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Peruvians have been living in Ollantaytambo Peru since the 13th century. Ollanta, as it is called by locals, sits beneath towering Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley. The terraced ruins of the fortress are impressive as are the soaring Andes mountains.
Ollantaytambo Peru’s altitude is 2800 m. Not as high as Cusco, but expect to be short of breath especially when climbing to the top of the Ollantaytambo ruins.
In Ollantaytambo Peru, women sell jewellery on streetcorners while clutching baby llamas. The call of “Taxi!” “Taxi!” pierces the air and there are plenty of tuk-tuks hovering. Tourists are heading in droves to Machu Picchu or returning from the sacred site. Ollantaytambo Peru is a hub.
Ollantaytambo is the epitome of ancient Peru making its way in the 21st century. Don’t be one of those tourists that fly through Ollantaytambo Peru. Stay awhile, saunter through the tiny cobbled streets past gurgling irrigation canals, and cascading flowers. You’ll be charmed by the things to do in Ollantaytambo Peru.
A Traveller’s Guide To Ollantaytambo Peru
1. Travel Between Cusco And Ollantaytambo
From Cusco to Ollantaytambo: Head to Puente Grau and take a colectivo (shared taxi in a minivan). The 2-hour journey (approximately) will take you through Urubamba, where there may a stop to pick up more passengers.
From Ollantaytambo to Cusco: Head to Plaza de Armas and join other travellers until a van is full and ready to go. Mid-week and in the off-season, you may have to wait around longer. Often there is a stop in the town of Urubamba.
Alternately, head to the Ollantaytambo train station, especially when the trains arrive from Agua Calientes and find a colectivo there.
Colectivo Cost: 10 soles ($4.00 Cdn) one way.
Colectivo in the shoulder season: As I arrived at Plaza de Armas in Ollantaytambo, the colectivo was full. I waited a while but there were no other tourists. The driver of the colectivo set to go next told me he would drive me solo, for the same cost of a private transfer or taxi (100 soles/$40 Cdn). We bargained back and forth and came to an agreement of 40 soles ($16 Cdn).
2. Visit The Ollantaytambo Ruins | Sitio Arqueológico de Ollantaytambo
The ruins of Ollantaytambo ruins are notable for several reasons. Here, at this very fortress and temple, is one of the places where the Incas defeated the Spanish conquistadors. The victory, although short-lived, is well remembered.
Not only were the Spaniards met by spears and arrows flying from the commanding fortress but as they beat a retreat through the Urubamba Valley, Manco Inca (the Inca leader) flooded the valley.
Today, these towering Ollantaytambo ruins are a natural stop when visiting sights in the Sacred Valley. Climb the over 200 terraced steps and visualize its use as a fortress. Marvel at the temples where both the sun and water were worshipped.
And the massive stones used to build the Ollantaytambo fortress? The ingenious Incas diverted the entire river to move the stones closer to the fortress.
Stand atop the Ollantaytambo ruins, take in the views of the Sacred Valley and watch the trains heading to Agua Calientes.
Sitio Arqueológico de Ollantaytambo | Ollantaytambo Ruins
Open: 7 am – 5 pm
Admission: use the boleto touristico
3. Peruse The Souvenir Market In Ollantaytambo Peru
In Ollantaytambo Peru, as you descend from the ruins you’ll find yourself amidst market stalls filled with gorgeous hats, scarves and a myriad of other souvenirs. If you’ve got room in your suitcase, try a little haggling and purchase a few treasures.
4. Climb To Pinkuylluna | Inkan Storehouses
In Ollantaytambo Peru, the other ruins that can be seen from town are also well worth the hike. It’s a free hike, that starts on Calle Lari, with stunning views from the top. The path is loose and super steep (yup – out of breath some more!) and not particularly well marked, although it would be hard to get lost if you keep the granaries in sight.
Built across from the main Ollantaytambo ruins, these ancient buildings were built as storehouses to keep a supply of grain in reserve. High in the mountains, the wind kept the grains aerated and fresh.
Most likely you will pass very few other hikers. Bring a picnic and relish your solitude in the Sacred Valley.
5. Stroll The Cobbled Streets
Stop for just one minute and imagine who has walked across these cobbled stones in Ollantaytambo Peru. Were they here 800 years ago? Did neighbours chat in the narrow lanes?
As the water trickles past, one thing is for certain. Clever engineers, centuries ago, routed water to where it was most needed.
6. Find The Inca Bridge | Puente Inca
A 15-minute walk from Plaza de Armas is the Inca bridge which spans the Rio Urubamba. The walk along the main road is a first-hand view of how much traffic pours in and out of Ollantaytambo Peru. Even in November, it is a very busy road.
Getting to the bridge was more interesting than the actual bridge. The walk was a unique glimpse into life in Ollantaytambo Peru. Intricate doorways, abandoned railways tracks and Peruvian ladies taking their shortcut from town to cross the ancient bridge back to their homes.
7. Hidden Ollantaytambo Peru
It’s not hard to wander away from the crowds in Ollantaytambo Peru. You never know what you’ll see…
gasoline for sale,
an Inca warrior,
flowering trees that have existed for centuries and
a classic lovebug!
8. Ollantaytambo Peru | Gateway to Machu Picchu
If you are going to Machu Picchu, you will at some point pass through Ollantaytambo Peru. PeruRail and Inca Rail leave from the Ollantaytambo train station. Purchase your ticket online and be very sure in peak season to buy it early. The regular class tickets are in a train car with ample windows to marvel at the passing landscapes. It is a stunning journey.
On the return to Ollantaytambo Peru, I hopped off the train and walked back to my hotel. Where everybody exits the train station there were crowds of taxi and shuttle drivers looking to connect with particular hotel guests for the drive back from Ollantaytambo to Cusco.
9. Where To Eat | Ollantaytambo Peru
Chuncho: This new restaurant is run by the same family that operates the El Albergue Restaurant at the Ollantaytambo train station. They also run Café Mayu on the train platform where you can grab a snack to enjoy on the train trip to Agua Calientes. Need a healthy box lunch for your day trip to Machu Picchu? These guys can help you out.
Chuncho, centrally located in Plaza de Armas, is a beautiful space to savour local flavours and food from the family’s organic farm and the Sacred Valley.
Open: 7 days a week for lunch and dinner
Hearts Café: This café serves healthy meals of good-sized portions. Get a window seat upstairs to get a birds-eye-view of the action on the main street. Some of the proceeds go to supporting local families in the Sacred Valley with healthy living and warm clothing.
Sip an Inca Kola: With a name like that, you just have to try this bright yellow, sickly sweet pop. You’ll find it everywhere!
Open: 7 am – 9 pm
La Esquina: This little corner café and bakery comes in handy when looking for a bite to eat.
Open: 7 am – 9 pm
10. Where to Stay | Ollantaytambo Peru
There are plenty of places to stay in Ollantaytambo in all the price ranges. Check here to see the Ollantaytambo hotels.
B & B Picaflor Tambo: I booked Picaflor Tambo through Booking.com. Situated in a lovely old home, this hotel in Ollantaytambo checks all the boxes and the staff was outstanding. They also have a shuttle service that will pick you up directly from the Cusco airport.