Peru is home to an infinity of archaeological sites to explore and learn about the ancient history of the country. And among all its wonderful destinations, Cusco offers us a great variety of complexes and sites to discover. And when we talk about Cusco, we are also referring to the nearby Sacred Valley of the Incas. Within the beautiful valley, you will find a series of very important places, among which is Ollantaytambo. The ancient Inca temple and fortress located in the northwest of the Valley is known as Ollantaytambo. Although the town located not far from the archaeological site is also called Ollantaytambo. And together with the Machu Travel Peru team, we have prepared a small article about this wonderful archaeological complex.
Ollantaytambo is located in the wonderful Sacred Valley of the Incas, one of the most charming places in the country. The Valley is full of ruins, archaeological sites, traditional villages, and endless opportunities to enjoy an adventure. It is one of the best places to enjoy tourism in Peru. And one of the most magical places to know in Peru is Ollantaytambo. This beautiful city stands out on its own. It is classified as a Living Inca City because the inhabitants still practice customs inherited from ancient times. Also, many of these homes are built on Inca foundations. Without a doubt, a place that you cannot miss at all on your next visit.
Everything you need to know about Ollantaytambo
- What is Ollantaytambo
- The history of the Ollantaytambo ruins
- What to see in Ollantaytambo?
- How to get to Ollantaytambo?
- Is it worth visiting this place?
WHAT IS OLLANTAYTAMBO
The small ancestral city of Ollantaytambo is located in the wonderful Sacred Valley, in the province of Urubamba. But, is Ollantaytambo located near an Inca fortress? Yes. In addition to the city, there is a fortress that is located between two mountains. The fortress seems to protect the valley from there. This beautiful city is one of the few places in Peru where its residents continue to live in Inca buildings. These constructions date back centuries and reflect traditional ways of life. Many of the houses are also built on ancient Inca foundations. Today you can still find streets and trails built during times of the Inca Empire. You can also see a majestic temple and a sanctuary surrounded by waterfalls and water channels.
It is a place where one of the most historical moments of the Spanish Invasion took place. Since it was where the Spanish army was stopped by the Incas. The archaeological complex of Ollantaytambo is located about 2700 meters high. And what was Ollantaytambo used for? It was a very important agricultural, military and religious center during the time of the Inca Empire. Today the site continues to amaze with its wonderful examples of masonry and imposing buildings. It is believed that it was a refuge for the Inca nobility. As well as other architectural wonders of the Incas, it was built with huge and colossal rocks. Before embarking on any of the different Machu Picchu tours, we highly recommend a visit to Ollantaytambo.
THE HISTORY OF THE OLLANTAYTAMBO RUINS
When was Ollantaytambo built? The wonderful archaeological site of Ollantaytambo already existed before the Incas. And many academics believe that the complex had its origin in the Aymara culture. Later with the expansion of Cusco in the early 1400s, they sought to build a series of checkpoints. The Inca Pachacutec was the one who ordered the construction of the complex that we know today. Today you can see the different majestic terraces that make up the Fortress, also known as Temple Hill. With the death of the Inca Pachacutec, the town passed to the domain of the Inca Manco. Under the rule of the Inca Manco, the fortress became a refuge against the frequent invasions by the Spanish.
The site was the main scene of one of the most unique battles of the Inca campaign. Ollantaytambo was one of the few places where the Incas managed to stop the conquerors. It was from the top of the terraces that they were able to avoid the invaders as they flooded the plain. But the Incas knew that they would return and with many more soldiers at their side. So after the victory, Inca Manco withdrew to Vilcabamba. After Inca Manco’s departure, it was Pizarro and his men who conquered Ollantaytambo. Today the town and the fortress are one of the many mandatory stops for travelers seeking to know the Sacred Valley. It is one of the best tours in Peru where you can learn more about the magical history of Peru.
ORIGIN OF THE SITE NAME
Ollantaytambo originally comes from the word Ullanwtawi. This word can be translated to “Viewpoint” or “Place to Look Down.” The term Tambo would be added much later. The true source of the name has several focuses. The original word comes from the Aymara language as the first culture that inhabited the site. And the true source of the name has various approaches or points of view. After the expansion of the Inca territory, the Quechua language predominated in the area and the name changed to Ullantay. For the Quechua language, the word Ollanta was the name of an ancient Inca captain. This name was engraved in the memory of the ancient inhabitants. The captain’s story was told as part of an oral tradition. Much later the history of the Inca was written as a drama by the author Antonio Valdez.
The term Tambo was added to the existing Ullantay to create the word we know today. The term Tambo is the result of a derivation of the Spanish language from the Quechua word known as Tampu. While Tampu can be translated to “city that offers food and accommodation”. This term was added when a Tambo or Lodging was built in the esplanade of the place. And from the construction, the name of Ullantay Tampu was adopted. This term later began to derive into the term we know today, Ollantaytambo.
WHAT TO SEE IN OLLANTAYTAMBO?
- Something magical about Ollantaytambo is that you will not only get to know a wonderful traditional city, but also a series of different attractions. A whole day is advised to get to know in-depth all that this destination has to offer. And it cannot be denied that one of the most popular attractions is its ruins. The Ollantaytambo fortress is believed to have been built in the mid-15th century. It is one of the best-preserved archaeological ruins and one of the best tourist sites in Peru.
- Both the Inca Fortress and the Temple of the Sun stand above the wonderful town. The Temple of the Sun is made up of six colossal stone blocks of rectangular shape. These are located at the top of the site and appear as if they had been an unfinished construction. The largest monolith is over two meters wide and about four meters high. The complex also has an area known as the Princess Baths and a stepped terrace.
- Once you reach the top after having climbed the 200 steps, you will be able to appreciate an unparalleled view. From there you can appreciate the rest of the temples and fountains available. The hills surrounding the site also feature numerous stone warehouses. And if you look in front of Temple Hill is the Wall of Six Monoliths. This construction was never finished, but it is worth appreciating.
- The city was built mostly on Inca foundations. But its urban planning is an excellent example of Inca ingenuity. Both the adobe walls and its cobbled streets are in excellent condition. Many of the water channels continue to bring water from the mountains. The city also has a train station. Ollantaytambo is precisely one of the places to board the train to Machu Picchu. Ollantaytambo is a truly traditional town and knowing it will give you an idea of Andean customs. Regardless of the places you choose to visit, Ollantaytambo will conquer every fiber of your being with all the views and landscapes. Is Ollantaytambo on the Inca Trail? Ollantaytambo is not included in the Inca Trail but it is usually the starting point of this adventure.
HOW TO GET TO OLLANTAYTAMBO?
The wonderful town of Ollantaytambo is located approximately 60 kilometers from Cusco. In general, to get to Ollantaytambo you can take a bus from the city. Although there are also private transports that may be included in the original tours. But to get there there are two main routes.
- The first route goes through Pisac and this is usually the busiest of all. If you are looking to take a bus, you need to know that many small companies offer transportation services. But in the city, you can choose to head to Puputi street. Here you will find numerous buses waiting to be boarded. This route goes through Calca and the trip can last between two hours or less. Once in Calca, you will have to get off to take another bus to Urubamba. From there you will take another bus that takes you to Ollantaytambo.
- The other land route goes through Chincheros. To take this bus you will have to go to Pavitos street. The buses can drop you off at the Ollantaytambo square in about 2 hours. Like the other route, this one has an intermediate stop in Urubamba. It is one of the most direct routes to get to the site. It is impossible to get lost and going there is usually very easy. The city is a highly visited and popular destination and one of the best things to do in Sacred Valley.
IS IT WORTH VISITING THIS PLACE?
We do not doubt that this is one of the most magical and charming places to visit in the Peruvian Andes. It is one of the only Inca towns where residents live in buildings dating back hundreds of years. You will be able to know intact examples of Inca architecture. In addition, the town is usually a busy point because it has its own train station. It is one of the places to take the train to Machu Picchu. From there many travelers can choose to leave for Aguas Calientes and from there to Machu Picchu. Today Ollantaytambo is considered one of the most essential places to visit in South America. Especially if you are looking to investigate the history of the first cultures that inhabited the site.
A good idea is to be able to acclimatize before leaving for Ollantaytambo. Since you will find yourself quite high compared to other places around. And even if you are in excellent physical condition, you may feel some of the symptoms. No matter where you come from, it will most likely be a much lower altitude site. And if you plan to travel to Cusco and the Sacred Valley, it is a good idea to acclimatize. The effects of altitude sickness can range from shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, and headache. It’s a good idea to take it easy for the first few days, drink plenty of fluids, and eat lightly. Despite this, many of us are affected by altitude sickness differently. Some feel absolutely nothing while others may have serious conditions.
“IF YOU ARE DELIGHTED TO BE IN ANCIENT RUINS, YOU ARE EITHER A CURIOUS HISTORIAN OR A ROMANTIC PERSON!”
As you can see, the wonderful city sheltered by the fortress is a must-see. Ollantaytambo will be one of those destinations that will live forever in your memory. We hope together with the Machu Travel Peru team to have been helpful. We seek to tell you the main aspects of this incredible historical destination. And if you are looking to learn a little more about the Inca culture, you cannot miss visiting its ruins and terraces. If you want to know more about our Ollantaytambo tours, you can check our different travel packages. Or you can also consult with our team of qualified advisers. They will be happy to help you organize the trip of your dreams. A visit to Peru without knowing the wonders of the Sacred Valley map would be incomplete!