High above the colonial market town of Pisaq, today the gateway for many tourists to the Sacred Valley, are some of the finest Inca ruins in existence. They might not be in a location quite as beautiful as Machu Picchu, or on a scale quite as monumental as Sacsayhuamán, but the stonework here is some of the best you will ever see in Peru or elsewhere. Spanning about a kilometre or two along a mountain ridge at 3250 metres above sea level, its sections are separated by natural terrain but accessible by paths and tunnels. As you march from one urban area to another along these paths, with steep drops all the way, you can’t help but be awestruck by it all.
There are two ways to approach these ruins. The first way is head on and straight up (as in almost vertical) from today’s Pisaq which takes you up the Acchapata terraces to a fork in the path that leads you up further with the Intihuanta ceremonial centre as the main destination or along more terraces to the ruins of the Pisaqa urban zone. From either of these you visit the other before walking along further away from Pisaq until you reach the military district of Q’alla Q’asa, the cemetery of T’antana Marka, more terraces, the Inca baths and the final urban area of Qantus Raccay. You must then double back and do it all again to reach home.
The second way costs a little money and feels like cheating but is in fact not only the most efficient way in terms of time and energy, but is also the best way to see the ruins. I’ve done both and recommend this one. You take a taxi to the paradero alto, which is just behind the last and furtherst urban area called Qantus Raccay. You then do the hike through the ruins from the rough military and agricultural areas, through the guard posts and tunnel to views over the finer district of Pisaqa and the ceremonial centre, after which you’ve visited, you descend into the colonial town of Pisaq. Tell your driver you will be walking down.