Ollantaytambo Peru: A Guide to Sacred Ruins

Ollantaytambo Peru in the Sacred Valley Guide

Ollantaytambo, a small town located in the Sacred Valley of Peru, holds great historical and architectural significance. This ancient site was once a strategic stronghold for the Inca Empire and is now a popular destination for tourists from around the world. Here is a breakdown of the main topics to be covered in the article:

Ollantaytambo played a crucial role in the Inca Empire, serving as a fortress and a strategic point for defense against invasions. It holds historical importance as it was a site where the Inca forces achieved a significant victory against the Spanish conquistadors.

The architectural marvels of Ollantaytambo are awe-inspiring. The site features the impressive Temple of the Sun, showcasing the exceptional stone masonry skills of the Inca civilization. The intricate terraces and water channels are other fascinating aspects of the architecture.

Ollantaytambo has become a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors with its rich history and archaeological wonders. Tourists can explore the well-preserved ruins of Ollantaytambo and learn about the ancient civilization that once thrived here. The town itself offers a charming experience with its cobblestone streets, traditional houses, and local market.

There are several ways to reach Ollantaytambo. One option is to take a scenic train ride from Cusco, passing through the stunning landscapes of the Sacred Valley. Alternatively, travelers can opt for a bus journey that offers a more budget-friendly option while still showcasing the beauty of the route.

To make the most of your visit, it is important to consider the best time to explore Ollantaytambo. The dry season, which spans from May to September, is generally recommended as it offers pleasant weather and clear skies, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the ruins.

With its historical significance, remarkable architecture, and thriving tourism scene, Ollantaytambo has much to offer for travelers seeking a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Peru.

Key takeaways:

  • Ollantaytambo is a historical site with significant importance: Ollantaytambo was a key location in the Inca Empire and served as a fortress. It provides insight into the rich history and culture of the region.
  • Ollantaytambo showcases impressive architecture: The Temple of the Sun and the intricate terraces and water channels highlight the advanced architectural skills of the Incas.
  • Ollantaytambo is a popular tourist destination: Visitors can explore the ruins and immerse themselves in the ancient atmosphere. The town itself offers a charming experience with its cobblestone streets and traditional culture.

Historical Significance of Ollantaytambo

Historical Significance of Ollantaytambo - ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo, rich in historical significance, showcases the captivating stories of the Inca Empire and the fortress that stood resilient through time. Discover the intriguing past of Ollantaytambo as we delve into the ancient mysteries and architectural marvels that have made it a renowned landmark. Uncover the secrets of this historical gem and immerse yourself in the tales of an empire and the formidable fortification that guarded its people.

The Inca Empire

was a powerful civilization that existed in Peru from the 13th century until the 16th century. It was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America and stretched along the western coast of South America, encompassing parts of modern-day Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile.

The Inca Empire was known for its incredible organizational skills and engineering feats. They built an extensive road network, known as the Inca Road, which connected their vast territory. This allowed for the efficient movement of goods and people within the empire.

One of the most impressive aspects of the Inca Empire was their architecture. They constructed magnificent cities and temples, such as Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo. These structures were built using massive stones, carefully cut and fitted together without the use of mortar. The precision of their construction techniques is still admired today.

The Inca Empire also had a sophisticated agricultural system. They cultivated terraced fields, which allowed them to grow crops at high altitudes and in mountainous regions. They implemented advanced irrigation systems to ensure the availability of water for their agriculture.

Today, visitors to Ollantaytambo can witness the remnants of the Inca Empire. The site contains well-preserved ruins, including temples, terraces, and water channels. Exploring these structures offers a glimpse into the incredible architectural and engineering capabilities of the Inca civilization.

To fully appreciate the historical significance of Ollantaytambo and the Inca Empire, it is recommended to hire a knowledgeable guide who can provide insights into the history and culture of the region. By understanding the achievements of the Inca Empire, visitors can gain a deeper appreciation for the rich history of Peru and its indigenous people.
Beware, Ollantaytambo’s fortress will make you feel like a tiny ant facing an Inca-sized challenge.

Ollantaytambo as a Fortress

Located in the Sacred Valley of Peru, Ollantaytambo served as a formidable fortress for the Inca Empire. Thanks to its strategic position, the Incas were able to effectively defend against potential invaders and control access to the region. What sets Ollantaytambo apart are its impressive stone walls that still stand strong today.

The architectural marvel of Ollantaytambo as a fortress highlights the exceptional engineering skills of the Incas. These massive walls were constructed with perfectly fitted stones, completely devoid of any mortar. This ingenious construction created a robust defense system, featuring narrow stairways and terraces that gave the warriors advantageous viewpoints.

The strategic design of Ollantaytambo as a fortress also incorporated intricate water channels. These channels served as a reliable source of water for the fortress inhabitants and could be utilized to flood areas beyond the walls, impeding the progress of any potential enemies.

Today, visitors have the opportunity to explore the remnants of Ollantaytambo as a fortress and marvel at its historical significance. This site offers a unique chance to step back in time, immersing oneself in the brilliance of Inca Empire’s military prowess.

If you have a deep interest in ancient civilizations and military architecture, a visit to Ollantaytambo as a fortress is an absolute must. Allow yourself to be immersed in history, witnessing firsthand the grandeur of this awe-inspiring archaeological site.

Old Town Ollantaytambo in a Valley with Houses

The Architecture of Ollantaytambo

The architecture of Ollantaytambo is a captivating testament to the ingenuity and skill of ancient civilizations. Take a journey through this section and discover the wonders of Ollantaytambo’s architectural marvels. From the majestic Temple of the Sun to the intricate terraces and water channels, each sub-section showcases distinct aspects of this ancient city’s design and construction. Prepare to be amazed by the remarkable feats achieved by the architects and craftsmen of Ollantaytambo.

Temple of the Sun

The Temple of the Sun in Ollantaytambo is an impressive architectural marvel that holds great historical and cultural significance. Here are some key features and facts about this iconic structure:

  • Unique Design: The Temple of the Sun showcases exquisite Inca architecture. It is built on a hillside and consists of massive stones meticulously carved and fitted together without the use of mortar.
  • Religious Importance: The temple was a sacred site dedicated to Inti, the Inca Sun God. It served as a place of worship, ceremonies, and astronomical observation.
  • Impressive Stonework: The temple features giant stones, some weighing up to 50 tons, which were transported from quarries located several kilometers away. The precision and skill in the stone masonry are awe-inspiring.
  • Sun Temple Rituals: It is believed that the temple was used for rituals related to the solstices and equinoxes. The alignment of certain elements within the temple would allow sunlight to enter and illuminate specific areas during these events.
  • Symbolic Elements: The Temple of the Sun incorporates various symbolic elements, such as trapezoidal-shaped doorways and windows, niches for sacred objects, and intricate carvings representing Inca cosmology and mythology.
  • Tourist Attraction: Today, the Temple of the Sun is a popular tourist destination in Ollantaytambo. Visitors can explore the ruins, marvel at the impressive architecture, and learn about the intriguing history and beliefs associated with this sacred site.

Visiting the Temple of the Sun provides a glimpse into the remarkable Inca civilization and their mastery of architecture and spirituality.

Terraces and water channels: where the Inca Empire turned agriculture into a full-contact sport.

Terraces and Water Channels

The terraces and water channels in Ollantaytambo are notable characteristics of the architecture in this ancient Inca city. These terraces, constructed on the steep slopes of the mountainside, served as a resilient and efficient method for cultivating crops in the mountainous terrain. Apart from enhancing the agricultural productivity of the city, these terraces also played a crucial role in preventing soil erosion.

On the other hand, the water channels were meticulously designed to distribute water throughout the city. Capturing water from natural sources, such as rivers and springs, these channels were ingeniously built to deliver it to the terraces and other areas in the city. The precise construction and maintenance of these water channels illustrate the outstanding engineering skills of the Inca civilization.

When visiting Ollantaytambo, tourists have the opportunity to explore these outstanding terraces and water channels, marveling at the brilliance and craftsmanship of the Inca people. As you walk along the terraces, you can envision the thriving agriculture that once thrived in this area. By examining the water channels, you can gain an appreciation for the sophisticated irrigation system that sustained the city.

To fully appreciate the terraces and water channels, it is recommended to hire an experienced guide who can provide detailed explanations and historical context. Visitors must respect and preserve these ancient structures by refraining from causing damage or littering in the area.

By visiting the terraces and water channels in Ollantaytambo, you can deepen your understanding of the remarkable architectural achievements of the Inca civilization and acknowledge the significance of sustainable agriculture in their society.

Tourism in Ollantaytambo

Tourism in Ollantaytambo - ollantaytambo

With its captivating ruins and vibrant town, tourism in Ollantaytambo offers an enchanting blend of historical exploration and cultural immersion. In this section, discover the wonders of visiting the ruins, where ancient mysteries come to life amidst towering stone structures. Then, we’ll delve into the charm of exploring the town, where narrow cobblestone streets lead to picturesque squares bustling with local life. Get ready to embark on a remarkable journey through the heart of Ollantaytambo!

Visiting the Ruins

Visiting the ruins of Ollantaytambo is an awe-inspiring experience worth exploring. The ruins showcase the architectural brilliance of the Inca Empire and offer a glimpse into their rich history. Exploring the ruins allows visitors to immerse themselves in the ancient world and appreciate the significance of this archaeological site.

The ruins consist of impressive structures, such as the Temple of the Sun and the intricate terraces and water channels. The Temple of the Sun, with its massive stone blocks and precise craftsmanship, is a testament to the Inca’s advanced engineering skills. The terraces and water channels not only served as agricultural systems but also helped in irrigation and water management.

To fully appreciate the ruins, it is recommended to hire a local guide who can provide in-depth knowledge and insights into the historical significance of each structure. The guides can bring the ruins to life by sharing captivating stories and legends.

When visiting the ruins, it is advisable to wear comfortable shoes as there is a fair amount of walking involved. It is important to carry water, sunscreen, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.

Visiting the ruins of Ollantaytambo is a unique opportunity to step back in time and witness the grandeur of the Inca Empire. The breathtaking views and majestic structures make it a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and those seeking to connect with ancient civilizations.

Exploring the Town

  • Explore the charming streets of Ollantaytambo, taking a leisurely stroll and immersing yourself in the rich history and vibrant culture.
  • Visit the local market to browse through an array of colorful crafts, textiles, and traditional Peruvian products, truly exploring the town.
  • Stop by the Plaza de Armas, the main square of the town, and marvel at the colonial architecture surrounding it while exploring Ollantaytambo.
  • Discover the fascinating Inca ruins that are scattered throughout the town, offering a glimpse into the ancient civilization that once thrived here, and truly exploring the town.
  • Enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants and cafes, serving traditional Peruvian cuisine as well as international dishes, while exploring the charm of Ollantaytambo.
  • Immerse yourself in the local community by visiting the community center or participating in traditional workshops and activities, truly exploring the town of Ollantaytambo.
  • Take a leisurely walk along the Rio Urubamaba, a picturesque river that flows through the town, offering scenic views and a tranquil atmosphere, while exploring the town.
  • Explore the nearby hiking trails and natural surroundings, such as the Pinkuylluna Mountain, which offers breathtaking views of the town and surrounding valleys, while exploring Ollantaytambo.

To make the most of your time exploring the town of Ollantaytambo, be sure to wear comfortable shoes, stay hydrated, and bring a camera to capture the beauty of this historic destination. Don’t forget to immerse yourself in the local culture and interact with the friendly locals to truly experience the charm of Ollantaytambo.


Ollantaytambo Mountains under white clouds

How to Get to Ollantaytambo

Getting to Ollantaytambo, the ancient Inca fortress nestled in the Sacred Valley of Peru, is a journey that offers two distinct options. Whether you choose to embark on a scenic train ride through rugged landscapes or prefer the convenience of a bus, this section will guide you through the different ways to reach this historical marvel. So, hop aboard as we explore the transportation alternatives that will lead you to the awe-inspiring wonders of Ollantaytambo.

By Train

When exploring Ollantaytambo, one of the best ways to get there is by train. Traveling by train to Ollantaytambo offers a comfortable and scenic journey. The train journey takes you through breathtaking landscapes, including the stunning Andes Mountains. The train ride allows you to relax and enjoy the views while anticipating your arrival at this historical destination.

The train to Ollantaytambo is operated by PeruRail, a renowned company known for its exceptional service. They offer different classes of service, including luxury options, to suit various preferences and budgets. The trains are well-maintained and provide a safe and enjoyable travel experience for tourists.

To get to Ollantaytambo by train, you can catch the train from Cusco or Poroy station. The journey takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the train and departure point. It is advisable to book your train tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to ensure availability.

Traveling by train to Ollantaytambo not only allows for a convenient and comfortable journey but also adds to the overall experience of visiting this historic site. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Peruvian landscape and create lasting memories on your journey to Ollantaytambo.

In history, trains played a crucial role in the development of transportation and connectivity. They revolutionized travel, facilitating the movement of people, goods, and ideas. The advent of train travel brought distant places closer, fostering cultural exchange and economic growth. Today, trains continue to be an important mode of transportation, serving as a link between different regions and offering travelers a unique and memorable way to explore the world.
Ready to embark on a bumpy ride? Hop on the bus to Ollantaytambo and brace yourself for a historical adventure!

By Bus

To visit Ollantaytambo, one of the ways to get there is by bus. Traveling by bus is a convenient and affordable option for travelers. There are several bus companies that operate routes to Ollantaytambo from different cities in Peru, such as Cusco and Lima.

When traveling by bus to Ollantaytambo, it is important to consider the duration of the journey. The travel time can vary depending on the departure city and the specific bus company. On average, the bus journey from Cusco to Ollantaytambo takes approximately 2 to 3 hours.

Booking your bus ticket in advance is recommended, especially during peak travel seasons. This ensures that you have a reserved seat and avoids any last-minute availability issues. Many bus companies offer online booking options for convenience.

While on the bus, enjoy the scenic views of the Peruvian countryside as you make your way to Ollantaytambo. Sit back, relax, and soak in the beauty of the Andean landscapes.

Once you arrive in Ollantaytambo, you will have easy access to explore the town and its historical sites, including the ruins and the famous Temple of the Sun. From Ollantaytambo, you can also take a train to visit the stunning Machu Picchu.

Traveling by bus to Ollantaytambo is a great option for those who prefer affordable and flexible transportation. It allows you to have a comfortable journey while experiencing the charm of the Peruvian countryside.

Best Time to Visit Ollantaytambo - ollantaytambo


Best Time to Visit Ollantaytambo

The best time to visit Ollantaytambo is during the dry season, which spans from May to September. The weather is generally clear and sunny, making it ideal for exploring the archaeological site and enjoying outdoor activities. Here are some reasons why the dry season is the best time to visit:

  1. Weather: During the dry season, Ollantaytambo experiences minimal rainfall and cooler temperatures. This is a great time for hiking and exploring the ruins without the discomfort of rain or excessive heat.
  2. Crowds: The dry season is considered the peak tourist season in Ollantaytambo. There will be more visitors during this time, especially in the months of June, July, and August. Compared to the rainy season, the crowds are still relatively manageable.
  3. Train Availability: Ollantaytambo is a popular starting point for the train journey to Machu Picchu. During the dry season, there are more frequent train departures and availability, making it easier to secure tickets and plan your visit.
  4. Festivals: Ollantaytambo hosts various cultural and religious festivals throughout the year. Some of the most important ones, such as Inti Raymi and Qoyllur Rit’i, take place during the dry season. Visiting during these festivals allows you to experience the vibrant local traditions.
  5. Landscape: The surrounding landscapes of Ollantaytambo are breathtakingly beautiful, with snow-capped mountains and lush valleys. In the dry season, the views are clearer, allowing you to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the region.

Where to Eat

  • El Albergue Restaurante – This lovely restaurant situated right inside the Ollantaytambo train station is the perfect place to wait for your train ride to Machu Picchu. Their Novoandina cuisine artfully fuses modern and traditional Ingredients into mouthwatering dishes. Be sure to try the melt-in-your-mouth alpaca tenderloin or the quinoa risotto with Andean mushrooms. The outdoor patio seating offers great views of the platform and surrounding mountains.
  • Puka Rumi Cafe – For excellent coffee, breakfast fare, and casual meals, head to this charming cafe on Calle Ventiderio. Their fluffy omelets, hearty sandwiches, and daily lunch specials hit the spot. Don’t miss their empanadas baked fresh daily – try the classic beef or creative combinations like bacon, date, and goat cheese. They also whip up excellent Peruvian staples like lomo saltado, ceviche, and causas.
  • Hearts Cafe – Located right off the main plaza, this plant-based cafe offers healthy and satisfying salad bowls, veggie burgers, sandwiches, and a nice selection of Peruvian dishes like tacu tacu and tallarin saltado. They have plenty of vegan and gluten-free options and a chilled, bohemian vibe. It’s the perfect spot for a rejuvenating lunch or snack after exploring the ruins.

Where to Stay

  • El Albergue – For luxury lodging with history, check into this stunning hotel just steps from the Inca ruins. The eco-friendly rooms retain a sense of history while offering modern comforts like heated floors and rainfall showers. Unwind at the spa, savor gourmet Novoandina meals at the restaurant, or wake early for a guided hike to the ruins at sunrise. Watching the sun bathe the magnificent stone terraces in a golden glow is an unforgettable experience.
  • Hotel Munay Tika – Located right on the main square, this affordable hotel provides easy access to Ollantaytambo’s top sites. The tidy rooms come equipped with cozy beds, free wifi, and cable TV. Ask for a room with a balcony facing the square to enjoy great views of the bustling local scene below. Their onsite restaurant serves up classic Peruvian dishes and breakfast.
  • KB Tambo – For backpackers and solo travelers, this popular hostel features convenient amenities in a social atmosphere. Relax in the courtyard hammocks, cook up a meal in the communal kitchen, or join their daily group activities. The friendly staff can help organize tours and excursions. Choose a shared dorm for a budget-friendly stay or opt for a private room.

Before You Go…

Make sure you read the guide to the Top Things to Do in Sacred Valley Peru and our Machu Picchu Packing List.


Some Facts About Ollantaytambo:

  • ✅ Ollantaytambo is a town and Inca archaeological site located in southern Peru, about 72 km northwest of Cusco.
  • ✅ It served as a royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti and a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui during the Spanish conquest of Peru.
  • ✅ The town has a grid-like layout with a central plaza surrounded by halls and other town blocks.
  • ✅ The ruins at Ollantaytambo offer a close look at Incan history and are some of the most visited in the Sacred Valley.
  • ✅ Ollantaytambo is now a popular tourist attraction with its charming small-town atmosphere, beautiful accommodations, and delicious food. 

Ollantaytambo Peru FAQs

What is the history of Ollantaytambo?

Ollantaytambo has a rich history dating back to the mid-15th century. It served as the royal estate of Inca Emperor Pachacuti and later became a stronghold for the Inca resistance during the Spanish conquest of Peru.

Are there extensive writings and records about Ollantaytambo's history?

Unlike Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo has extensive writings and records that provide insight into its history. These writings offer a unique glimpse into the life and culture of the Inca Empire.

What can I see at the Ollantaytambo ruins?

The Ollantaytambo ruins are some of the most visited in the Sacred Valley. You can explore the extensive Inca structures up close and personal, including the ceremonial center on Cerro Bandolista and the smaller compound called ‘Araqhama.

How far is Ollantaytambo from Cusco City?

Ollantaytambo is located about 72 km northwest of Cusco City in southern Peru. It is situated at an altitude of 2,792 m above sea level in the Ollantaytambo district of the Urubamba province in the Cusco region.

What is the significance of the Battle of Ollantaytambo?

The Battle of Ollantaytambo took place in 1537 and was a significant event during the Spanish conquest of Peru. Manco Inca Yupanqui, the leader of the Inca resistance, defeated a Spanish expedition near Ollantaytambo, showcasing the Inca’s strength and determination.

Is Ollantaytambo a popular tourist destination in the Sacred Valley?

Yes, Ollantaytambo is a must-visit destination in the Sacred Valley. It offers stunning mountain scenery, extensive Incan ruins, and a charming small-town atmosphere. It also serves as a fantastic base for exploring the rest of the Sacred Valley and its archaeological sites.

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