Most people who visit Ollantaytambo are just passing through to either get the train to Machu Picchu or as a last stop off to get walking sticks and snacks before they start hiking the Inca Trail.
This was the first time I saw Ollantaytambo, when we quickly stopped and I bought a walking stick that stayed with me until the end of the Inca Trail.
Ollantaytambo was built in the 1400’s and still remains inhabited today. It is also the only place in Peru where the Inca’s defeated the Spanish, though eventually the Spanish returned and conquered them.
How to get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo
The bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo goes from Calle Pavitos with Calle Belen, which is about a 10 minutes walk from the Plaza de Armas. It costs about 10 soles (3 USD). You will find buses going to Urubamaba (you can change in the bus station) or directly to Ollantaytambo. You don’t have much choice when getting buses short distances within Peru, its either taxi or the locals bus but for longer distances and overnight buses you should certainly pick safer options.
Ollantaytambo Tour – Day Trip
Ollantaytambo is probably one of my favourite day trips from Cusco, Peru. It is 72 kilometres from Cusco which is about 2 hours away by minibus and I visited there after being on the north coast of Peru in Huanchaco.
My 2nd visit to Ollantaytambo was part of a day tour to the Sacred Valley. The advantage of a tour is that you will get an english speaking guide who will explain the history of the area and the ruins. This is a great idea to see a few of the ruins in a day, especially if you are short on time and want to see as much as possible.
This would be my 3rd visit to the ruins here and it was after I had recently hiked El Misti in Arequipa and felt fit enough to hike lots of mountains. I decided to get the bus and stay overnight as there is a second set of ruins that you can see from Ollantaytambo which I have never visited and I keep saying I must go see them, so I decided to stay overnight and see both. It is also a cool little town to spend some time, with some great little restaurants and bars.
I got the bus in the morning and checked straight into my hostel, Mama Killa Hostal, located 100 metres from the Plaza de Armas.
It’s a nice clean little hostel, in a great location with great views from the roof terrace.
I then decided to go to the main ruins that was included within the tourist ticket I had bought in Cusco. As I was walking there it started raining as it does most days between 12 and 2 from November till April, so again it was out with the rain jacket to see another set of ruins in the rain!!
Visit Ollantaytambo Fortress
Ollantaytambo town is 2,800 metres above sea level with the ruins climbing several hundred more metres up the mountain.
I entered the ruins and this is the first view you get, there were lots of tourists already inside and a lot more groups would be around later too. It is one of the most popular ruins in the region and if you want to see it when it’s less quiet then it’s best to go first thing in the morning before all the day trip tourists arrive.
Ollantaytambo was the royal estate for the Emperor Pachacuti. The main ruins visited by tourists is the ceremonial site, referred to as temple hill. Above the terraces there is a sun temple and the wall of the Six Monoliths (see pic below). These are unfinished and it shows evidence that the site was still being constructed when it was abandoned.
As I was exploring I saw an open door with a path up the mountain and so I decided to explore as I had hours left before it shut (It normally shuts around 4pm). By this time the rain was easing.
I climbed up the mountain another 20 minutes where I found more ruins, I then climbed a bit higher, found a rock to sit on and had the most amazing views. As most tourists have a limited amount of time in Ollantaytambo, this part of the ruins was empty and I had the place to myself.
The views from here are amazing. I decided to stay here, relax, read my kindle and enjoy the views for a while. I think I now understand why the Inca’s built there settlements on mountains, it wasn’t for a defensive reason but to enjoy these views!!
When it was getting close to 4pm I decided to climb back down, and I explored the rest of the ruins.
After visiting the ruins I went into the town and had dinner and a few drinks on the way back to the hostel.
Explore the Markets
Just outside the entrance to Ollantaytambo ruins is an open air market, there is also some indoor markets close by too. Here you can buy some great souvenirs and peruvian jumpers and blankets. I love exploring these markets and seeing what they have.
See Pinkulluna Granaries
The next day I was up early so that I could go visit the other set of ruins you can see on the other mountain. To get there you walk along calle Principal away from the Plaza de Armas until you reach Lares Calle which is just a little alleyway.
After the first alleyway on the left, the entrance to the other set of ruins is just through a door on your right that will be open with a little sign showing the ruins are that way. It is between Calle 1 & 2 in the alleyway.
There are ruins all over the mountain at this side too, mainly there are storehouses, where they would store the products from the terraces. The high altitude and climate helped against decay.
I then climbed to the highest part of the ruins and once again, spent a few hours sat looking at the amazing views and reading my kindle. I even somehow managed to get wifi from my hostel at the top of the mountain!! How does that work?
After a few hours exploring this side of the valley it was back down the mountain to get my bags and return to Cusco. You can get a combi from either the Plaza de Armas direct to Cusco or just around the corner, near the market are combi’s to Urubamba where you can change buses (this way does take a little longer) to get to Cusco.
Ollantaytambo is a great day trip from Cusco, or a great little town to visit for a few days if you have time, and its an easy option to do on your own.
Explore the old streets of Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo dates back to the 1400’s and it’s great to explore this cobbled town from some of its wider streets to the little narrow alleyways.
Train to Machu Picchu
Most people who get the train to and from Machu Picchu will start the journey by bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo train station. Once they arrive at Ollantaytambo station after a brief stop in the town they will then board the train which takes around 3 hours to Machu Picchu.
When you return from Machu Picchu then train will take you back to Ollantaytambo and you will be taken by bus back to Cusco.
If you have time, then it’s a great idea to stop beforehand of afterwards in Ollantaytambo to explore the town and area further.
Where to stay in Ollantaytambo
Mama Killa Hostel – This hotel is located just a few minutes walk from the Plaza de Armas in Ollantaytambo, the staff are friendly and helpful and there is also a great view from the rooftop terrace. Click here for more details and pricing.
Dona Catta Inn – Located half way between the plaza de armas and Ollantaytambo historical site, this beautiful hostel is in a great location. It’s clean with beautiful but simple rooms and breakfast is included. Click here for more details and pricing.
Sol Natura Hotel – Located on the road to the train station about a 5 minute walk from the ruins and plaza de armas. This hotel is set in beautiful gardens with mountain or garden views from each room. If you are looking for something a little more luxurious but at a good price then this is the place for you. Click here for more details and pricing.
Have you visited here? What did you think of these ruins?
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