Ollantaytambo’s namesake archaeological site is one of the best examples of Incan architecture in the region. It’s easy to spend a half day exploring the temples and other structures there, especially if you factor in time to hike up beyond the ruins. Meanwhile, the quaint town itself remains much as it was in Incan times, with original houses, streets, and waterways. Some buildings are open to the public, offering a fascinating glimpse into a centuries-old way of life. Most Machu Picchu–bound trains leave from the station here.
Visit the Inca City of Ollantaytambo
Learn about Inca terraces and grain storage, find the profile of Inca god Viracocha carved into mountain stone, and take in the view of the charming town of Ollantaytambo (if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a rainbow!). Beautiful, interesting, and a beginning of the Inca trail if you plan to hike to Machu Picchu. After exploring the archeology, stop in at a cafe to take in the peaceful town plaza.
The Pre-Columbian city of Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo, Peru is the last enduring example of a pre-columbian city. Dating back to the 15th century the town maintains some of the oldest continuously inhabited houses in South America. The locals dress colorfully, often in hand woven clothing like these little girls who were playing near the Incan ruins that tower over the town. Located in the Sacred Valley of the Inca’s, Ollantaytambo is not far from Cuzco and there are several ways to get there. Nearly all travel agencies in Cuzco sell day trips to Ollantaytambo and surrounding areas. It is also possible to take a bus from Cuzco to Urubamba and then a connect to Ollantaytambo. Alternatively there is train service from Cuzco, but beware that this option is not cheap! There are separate trains for foreigners and locals and foreigners are strictly prohibited from riding on local trains.
We pulled into a small, dusty village. My guide stopped his car in the middle of the road and a young boy ran up to us. My guide spoke to him in Quechua. The boy then turned and called down the road. Suddenly, this quiet street was filled with women and young girls carrying armfuls of tapestries. They laid their wares on the road and created an impromptu market. The tapestries were beautiful, if I had more cash on me, I would have bought more (it’s a shame to be so ATM-spoiled), but the most amazing part was the children. They were so friendly and curious.
We pulled into a small, dusty village. My guide stopped his car in the middle of the road and this young boy ran up to us. My guide spoke to him in Quechua. The boy then turned and called down the road. Suddenly, this quiet street was filled with women and young girls carrying armfuls of tapestries. They laid their wares on the road and created an impromptu market. The tapestries were beautiful, if I had more cash on me, I would have bought more (it’s a shame to be so ATM-spoiled), but the most amazing part was the children. They were so friendly and curious.
Camera Lost...and Found
A few years ago in Peru my friend and I took a shared cab from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo. The views during the ride were so spectacular that I had to take a few photos along the way. Much to my dismay, after being dropped off I discovered that I had left my camera in the car. I sat in the main square wallowing in self pity hoping that the driver would notice it and bring it back. Just as I was about to give up hope (surely the driver was halfway back by now) another taxi driver approached me and said that I should check at the train station. Apparently, drivers will wait for the next train to arrive with the hopes of getting a return fare back to Cuzco. He drove us to the station, which was a sea of white taxis. We eventually identified our cab by the rabbit air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, but the driver was nowhere to be found. Several minutes later another driver was able to locate him for us. Some tipping was expected but it was a small price to pay. I never in a million years expected to be reunited with my camera and I couldn’t be more thankful to those who helped me with my search!!!
The legendary Inca Trail, at the start of day 2. The mist lifted, revealing how far we had come, and how far we had to go! Are we there yet?
No Deadwoman on this Pass
Yes that’s right Deadwomans Pass at 4215 metres stretches our breath and our legs, but we are not dead, in fact happy to reach the top! Our wonderful experience trekking the path of the Incas was hosted by Llama Path who we cannot speak more highly of, read more about them here http://www.worldwideadventurers.com/south-america/peru/inca-trail-with-the-red-army
Ollantaytambo, a quaint town lying on the opposite side of the Sacred Valley from Pisac is a thirty-minute drive from the Tambo del Inka in Urubamba. It offers a market, ruins and a glimpse into everyday small-town life in Peru. Enjoy stool-perching on the balcony of a grungy restaurant overlooking the city square, kicking off your hiking shoes, ordering a Cusqueña (warm) and observing the hive of townspeople going about their day. Incredible Trip to Peru: http://bit.ly/11IZdBX
Ancient Incan Grainery, Sunset
Wandering around the ruins of Ollantaytambo, an ancient Peruvian town about two hours from Machu Picchu, we looked up as dusk settled in to see this ancient Incan granary. It was wedged into the side of an intimidatingly steep mountain to store food and make it nearly inaccessible to thieves. Those are not clouds you see, but actually waves of smoke rolling across the valley from a nearby mountain which had just been set ablaze for slash-and-burn farming, employed by the locals. The smell of freshly ignited forest was all around us, and a burning sensation in our lungs was just beginning. Having met some adventurous travelers on the bus ride there, we challenged one another to reach the top of this mountain ruin and make it back down before sunset. Mission accomplished.
Negotiating with Llamas at Winaywayna
Our 6 mile day hike on the Inka Express Trail took us from 6,000-8,900 feet, starting at KM 104, after a short train ride from Ollantaytambo. Two hours into our trek we had reached the Winaywayna ruins at 8,700 feet, built into a steep hillside, consisting of the vestiges of housing complexes connected by staircase structures, with tiers of grass being grazed upon by a small congregation of llamas. Once we were espied, we noted one llama’s disdain for us by turning his rear end our way, a couple of tiers up the hillside and expelling his excrement our way. We had a hilarious time trying to get around them and had questions like, What do you do if one were to charge? Do you stand your ground? Do you run? Stare them down? Use negotiating skills? Sweet pleading? When our guide finally caught up with us we learned that the worst fallout would have been being spit on. From there on, the trail leveled off and we were able to stop and snap pictures of the flora: orchids, begonias, tree limbs sporting wispy, light green moss drifting with the breezes. There still were rocks and short-lived steep descents and ascents, nothing like the long continual ascent at the beginning. The Vilcanota River continued to be in view, as was a hydroelectric dam 2,000 feet below, seemingly out of place in this setting. At one point we were able to look back and bear witness to the ruins, which looked miniscule in retrospect, a measure of how far we had come since lunch. We intersected with the full four day hikers’ campgrounds as we neared the Sun Gate at 8,900 feet, the point at which we would walk through, gaining a view of Machu Picchu some 900 feet below and half a mile away. Our last hurdle was a wall of stones, 20 feet high, scaling them on all fours to gain this grand exit from the trail
A Living Inca Town
To explore a living ancient city is always a unique experience. Residents have been walking the cobblestone streets of Ollantaytambo since the 13th century and still try to maintain ancient traditions today. The town is divided into courtyards with most of the homes behind walls covered with fuchsia bougainvillea. Little has changed except for the occasional hostel or restaurant sign. Aqueducts are still filled with water running down from the mountains. A hillside fortress protected the valley from invaders. Storage facilities, used to replenish the supplies of warriors can be seen built into the mountain. Stones for both were queried from adjacent areas and into place by elaborate pulley systems and ramps. Visiting this area is like stepping back in time.
The Dramatic, Juxtaposed Landscape of Aguas Calientes, Peru
I was en route to Machu Picchu [Peru]. As I stepped off the train and began making my way through the small town of Aguas Calientes, perhaps out of sheer curiosity, I turned to look back. I was greeted by the most dramatic landscape I could ever imagine. I was at the base of mountainous land, yet at eye level with clouds. It was in that moment I felt a deep(er) connection with and appreciation for our Mother Earth. Life couldn’t be anymore beautiful.