What to do in Ollantaytambo Peru

by ilive4travel

Published on Sep 14, 2019

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view of ollantaytambo town

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.

I did it as a day tour from Cusco but it is also easy to do independently as there are plenty of buses that go from Cusco.

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.

Plaza de Armas Ollantaytambo

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 ruins

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.

Wall of the six monoliths ollantaytambo

Terraces at Ollantaytambo

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!!

Ruins at the top of Ollantaytambo

ilive4travel with view of ollantaytambo valley

When it was getting close to 4pm I decided to climb back down, and I explored the rest of the ruins.

Temple at top of ollantaytambo

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.


Store houses at Ollantaytambo


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?


View from the storehouses at Ollantaytambo


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.

Temple at top of ollantaytambo

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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Ollantaytambo Sacred Valley Cusco Peru

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——-  About me ——-

girl sat on some wooden stairs wearing a black jumper

Clare from Ilive4travel

Hi my name is Clare and welcome to ilive4travel.  I am originally from the UK but spend most of my time in Peru, the country that caught my heart.

I have visited 73 countries and love to share with you everything I have learnt about these countries in my guides.

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  1. Bhushavali

    Whoa! The place looks stunning. What???? You got wifi atop there? That’s one very strong wifi signal I gues..

  2. Jen Morrow

    It is so cool there are more ruins nearby to explore. The big sights are great, like the Inca trail, but there are so many wonderful side trips. This is a wonderful day trip to add to the Peru experience.

  3. melbtravel

    I have always wanted to go to Peru to do the trail but a side day trip to Cusco Peru looks amazing. I love ruins and history and this is definitely something I would really love to see.

  4. Christie Sultemeier

    I’ve always wanted to go to Peru!! Great info here and I love your photos. What a great idea to hang out at the ruins and read on your kindle for a bit – I bet that was really peaceful. I try to do that with my journal while traveling but I always fall way behind. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Sandy N Vyjay

    Loved reading your post. It looks picturesque. It seemed really fascinating to explore the ruins. It is definitely a must visit for history lovers. Yes the name Ollantaytambo is a tongu twister and makes the place more intriguing!

  6. Cat | For Two, Please

    It looks like an amazing site to visit! The view from atop is stunning too! I will definitely keep Ollantaytambo in mind when I visit Peru 🙂

  7. Aryane @ Valises & Gourmandises

    It’s nice to see that there are other things to see beside the famous Machu Picchu! I think that they’re totally worth it for people who have a bit more time.
    The views are absolutely stunning!

  8. finja

    Wow, it looks amazing especially how the tiny village is embedded between these big mountains. And I love taking my kindle when travelling as well. Peru is high on my bucket list, first Russia though. 🙂
    xx finja

  9. Seven Continents Sasha

    This is such a great post, I never visited Ollantaytambo when in Peru but now that I have read this I am kicking myself, the ruins look incredible and so quiet!!! I’m also amazed that you could get your hostel wi-fi from on top of that mountain, clearly wi-fi has improved greatly since I was there, I can’t even get good connection on the other side of my apartment haha.

    • ilive4travel

      Its not normally that good!! Not sure how I managed a signal at the top of the mountain!!

  10. Kristine

    I love the photos. The mountains are amazing. Visiting those ruins sounds like an incredible experience! I’ve never been to Peru. It’s on my bucketlist. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Gordon Ward

    Looks absolutely stunning, a true hidden jewel. The ruins look beautiful. Glad you got to visit both both locations. Nice pictures as usual clare.

  12. Allison

    I can define you understand kicking back with the kindle for a while and enjoying those views. 2 hours definitely makes it accessible for a day trip and the bus is so cheap! Great hat you even scored views form the roof terrace of your hostel!

  13. Valen Dawson

    definitely looks like a great day trip….awesome that you got wifi

  14. Ticker Eats The World

    Ollantaytambo makes me giggle a little every time I say the word (can’t be sure if I am pronouncing it correct) in my mind. Thanks for all the details. This entire region remains a mystery to me and it’s always fascinating to read about it and marvel at the sights and history of the region which in a way is the history of civilization. Just looking at all the ruins on the mountains can’t help but imagine how people lived here at one time. Beautifully explained and captured.

  15. The Adventure Ahead

    Some really interesting ruins here. We don’t have Peru on our travel list for the near future, but if we ever hit the area we will keep Ollantaytambo in mind, thanks to your tips and information. Love the selfie pic 🙂 Some of those views are truly stunning!

  16. Natalie

    It is so nice to hear about your time to relax and really savor the spot. So often it is easy to fall into a trap of seeing as much as humanly possible. That does allow for you to see a lot of things, but not to sit and really savor and there is great value in that, too!

    We always travel with the kids and needless to say that travel has changed for us. It is still wonderful, but just different. We do a lot more preplanning and researching so that we will be like tour guides for the kids. Full of information they’ll find interesting and be able to boil it down to their level. It has also forced us to slow down and we do more smelling the roses and appreciating the views than we used to – all good!

    We came close to a Peru visit last year but ventured off in another direction instead. It is still high on the list!

  17. Eric || The Bucket List Project

    I loved Ollantaytambo…probably because I loved saying the word…made my mouth move in a funny way.
    I took a collectivo from Cusco to Ollantytambo because it was cheaper to ride the train from there to Agua Calientes plus I got to “hitch-hike” in my collectivo and see the sacred valley.
    It was a cute town and I stayed in a great hostel I found there that was a villa! Loved seeing the ruins there from the town square too

  18. Anna

    Those are some pretty impressive views! Never been to Peru (and never heard of Ollantaytambo before if I am honest) but will keep this place in mind when I do – you had me at that roof terrace. And it’s always great to have a chance to hang around when most of the tourists are gone! Bookmarking this for the future 🙂

  19. Ally Emm

    Wow, I would love to see all those ruins! What awesome pics!

  20. The Travel Ninjas

    Peru has amazing sites with the coolest sounding names. They’re awesome to see for sure. But just pronouncing them is so much fun too. Ollantaytambo, Ollantaytambo, Ollantaytambo!

  21. Ticking the Bucketlist

    I went to South America in December but didn’t have time for Peru. I never knew there is more to see from Cusco that Machu Pichu. Thanks for sharing… I am going to budget a couple of days more for trips besides the Machu Pichu when I there next.

  22. Noemi of Pinay Flying High

    It didn’t look like it was raining from the photos you’ve posted, I guess photos can be deceiving. :p I probably wouldn’t be able to sit still and enjoy the views as you did as I’d be too worried that I won’t be able to go back down before the site closes.

    Also, that’s one strong wifi signal of the hostel. Haha!

    • ilive4travel

      Most of the photos are from when the rain stopped!! When I do selfies I try to make it look like the weather is good!!

  23. Amy

    Peru is very much on our lost for the future, we are just waiting for the girls to be old enough to tackle the Inca Trail. I am glad to see it is both accessible by the trail as well as it’s own day trip. The views from the ruins are spectacular!


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