'll see white vans driving to the top of the hill. There's usually a woman hanging out the van yelling "PISSSAAAACCCC" at the top of her lungs. Wave down the van, hop in, and pay the 4 soles ($1.20 USD) when you arrive in Pisac 45 minutes later. As an FYI, there is also a public bus for a similar price as the colectivo or the option to hire a taxi. A taxi will cost approximately $30 USD.
When you're done in Pisac and ready to head back to Cusco, the colectivo taxis leave from the same location you were dropped off at.