We arrived in Cusco, and headed directly to the Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley – the only Inca town that is still inhabited.
Many people had recommended this as a way of dealing with altitude; the other benefit is that our first experience of Peru is this amazing Inca town.
KB tours met us as arranged with a taxi at Cusco airport for transfer to Ollantaytambo (always a relief when an arrangement actually works!) Our driver stopped several times for photo shoots, including a magic one looking down the precipitous mountains to the fertile Sacred Valley below us with the mighty Urubamba flowing through it.
Ollantaytambo is a living Inca Village – it was never razed in warfare, its cobbled streets, and drains with clean water flowing through are as it would have been.
At our breakfast this morning in the main square, we looked up to the ruins on the hill, but around us life is still lived in a simple way that you can imagine remains unchanged in some ways, except for the tourist shops, shuttles and taxis, and the people preparing for their trek.
Overnight is chilly, but the sun warms us and we are soon stripping off layers – layers are definitely the way to go.
The narrow cobbled street outside our hostel Los Portades is the main road to Machu Picchu, so early and late in the day full of buses and shuttles, but overnight quietness descends. Our room looks over a beautiful green courtyard with trees and colour and above us the steep mountains and some Inca ruins.
The cobblestones may have lasted the test of time – but I noticed they are not made for 20th century rolling suitcases, cars or bikes – nor my ankles for that matter.
We are loving it! After being in cities, this is a village, manageable size with small motorcycle taxis ready to assist if we are tired.
The town itself has walls, water races, roads and lintels dating from Inca times, but the fortress is the large historic area to the west of the plaza.
The mysterious methods used to cut the huge stones to fit each other seamlessly without mortar are still elusive, but their effectiveness is extraordinary – hundreds of years and still standing. The only failures are clearly in the roofing materials which are much more transient – timber and straw. Many of the buildings only need a roof to be fully habitable again.
We are staying at Los Portadas Hostel one block from the main street. It is very cheap – $130us for 5 nights. Simple, friendly, slightly run down family establishment very close to the main plaza.
It has a wonderful courtyard garden and our room looks over the garden to the Inca storehouses on the steep mountain above. See Reviews
Ollantaytambo Fortress and Ruins
These are a short walk from the main plaza. Remember you need Boleto Turistico (which allows you access to 15 sites over a 10-day period). If you have a choice, go in the morning – by the late afternoon when we went there, there were dozens of tourist buses were disgorging hundreds of tourists and being led around the site by guides holding up flags or umbrellas for identification.
Why stay in Ollantaytambo?
We decided to spend 5 days in Ollantaytambo before heading to Aguas Calientes for two nights so we could get an early start to Machu Picchu. We spent a day in Pisaq at the fabulous market and ruins, a day with a women’s weaving collective, half a day rafting and had time to hang out. There was a market where we could buy fresh food and snacks.
It was a great decision – and I would highly recommend it.
- Population of Ollantaytambo – 2000
- How how are we? Cusco 3300 Metres, Ollantaytambo 2890, Machu Picchu 2450, Lake Titicaca 3860
- Boleto Turistico (which allows you access to 15 sites over a 10-day period) for 130 soles 40Us, including the Ollantaytambo Fortress, and Cusco
- How to get to Aguas Calientes – the simplest option is train Perurail or InkaRail
- The Urubamba River flows into the Amazon basin
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