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A Complete Travel Guide to Ollantaytambo, Peru (2023 Update)

Written by: Kevin Groh

Ollantaytambo Peru in the Sacred Valley Guide

According to recent statistics, tourism to Peru is on the rise. It’s no wonder that 2.7 million travelers visit the beautiful nation in just one year, either. With its many historic sites, world wonders, and friendly locals, Peru is one of the most engaging and enlightening destinations for tourists.

Here, we’re going to discuss how you can prepare for your trip to Ollantaytambo, Peru. Read on to learn all that you need to know before booking a tour of the city so that you can hike and explore!

Ollantaytambo Peru Basic Facts and History

Ollantaytambo is a tiny town near Cusco that’s part of the Sacred Valley of the Inca people. The appeal of the town is that it’s rife with Inca architecture and artwork that stems back to the 15th century. Hiking the Inca trail to Machu Picchu is a magnificent way to see Peru, and that’s what you’ll be doing on our Inca Trail tour.

The Ollantaytambo ruins are one of the last remnants of the fallen Inca empire. When the Spanish invaded Peru and battled the indigenous Inca people, Ollantaytambo was a stronghold for the leader of Inca resistance. The ruins of his fortress stand today as one of the greatest attractions in the area, so naturally, you’re going to want to experience them!

Where to Stay In Ollantaytambo Peru

Most nights, you and your tour group can sleep under the stars amidst the beautiful city. However, if camping isn’t for you or you simply want to look into other options, it’s still a good idea to check out hotels in the area. 

You might choose to stay in Cusco, a town with many different hotels, but there are also places that you can stay in the heart of Ollantaytambo. Do your research and find something that works for you!

Sites to See in Ollantaytambo Peru

Now that you know what to pack and some facts that will help you get through day-to-day life in Peru, it’s time to look at some of the sites that you can’t miss. Peru is known for its rich history and interesting culture, so you want to make sure that you see all that the nation has in store. Read on for some places that you absolutely can’t miss when embarking on your adventure!

Ollantaytambo Ruins in Peru

The Ollantaytambo Ruins are one of the highlights of the Sacred Valley in Peru. The main attraction of the town is the Ollantaytambo Fortress. This large 15th century Ollantaytambo archaeological site is one of Peru’s best well-preserved ruins. There is also the Temple of the Sun and Despositos de Pinkuylluna. To get access to the ruins you will need to purchase a boleto turistico which can be done at any of the Sacred Valley Inca ruin sites. 

Temple of the Sun

The Ollantaytambo ruins were built in the 1400s. Temple Hill (another name for the ruins) and the Temple of the Sun that stands on it are made from huge stone monoliths. These hide the ruins of the Princess Baths, where the Inca people once partook in ceremonial bathing for religious purposes. As you hike up to the top of Temple Hill, you will pass by many temples and fountains that once had significance to these indigenous Peruvians.

From here, locals (or your awesome tour guide) will also likely point out the large Inca face carved into one of the many cliffs above the valley! Plus, when you get to the top, you can look down at the rest of Ollantaytambo and revel in the way that Inca towns were structured. While it’s a bustling tourist city now, the layout and cobblestone roads remain unchanged from the days when they were inhabited by the Inca people.

Despositos de Pinkuylluna

This part of the Ollantaytambo ruins is an archeological site built by the Incas in the 1400s. This site is made up of Inca storehouses that were erected at a high altitude to protect their food from spoiling in warm weather conditions. It was essentially a stronghold intended to preserve their basic necessities in case of a natural disaster or an attack.

Today, you can hike along the ruins of these storehouses for an up-close view of the architecture. You also can look down for a gorgeous bird’s-eye view of the rest of the city. After that, you can continue on your hike up the hills.

The Old Town Streets

In Peru, there is only one town that was built centuries ago by the Incas. That’s the Old Town area of Ollantaytambo. Stepping into this town feels like going back in time to before the Spanish invasion. You’ll feel like you’ve gone on a journey that transcends centuries when standing among the Inca artwork and stone terraces.

However, the Inca Old Town is anything but dead. It’s one of the liveliest areas in Peru.

This area is still inhabited by locals with whom you can talk and share stories. Make sure to ask them about their day-to-day lives, traditions, and customs. Listen actively and take in everything that they’re saying- after all, it’s super interesting!

Old Town Ollantaytambo in a Valley with Houses

Mercado San Pedro

If you’re so inclined, you can also purchase souvenirs from the indigenous people who live in Cuzco’s central market.

Many of these items will be hand-crafted, so make sure you take a look at all of the one of a kind items before making a decision. The people who have created them will be more than happy to help you find the right item to purchase as a keepsake for yourself or a present that a loved one will cherish.

You can also try the amazing food dishes in this area, including pig’s head caldo soup and spicy potatoes with cheese sauce.

Take a Gorgeous Hike

Wandering through town is a great way to experience the way that those native to Peru live.

The many street vendors and independent restaurants will serve delicious food that’s indigenous to the area. Make sure that you sample ceviche, Papas a la Huancaína (spicy potatoes and cheese), and Lomo Saltado (stir-fried beef). If you’re really adventurous, Cuy- known to most as guinea pig- is a local delicacy!

As you wander, keep an eye out for houses that have a red plastic bag hanging on a post in their yard. This bag is an invitation to go inside and drink a local corn brew called chicha. If you brushed up on your Spanish before the trip, you can converse with locals as you try the brew. Ask your tour guide when you can stop at a place like this!

Outside the well-populated areas, you can also hike the more abandoned areas of Ollantaytambo. The ruins are a great place to hike, of course, but wandering through the town streets and looking at the architecture is another awesome way to get a feel for what Inca art and culture were like.

    Ollantaytambo Mountains under white clouds

    Terraces and Granaries

    As we touched on before, the terraces of Ollantaytambo are covered in Incan art and hand-drawn symbols. Looking at these is an interesting way to learn how these people communicated, saw the world, and interacted with their religious beliefs.

    Many of these terraces have granaries nearby, which are ancient structures intended to store grain for safekeeping. Like the storehouses we discussed earlier, these granaries were meant to stop the food supplies of the Incas from being compromised in the event of an enemy attack.

    The Ritual Sector

    The ritual sector refers to a small area at the far end of Ollantaytambo. It looks like a quarry and has an unfinished aesthetic, but it actually was a bustling hub of life for the Incan people. This sector was home to many buildings and other spaces used for ritual celebrations, most of them having to do with water.

    The reason for this is that the temple that stands in this area was a celebration of the water that gave the Incans life!

    Yanacocha Lagoon

    Speaking of water, the Yanacocha Lagoon is a gorgeous lake that sits at 3,900 meters above sea level. Not only is it amazing to sit by the dark waters and peer in, but you also will get a beautiful view of the Sacred Valley.

    This is definitely a place you’ll want to check out for an afternoon near calming waters! It also is the location of many traditional Inca stories, so make sure that you read up on your culture and history before heading out.

    Machu Picchu

    The Inca face carved into the side of the cliffs of Ollantaytambo gives you a taste of Inca artwork. However, it’s nothing compared to the glory of Machu Picchu, which is one of the seven wonders of the world.

    Ollantaytambo is often a stop on the way to Machu Picchu, which is only about 2 hours away by train. However, walking the Inca trail is a much more authentic way to experience the journey to this historic site.

    This Inca citadel also dates back to the 1400s and was likely created to be an estate for one of their emperors. Like Ollantaytambo’s strongholds, it was abandoned around the time that the Spanish invaded and became a ruin over time. However, that doesn’t stop it from being hauntingly beautiful even today.

    When you take our tour of Machu Picchu, you’ll see all three of its primary structures: the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of Three Windows. The entirety of this lost city is a gorgeous place to hike and revel and mourn in the mystery of a lost culture and an abandoned community.

    Machu Picchu through a ruin window on a cloudy day

    Travel to Ollantaytambo and Beyond

    While there are a lot of amazing venues in the world that you could choose for your next trip, none are as uniquely beautiful as Ollantaytambo.

    Now that you know the many things that you can do in Ollantaytambo, Peru, it’s time to get started with planning your trip. Book a Peruvian tour with us to ensure that you have a chance to see one of the most beautiful nations in the world in all of its glory.

    Our expert guides will take you on hikes all around the country and stop to tell you about the most interesting historic sites around Peru, so what are you waiting for? Sign up today for the journey of a lifetime!

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