What Is The Traditional Flower For Day Of The Dead The World Famous Pisac Market and Town, Peru

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The World Famous Pisac Market and Town, Peru

Pisac is only 32 kilometers from Cusco, so it is easily and cheaply accessible by public bus (from Calle Tullumayo) or 12-seater transport (from Calle Puputi). The 45-minute ride is stunning in its own right, offering panoramic views of the city of Cusco as you depart, and equally dramatic views as you approach Pisac and descend 600 meters into the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

The village is located along the Urubamba River, shadowed by the spectacular Peruvian Andes that rise on both sides of the valley and nestled beneath narrow rows of terraces that descend steep mountainsides from the ancient Inca citadel above. It has been suggested that these terraces symbolize the partridge’s wing – p’isaqa in the indigenous Quechua language – hence the name of the village. Apparently, partridges can often be seen in the local area in the evenings, and the Incas had a tradition of designing their settlements in the form of sacred birds and animals.

The Inca settlement in Pisac was destroyed by the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors in the early 1530s. Spanish colonial policy forced the natives to live in villages, in order to better control them, so in the 1570s the viceroy of Toledo founded the modern city of Pisac in the valley below the ruins.

Like all Peruvian villages, the town expands from a central square, dominated by a huge terrace spell (erythrina falcate) tree. The pisonay is a type of legume – in fact, one of the largest legumes in the Peruvian Andes, it has bright red tubular flowers that are pollinated by hummingbirds, and was considered sacred by the Incas. Writer’s giant pisonay it can be as old as 500 years.

As well as its Inca ruins, Pisac is world famous for its traditional market, and it’s often hard to see that huge tree because of all the plastic-covered stalls that fill the square. The biggest market is on Sundays, when local women fill the square to sell their homegrown fruits and vegetables, meat and herbs, groceries and clothes.

But during the peak tourism months of May to September, large tourist markets are also held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and smaller ones are held every day, running along the streets surrounding the square. The selection of merchandise available for sale is almost unbelievable. The list of arts and crafts and souvenirs includes, but is not limited to: local semi-precious stones (“Serpentine is the stone of Machu Picchu,” the vendor will tell you); silver jewelry and trinkets (many of them set with the same semi-precious stones); super soft and very warm alpaca knit and wool, if you want to make your own sweater; hats of all shapes, sizes, fabrics and designs, from complex patterns chullos (hat with flaps) to leather sombreros; carpets made of llama wool with a pattern of traditional Inca symbols; handmade fabrics dyed with natural dyes; elaborately carved gourds; as well as the usual range of tourist t-shirts and caps.

But you can’t just go to Pisac for retail therapy, although that’s great. The city is also an epicurean delight. There is a traditional bakery, with a large adobe oven, in the street next to the main square. It provides a communal kitchen for those locals who don’t have an oven – they deliver uncooked food and pay a few soles to have it baked. Take the opportunity to try a delicious empanada, hot from the oven, but be warned for the squeamish among you – this is also where you can see a whole cooked guinea pig fresh from the oven. Bizarrely, in one corner of the bakery’s yard is a multi-story house for live guinea pigs – so you can see them dead and alive simply by turning your head.

In addition to those fresh empanadas, Pisac boasts plenty of great restaurants, from traditional local restaurants to those run by some of the foreigners who call Pisac home. You can easily taste indigenous dishes or satisfy your desire for homemade cookies or apple pie and ice cream.

And you really have to walk around town. Your explorations will be rewarded with photographs of fascinating sculptural reliefs on building facades; ornately carved wooden doors and windows; small botanical garden; an interesting cemetery; and intriguing bulls on rooftops.

Despite the daily influx of hundreds of tourists, disembarked from their air-conditioned buses during dizzying tours of the Holy Valley, the town has retained its traditional atmosphere. The women dress up in their colorful native costumes, and not just for the few soles that tourists pay to be photographed.

At one end of town is a small colonial church where Sunday morning mass is held in Quechua, and traditionally dressed men enter and leave the church before and after the service. You might even be lucky enough to visit Pisac during the annual Virgen del Carmen celebration from July 15-18. It is a noisy and colorful time, with processions of statues of saints, musicians and dancers performing in the streets, loud explosions of firecrackers and much feasting and drinking.

A walk outside the city will give you an insight into local farming methods – depending on the time of year you visit, you might see bulls plowing the fields or people hoeing their small plots; the beautiful yellows, oranges and reds of quinoa – the new superfood – ripening on the slopes; irrigation canals dating back to Inca times, as well as an incredible view of the Sacred Valley in the direction of 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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