Most travellers and tourists stop by Ollantaytambo when heading to see one of the world’s seven wonders, Machu Picchu in the Andes mountains in Peru. Ollantaytambo is a little and last Peruvian village where most visitors get on a train to Machu Picchu, some 40 km further in the Sacred Valley of the Incas in the Peruvian Andes. Too often this adorable little village is passed in a hurry, though it works as a perfect basecamp to explore the Sacred Valley around. And there is a lot in the village itself. It is the best pre-served Inca village of some 3000 people with narrow alleys, locals still manually working on the terraced land and women doing handicrafts and preparing meals.
Ollantaytambo makes a perfect place to stay and do daytrips around the valley – or just enjoy amazingly beautiful mountain views. The village sits on river Urubaumba, runs through the mountains at all sides. This quiet little village can also be an excellent escape from the crowds or even a little retreat. Staying in the outskirts of the village in one of the multiple accommodations available is very relaxing. Another good thing is that since Ollantaytambo is situated at 2,9 kilometers above sea level, it is a good place to let your body adjust to changes in altitude. Many people visiting Machu Picchu arrive to the ancient inca capitol Cusco at 3,4 km above sea level by plane, stay there and make their way to MP a little later. An alternative way is to arrive to Cusco and leave for lower lands right away – to let your body adjust better.
We did just that and took a 2-hr ride with a local minibus to Ollantaytambo straight from the airport (or rather, a taxi to the bustop first). We stayed in Ollantaytambo for four nights – one more than orininally planned. We found a cute little bed&breakfast with the best and most comfortable beds and beddings during our entire round-the-world journey since then! It was the relaxing sound of only Rio Patakancha (river, and literally, you would not hear anything else from the B&B but the river) running from the mountains just next to our B&B, nice and nutritious breakfast and THE beds that made us extend the stay just to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet.
Important Inca town
Ollantaytambo is an important town in Inca history. The most powerful and famous Inca chief, chief Pachacutec overtook the village in 1440s and built the fortress as he did all the major ruins around, even Machu Picchu and capitol Cusco. He was the one who were behind the intelligent Inca architecture – the way how they could build strong temples without nails or bolts. Temples and houses were built with such brilliance to the strenght that they still stay strong during earthquakes.
After Pachacutec, chief Manco Inca fought the last Inca battle and nearly a massacre against the Spanish conquistadors who had difficulties reaching him. Him refusing to surrender, the Spanish finally captured his wife (and sister) Cura Ocllo and had her killed in their home village of Ollantaytambo and dumbed her body to the river Urubamba for Manco Inca to find it from his hide further down. After the 1537 battles and over the next century nearly whole population was deceased due to illnesses brought by the Spaniards.
The major ruins in Ollantaytambo overlook the village. Fortleza is a great fort with a Temple of Sun, defence and watch towers, houses, baths, and layered terraces for growing vegetables. Guard houses, little temples and defend forts surround the village in overlooking mountains.
Other great and interesting ruins of the Sacred Valley can be easily reached from this last city before railway to Machu Picchu. The famous Inca Trail begins here. Ruins of Moray with its circular system of Inca terraces and Maras salt mines near Urubabma are a short drive away, as are Chichero and Huchuy Cusco, not to mention the whole Machu Picchu historic Sanctuary with more than ten sights to visit.
Lively village lives day by day
Ollantaytambo is a lively little village with idyllic sights. As thousands of tourists stop by, several services are available. Pizzerias and other restaurants with “menu turistico” make a tiny little notch on the villages picture perfect inca scene, though. However, stroll down to the Plaza Mayor and tiny little alleys where you only hear the water running from the mountains in sewage systems built by the ancient Incas.
Besides ruins, restaurants and Plaza Mayor, another interesting sight is a handicraft market just in front of Fortaleza. By the market you also find a cute little Choco museum – heavenly for chocolate lovers. We actually ended up visiting this similar museum in Antigua, Guatemala, here in Ollantaytambo as well as in Cusco. Ollantaytambo has furthermore several options for accommodation – and plenty available especially in the rainy season! Train station located by the river Urubamba and a little walk dawn the hill from the town center. if you ever get to Ollantaytambo for “only” the train ride to Machu Picchu – do walk around a bit to enjoy the beautiful sights and easy, historic like, living of the current day Incas.
Machu Picchu lapsen kanssa
Korkeanpaikan leirillä Perun Andeilla
Lima in one day (coming soon!)
Cusco the Inca capitol