Pisac is a sample of Inca architecture at its best. It contains some of the best examples of Inca stonework as well as impressive engineering, hydraulic, and agricultural development. Strategically erected in a rather difficult place for its construction, perched on the crest of a hill, it was masterfully integrated in an overwhelming Andean landscape.
It is important to note that Písac is not just ruins. The colonial town is a living testimony of mestizo tradition, in which the inhabitants go to Mass dressed in their typical costumes. The market in Písac is a festival of color, in which the effervescent polychromy of the Andean dresses, delicately worked in rigorous and complicated geometric plots and the skillful production of their crafts, give account of the long romance between this Andean town and its cultural landscape.
Písac does not escape the famous Inca legends. The city presents a statue that is of very particular importance. It is said that the chief Huayllapuma had a daughter called Inquill and he offered her hand in marriage to the man who could build the bridge over the Willcamayu River – “Vilcanota” or “Urubamba” – (a bridge of great importance for the defense of the place) in just one night. In spite of the hard task, Asto Rímac – a handsome prince – decided to accept the challenge and to request the hand of the princess. The authorities of the place arranged everything so that when Asto Rímac began the work, the princess had to climb a hill without turning to look at the bridge; otherwise she and her fiancé would turn to stone. Almost at dawn, the prince had nearly finished his work, but Inquill, unable to bear it any more, let her curiosity get the better of her and turned to look. She was turned to stone and her statue remains in the main plaza to this day.
Písac or Pisaqa is located in the province of Calca, 30km east of Cusco. The most widespread version about the origin of its name is that it derives from the Quechua P’isaqa, the name of a gallinacea (chicken-like bird) similar to the partridge that is common in the area. There are those who maintain that the city has the shape of a partridge, based on the Inca custom of looking for animal references in the urban traces of their cities or in the form of rocks.
In the lower part, at level of the river (altitude 2,950m), is the colonial town of Písac, established in 1570, of rectangular trace, with a central square. The village is famous for its handicrafts and fairs that are held three times a week. In this area the comuneros still carry out the commercial exchange without coins as they did in pre-Hispanic times.
9km from the village, along a winding road leads to the archeological complex of Písac (established in approximately 1440), at an altitude of 3,250m. From there the views towards the valley are impressive. This location underlines the Inca custom of building villages in the high parts of the mountains, leaving the fertile lands of the valleys free for agricultur
The climate in Pisac is temperate and varies according to the seasons of the year (rain and dry), its average temperature is 10°c to 18°c.
There are two ways to get from Cusco to Pisac. The fastest and most comfortable route is to take a bus, which will take about 30 – 40 minutes from Cusco – Pisac. The second alternative is Cusco – San Salvador – Pisac is a longer route that goes through the southern part of Cusco.
THE INCA SETTLEMENT OF PISAC
The whole of Písac includes houses, aqueducts, roads, bridges, barracks, cemeteries, walls, ceremonial centers and a large sector of platforms. Písac is also known for the large number of towers (approximately 20) that are located in several points of the complex. Many of these constructions show great quality in the work of stonework, fine finishing and extraordinary precision in the joints.
Details of the stonework, in which the pink granite has been cut and placed with absolute precision, and in some cases seems to merge with the rock.
Divided in several parts of the hill, Písac is composed of sectors:
Amaru Punku: or “Gate of the snake” marks the entrance to the complex. It is remarkable that the typical trapezoidal door as well as the enormous stone hinges would have served to support a gate of great proportions. From there a narrow path leads to the main part of the complex.
Q’alla Q’asa: (q’alla – cut, q’asa – pass) owes its name to a tunnel excavated in the rock that connects with the top of the hill. It consists of about thirty buildings that comprised the residential area of the sentinels in Písac that were built following a technique called pirka, which is a stone wall joined by mudbrick. Its location is an example of the extraordinary Inca engineering
Intihuatana: means “mooring in the sun”, and probably served functions similar to that of Machu Picchu. The temple of the sun is embedded around a circular rock, emphasizing the concept that the mountains had a sacred character. A circular wall of fine stonework is located in this sector, denoting the importance it had with respect to the whole ensemble.
The chakana: a symbol in the form of a cross, symbolizes the three worlds of the Inca cosmogony. Hanan Pacha or world above, Kay Pacha or world here and Uku Pacha or the world below. Representative animals of these worlds were the condor, the puma and the snake respectively.
Tianayoc: located at the top of the Intihuatana, whose enclosures are distributed around a square, and probably were an administrative area. There is a rock carved here in the form of a seat.
P’isaqa: also called “the old quarter”, is a housing group that is located next to the ceremonial area and has semicircular platforms. Note that the finish of the stonework is pirca type, i.e. stones joined with mudbrick, as were most of the Inca constructions. Polished stone was used only for elite buildings.
- Acclimate for two or three days before the tour.
- Change your dollars into soles.
- Wear light clothing that will also keep you warm at night.
- Wear proper footwear.
- Hydrate yourself, drink plenty of mineral water.
- Use sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses