on September 28, 2006
Twenty one miles to the east of Cusco is the quaint little town of Pisaq, nowadays famous for its huge tourist market rather than the Incan fortress, perched dramatically on a mountain spur 600m above.The tourist craft market in Pisaq is held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, although Sunday’s are normally the biggest and busiest. Held in the main square of Pisaq underneath some very imposing ancient trees, it’s surrounded by a varied selection of restaurants. Due to the number of tourists, expect to pay higher than normal prices. You can find crafts and souvenirs of every distinction, and be prepared to get lost amongst the vast maze of stalls on offer. Many of the market traders are dressed in traditional clothing, although it seems as though it’s worn for tourists rather than for everyday existence. Even with its size, the prices and quality on offer are not as good as other places nearby. Personally I would choose to buy souvenirs from Chinchero, which is normally a stop off point later in the day if taking a tour of the Sacred Valley.Located directly opposite the tourist market is a more traditional market, selling livestock, fruits and vegetables, and other necessities. Unfortunately I was unable to find this as the tourist market seems to have taken over. I presume this is where the money is to be made, which was a little disappointing as I was hoping to see a selection of severed sheep heads, that I had been told were sold there!On Sundays in Pisaq, you can also visit Mass at 11am, held inside the church in the middle of the main square. This is a very interesting spectacle as the Mass is given in the Andean language of Quechua and is attended by local dignitaries and the mayor. The highlight of the trip here for me though was not the tourist market. Instead it was sitting in a local’s house drinking the alcoholic brew known as Chicha. If you take a walk just a couple of roads off from the main market, life returns to a steady relaxed pace and like stepping into a completely different town. Look for houses displaying a red plastic bag hanging from the wall. Upon enquiring about Chicha, a maize fermented drink, you will be led into the house and given a glass full of this liquor, setting you back approximately $0.30. This is a perfect opportunity to speak with the local inhabitants, who find it quite a comedy that Gringo’s are in their house. This was a more pleasurable experience for me, as I wasn’t buying anything from the market, although I still had plenty of time to look around it afterwards.The market is open between 7am and 5pm and is free to enter. If you want to visit the Incan ruins then entry is included in the ‘Boleto Turistico’ ticket, which costs approximately $25 and gives you access to 15 other attractions nearby.
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