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Sacred Valley

Destination Sacred Valley

The SACRED VALLEY, or Vilcamayo to the Incas, about 30km northwest of Cusco, traces its winding, astonishingly beautiful course from here down towards Urubamba, Ollantaytambo and eventually Machu Picchu: the most famous ruin in South America and a place that - no matter how jaded you are or how commercial it seems - is never anything short of awe-inspiring. The steep-sided river valley opens out into a narrow but very fertile alluvial plain, which was well exploited agriculturally by the Incas. Even i within 30km or so of the valley, there are several microclimates allowing specializations in different fruits, maizes and local plants. The river itself starts in the high Andes south of Cusco and is called the Vilcanota river until it reaches the Sacred Valley; from here on downriver its known as the Río Urubamba, a magnificent and energetic torrent which flows on right down into the jungle to merge with other major headwaters of the Amazon. Standing guard over the two extremes of the Sacred Valley, the ancient Inca citadels of Pisac and Ollantaytambo perch high above the stunning Rio Viicanota-Urubamba and are among the most evocative ruins in Peru. Pisac itself is a small, pretty town with one of Peru's best artesanía markets, just 30km northeast of Cusco, close to the end of the Río Vilcanota's wild run from Urcos. Further downstream are the ancient villages of Calca, Yucay and Urubamba, the last of which has the most visitors' facilities and a developing reputation as a spiritual and meditation center, yet somehow still retains its traditional Andean charm.
At the far northern end of the Sacred Valley, even the magnificent ancient town of Ollantaytambo is overwhelmed by the astounding temple-fortress clinging to the sheer cliffs beside it. The town is a very pleasant place to spend some time, with good restaurants and a convenient location in the heart of great trekking country. It makes an ideal base from which to take a tent and trek above one of the Urubamba's minor tributaries, or else tackle one of the Salcantay trails.
Beyond Ollantaytambo the route becomes too tortuous for any road to follow. Here, the valley closes in around the rail tracks, and the Río Urubamba begins to race and twist below Machu Picchu itself.

Choose your Sacred Valley Tour

Pisac


Attractions

Awana Kancha

About 23km from Cusco and 7km before you reach Pisac, where the road starts steeply down into the Sacred Valley, Awana Kancha offers a rare opportunity to see alpacas and llamas close at hand, as well as traditional weaving in practice. Quality alpaca and wool products are for sale too.

Awana Kancha

Plaza Constitución

Apart from the road and river bridge, the hub of Pisca activity is around Plaza Constitución, where you’ll find most of the restaurants and the few hotels that exist, as well as the popular market and the towns quaint church.

Plaza Constitución

Iglesia San Pedro Apóstol

Commerce bustles around the Iglesia San Pedro Apóstol, an unusually narrow concrete church located in Pisac's central market plaza, which is dominated by an ancient and massive pisonay tree.

Cultural norms puno

Pisac market

The thriving market is held in the town's main square, where you can buy hand-painted ceramic beads and pick up the occasional bargain. Even if the market's not on, there are still a number of excellent artesanía shops, particutarly along Calle Bolognesi (try Walter's or Luigi), which connects the Sacred Valley road and river bridge with the plaza.

Pisac market

Pisac's citadel

Set high above a valley floor patchworked by patterned fields and rimmed by centuries of terracing amid giant landslides, the citadel displays magnificent stonework – water ducts and steps have been cut out of solid rock - and panoramas. The citadel takes around an hour and a half to climb - only attempt it if you're fit and already well adjusted to the altitude. Alternatively, take a tour - try one of the agents in Cusco - or pick up a taxi or colectivo from the river bridge.
From the saddle on the hill, you can see over the Sacred Valley to the north: wide and flat at the base, but towering towards the heavens into green and rocky pinnacles. To the south, the valley closes in, but the mountains continue, massive and steep-sided, casting shadows in one another. Below the saddle, a semicircle of buildings is gracefully positioned on a large natural balcony under row upon row of fine stone terraces thought to represent a partridge's wing (pisac meaning "partridge").

Pisac citadel

Templo del Sol

In the upper sector of the ruins, the citadel's Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun) is the equal of anything at Machu Picchu, and more than repays the exertions of the steep climb (20-30min from the car park). Reached by many of the dozens of paths that crisscross their way up through the citadel, it's poised in a flattish saddle on a great spur protruding north-south into the Sacred Valley. The temple was built around an outcrop of volcanic rock, its peak carved into a "hitching post" for the sun. The hitching post alone is intriguing: the angles of its base suggest that it may have been used for keeping track of important stars, or for calculating the changing seasons with the accuracy so critical to the smooth running of the Inca Empire, Above the temple lie still more ruins, largely unexcavated, and among the higher crevices and rocky overhangs several ancient burial sites are hidden.

Templo del Sol

Accomodation

The only time when accommodation in Pisac may be hard to find is in September, when the village fills up with pilgrims heading to the nearby sanctuary of Huanca, home of a small shrine which is very sacred to local inhabitants. In Pisac itself there's a surprising selection of places to stay. Alternatively, you can usually rent rooms at low prices from vlliagers - ask for details at the Restaurant Samana Wasi (see below) - or there is a campsite (ask at the Kinsa Cocha Hospedaje for detalls).

Inti Wasi

Located about 2.5km down tire valley from Pisac en the main road towards Orubamta. Bungalow-style accommodation with an on-site restaurant and swimming pool.

Kinsa Cocha Hospedaje

Plaza Constitución and C Bolognesi. Small, rustic rooms in a house attached to a restaurant on the main square; although the actual accommodation entrance is a block back on Calle Arequipa, reception is via the restaurant.

Pisac Inn

Plaza Constitución 333, reservations Casilla Postal 1179, Cusco. Very pleasant hotel with lavishly decorated bedrooms (with or without private bath) and a rock-heated sauna, plus good breakfasts and lunches, including vegetarian options (the fabulous restaurant Cuchara de Palo - is open to non-residents). They also change money, rent out mountain bikes and can book tours to nearby ruins.

Royal Inca

2km out of the village. The most luxurious place to stay in Pisac, with a pool and all modern conveniences, though it´s on the long road out of the village that winds up towards the ruins.

Samana Wasi

Plaza Constitución 509. This place is better known as a restaurant, but its rooms are simple and clean, all with shared bathrooms arrayed around the upstairs balcony of a very pleasant courtyard (also part of the restaurant).

Eating

There are a few decent restaurants in Pisac, but they can all get busy on market days, and a traditional bakery with an adobe oven on a comer of the plaza. Sofi's Supermarhet, which stocks most of the usual basics, is halfway up Bolognesi, between Av Amazonas by the river bridge and the main plaza. Addresses aren't displayed on buildings, but the following Places are all clustered together and relatively easy to find.

Café Art Mullu

Plaza Constitución, by the comer with C Bolognesi. This is a fun little place offering meals, snacks including particularly fine pizzas - and drinks.

Doña Clorinda

C Bolognesi 592, on the comer of Plaza Constitución. This shop sells great cakes and is good for cheap lunches, mostly tradicional Peruvian dishes. In good weather, you can relax at one of the tables outside.

Horno Colonial Santa Lucia

On the comers of Plaza Constitución, C Puno and C Manuel Prado. A bakery with arched adobe ovens which also serves good meals of roccoto relleno and cuy (roast guinea pig) dishes.

Milkys'Café

C Manuel Prado and Plaza Constitución. A lovely café serving good coffee, amazing cakes and a range of snacks, pizzas and vegetarian meals in a large cultural-café space with books, magazines and games.

Restaurant Pisac

Av Amazonas 147. A dingy yet friendly place down on the main road by the taxis, which serves generous portions of basic Peruvian fare.

Restaurant Samana Wasi

Plaza Constitución 509. This restaurant has a pleasant little courtyard out the back and very tasty trout, salad and fried potatoes. They also have decent coffee and a postbox

Lamay and Calca


Known for its medicinal springs, the first significant village between Pisac and Urubamba is Lamay, just 3km away. High above this village, on the other side of the Río Vilcanota and just out of sight, are the beautiful Inca terraces of Huchiq'osqo. A little further down the road you come to the larger village of Calca. Moving down the valley from here the climate improves and you see pears, peaches and cherries growing in abundance. In July B and August vast piles of maize sit beside the road waiting to be used as cattle feed.

Attractions

Machacancha

The popular thermal baths of Machacanca are within an hour and a half's walk of Calca, signposted from the town. Situated under the hanging glaciers of Mount Sahuasiray, this place was favoured by the Incas for the fertility of its soil, and you can still see plenty of maize cultivation here.

Machacancha lamay calca

Yucay


The next major settlement before you get to Urubamba, Yucay had its moment in Peruvian history when, under the Incas, Huayna Capac, father of Huáscar and Atahualpa, had his palace here. You can admire the ruined but finely dressed stone walls of another Inca palace (probably the country home of Sayri Tupac, though also associated with an Inca princess) on the Plaza Manco II.

Accommodation and Eating

Casa Luna

Plaza Manco II 107, right next to the libertador. Offers great pizzas, sandwiches and drinks in a relaxing environment with internet and fax services, bike rental, 4WD tours, and also house and bungalow accommodation.

Hostal Yllary

Plaza Manco II 107. Very friendly, comfortable and excellent value, with a well-tended garden and large rooms with private bath an attractive old building.

Posada del Libertador

Plaza Manco II 04. Another fine colonial mansion noted for accommodating Simon Bolívar when he was in the region, this is a lovely boutique-style hotel with great bar and restaurant.

Sonesta Posada del Inca

Plaza Manco II 134. Based in a beautifully converted elghteenth- century monastery that houses a small museum (open to non-residents) of fine precious metal objects and ceramics. Rooms are in mostly two-story buildings accessed by wooden stairways and verandas from lovely, well-kept gardens.

Urubamba


About 80km from Cusco via Pisac or around 60km via Chinchero, URUBAMBA is only a short way down the main road from Yucay's Plaza Manco II, and it is here that the Río Vilcanota becomes the Río Urubamba (though many people still refer to this stretch as the Vilcanota). Although it has little in the way of obvious history interest, the town has good facilities and is situated in the shadow of the beautiful Chicon and Pumahuanca glaciers. At weekends there's a large market on Jirón Palacio, while at the large ceramic workshops set around a lovely garden at Av Berriozabal 111 new and ancient techniques are used to produce colourful, Amerindian-inspired items for sale.

Attractions

Plaza de Armas

The laid back and attractive Plaza de Armas has palm trees and pines surrounded by interesting topiary. At the heart of the plaza is a small fountain topped by a maize plant sculpture, but everything stands in deference to the red sandstone Iglesia San Pedro, with its stacked columns below two small belfries. The church's cool interior has a vast, three-tier gold-leaf altar, and at midday light streams through the glass-topped cupola.

Plaza de Armas Urubamba

Moray

A stunning Inca site, part agricultural centre and part ceremonial, Moray lies about 6km north of Maras village on the Chinchero side of the river, within a two- to three-hour walk from Urubamba. The ruins are deep, bowl-like depressions in the earth, the largest comprising seven concentric circular stone terraces, facing inward and diminishing in radius like a multi-layered roulette wheel.

Moray Sacred Valley

Maras

The salt pans of Salinas, still in use after more than four hundred years, are situated 4km on from the village of Maras, and a similar distance from Moray Cross the river by the footbridge in the village, turn right, then after a little over 100m downstream along the riverbank, turn left past the cemetery and up the canyon along the salty creek. After this you cross the stream and follow the path cut into the Cliffside to reach the salt pans, which are soon visible if still a considerable uphill hike away. The trail offers spectacular views of the valley and mountains, while the Inca salt pans themselves are set gracefully against an imposing mountain backdrop. A scenic trail (about an hour's walk) leads down through the salt pans and on to the Urubamba river below, where there's a footbridge across to the village of Tarabamba, which is on the road for Urubamba (6km) or Ollantaytambo; colectivos pass every twenty minutes or so in both directions.

Maras Sacred Valley

Accomodation

Camping Los Cedros

On the Pumahuanca road, a few blocks beyond Iglesia Torrechayoc, a medium-sized church on the northem edge of town. Signposted just as the road leaves the built-up area of Urubamba, this is a pleasant rustic campsite.

Los Girasoles

On the Pumahuanca road. Offers camping and accommodation in private bungalows with shower facilities.

Hospedaje el Márquez

C Convencían 429. A clean, family-run hostel, with a small garden and a couple of rooms with private bath.

Hostal Las Jardines

Jr Convención 459. Las Jardines offers better rooms than most of the other budget places in Urubamba, offering more space and light, and also comprises an appealing garden.

Hotel San Agustín

Km 69, Panamerican Highway. Some twenty minutes' walk down the main road towards Cusco, just beyond the bridge over the Río Urubamba, Hotel San Agustín is a plush place to stay, boasting a small pool, spa and a popular restaurant (delicious buffet lunches served Tues,Thurs & Sun).

Hotel Tambo del Inka

Av Ferrocarril A large resort hotel with over 100 rooms, mainly well-appointed bungalows, and a conference centre with internet access, a pool and tennis courts.

Posada Las 3 Marías

Jr lávala 307 A friendly, family-run place offering very clean and intimate accommodation, with a capacity for up to sixteen people over several rooms.

Eating

Urubamba isn't home to particularly fine cuisine but it does offer a wide variety of cafés, bars and quinta catering (traditional Andean-Peruvian restaurant, usually with tables in a garden, fast service and a limited menu).

La Casa de la Abuela

Jr Bolognesi 272. To lie left of the church and one block up on the left. A very friendly restaurant with a beautiful courtyard full of flowers and trees, and serving excellent pizzas and very good lasagna.

El Huacatay

Jr Arica 620. The best of Urubamba's top restaurants by a long way, this place serves up Andean cuisine in a very appealing environment. Best for lunch; reserve in advance if you can.

Nuevo Mundo Café

Av Castilla and Jr Comercio (four blocks up from the Texaco petrel station). Wholesome vegetarian rneals are served all day on the patio here. They also operate a book exchange and stock trekking food.

Quinta Los Geranios

A ten-minute walk along the man) Sacred Valley road towards Cusco, on Avenida Conchatupa. A nicer spot and better food than El Maizal (see p.246), Los Geranios serves excellent dishes such as rocoto relleno (stuffed rocoto, a pepper-like vegetable), chupe de quinoa (guinoa stew) and asado a la olla (pot roast), in a splendid, but usually busy, garden environment.

Quinta La Mercedes

Comercio 445, Plaza de Armas. A rustic place with cheap set menus at lunch.

Quinta Los Pinos

Av Castilla 812. Serving excellent food and specializing in local dishes in an atmospheric little courtyard.

Restaurant La Esquina

Plaza de Armas at the corner ol Jr Comercio and k Grau. A great meeting place for travellers, serving alpaca steaks, ponche de leche (a hot milk punch), pancakes, pies, juices and drinks. There's sometimes music at weekends.

El Maizal

Urb la Cantuta. Located close to Quinta los Geranios on the main valley road, this is a popular lunchtime spot with Peruvian tourists, who come for the interesting menu of traditional dishes.

Wallpa Wasi

Km 74.2 Urubamba-Ollantaytambo. This lovely restaurant and bar, less than 10min by taxi from Urubamba centre, serves great piscos, wine, and as much chicken meal as you can eat for S/28. The food is first-class and reasonably priced, all served in a friendly country setting with gardens, a kids' play area and parking. They also have attractive independent rooms to rent, B&B-style (from around S/80 per person). Cali in advance, as the owner are occasionally away in Cusco. Daily 11am-7pm.

Chinchero


CHINCHERO ("Village of the Rainbow"), an old colonial settlement with a great market, lies 3762m above sea level, 28km (40min) northwest of Cusco and off the main road, overlooking the Sacred Valley, with the Vilcabamba range and the snowcapped peak of Salcantay dominating the horizon to the west. The bus ride here takes you up to the Pampa de Anta, once a huge lake but now relatively dry pasture, surrounded by snowcapped nevadas, The town itself is a small, rustic place, where the local women, who crowd the main plaza during the market, still wear traditional dress. Largely built of stone and adobe, the town blends perfectly with the magnificent display of Inca architecture, ruins and megalithic carved rocks, relies of the Inca veneration of nature deities. The best time to visit is on September 8 for the lively traditional fiesta. Failing that, the Sunday-morning market in the lower part of town, reached along Calle Manco II, is smalter and less touristy than Pisacs but has attractive local craftwork for sale.

Attractions

Plaza Principal

Uphill from the market, along the cobbled steps and streets, you´ll find a vast plaza, which may have been the original Inca marketplace. It's bounded on one side by an impressive wall reminiscent of Sacsayhuaman's ramparts, though not as massive - it too was constructed on three levels, and ten classical inca trapezoidal niches can be seen along its surface. On the western perimeter of the plaza, the raised Inca stonework is dominated by a carved stone throne, near which are puma and monkey formations.

Plaza Principal Chinchero

Iglesia de Chinchero

The plaza is also home to a superb colonial adobe iglesia. Dating from the early seventeenth century, it was built on top of an Inca temple or palace, perhaps belonging to the Inca emperor Tupac Yupanqui, who particularly favoured Chinchero as an out-of-town resort - most of the areas aqueducts and terraces, many of which are still in use today, were built at his command. The church itself boasts frescoes and paintings, which, though decaying, are still very beautiful and evocative of the town's colonial past. Many pertain to the Cusqueña school and celebrated local artist Mateo Cuihuanito, the most interesting depicting the forces led by local chief Pumacahua against the rebel Tupac Amaru II in the late eighteenth century.

Iglesia de Chinchero

Accommodation and Eating

It's possible to camp below the terraces in the open fields beyond the village, but, as always, it's best to ask someone local for permission or advice on this.

Camucha

Av Mateo Pumacahua 168. At the junction of Calle Manco Capac II and the main road to Cusco, this is one of the few eating places in Chinchero and has a particularly good set lunch.

La Casa de Barro lodge

Calle Miraflores 147. This is the most comfortable and interesting accommodation in town with lovely airy rooms, room service and tourist information; there's also a small bar and restaurant area.

Ollantaytambo


OLLANTAYTAMBO has one of the most Inca-looking of the Sacred Valley's settlements. Coming down the valley from Urubamba the river runs smoothly between a series of impressive Inca terraces that gradually diminish in size. just before the town, the railway cracks reappear and the road climbs a small hill to an ancient plaza. The useful Ollantaytambo Heritage Trail guides you to most of the important sites with a series of blue plaques around town.
As one of the region's hotspots, and a popular overnight stop en route to Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo can get very busy in high season, making it hard to escape the scores of other travelers. At heart, though, it's a small but still very traditional settlement, worth enjoying over a few days, particularly during its highly colorful fiestas, when local folk-dancing takes place in the main plaza. Many women still wear traditional clothing, and its common to see them gather in the plaza with their intricately woven manta shawls, black-and-red skirts with colorful zigzag patterns, and inverted red and black hats.
Beyond Ollantaytambo, the Sacred Valley becomes a subtropical, raging river course, surrounded by towering mountains and dominated by the snowcapped peak of Salcantay; the town is a popular base for rafting trips.

Brief History

The valley here was occupied by a number of pre-Inca cultures, notably the Chanapata (800-300 BC), the Qotacalla (500-900 AD) and the Killki (900-1420 AD), after which the Incas dominated only until the 1530s, when the Spanish arrived.

The legend of Ollantay

Legend has it that Ollantay was a rebel Inca general who took arms against Pachacutec over the affections of the Lord Incas daughter, the Nusta Cusi Collyu. However, historical evidence shows that a fourteen-kilometer canal, chat still feeds the town today, was built to bring water here from the Laguna de Yanacocha, which was probably Pachacutecs prívate estate. The later Inca Huayna Capac is thought to have been responsible for the trapezoidal Plaza Maynyaraqui and the largely unfinished but impressive and megalithic temples.

The legend of Ollantay

A strategic location

Ollantaytambo was built as an Inca administrative center rather than a town and is laid out in the form of a maize corn cob: it´s one of the few surviving examples of an Inca grid system, with a plan that can be seen from vantage points high above it, especially from the hill opposite the fortress. An incredibly fertile sector of the Urubamba Valley, at 2800m above sea level and with comfortable temperatures of 11-23°C (52—73°F), good alluvial soils and water resources, this area was also the gateway to the Antisuyo (the Amazon corner of the Inca Empire) and a center for tribute-gathering from the surrounding valleys.
As strategic protection for the entrance to the lower Urubamba Valley and an alternative gateway into the Amazon via the Panticolla Pass, this was the only Inca stronghold to have successfully resisted persistent Spanish attacks.

A strategic location ollantaytambo

Rebel Inca Manco

After the unsuccessful siege of Cusco in 1536-37, the rebel Inca Manco and his die-hard force withdrew here, with Hernando Pizarro (Franciscos brother), some seventy horsemen, thirty foot-soldiers and a large contingent of native forces in hot pursuit. As they approached, they found that not only had the Incas diverted the Río Patacancha, making the valley below the fortress ¡impassable, but they had also joined; forces with neighboring jungle tribes forming a massive army. After several! desperate attempts to storm the stronghold, Pizarro and his men uncharacteristically slunk away under cover of darkness, leaving much of their equipment behind. However, the Spanish carne back with reinforcements, and in 1537 Manco retreated further down the valley to Vitcos and Vilcabamba. In 1540, Ollantaytambo was entrusted to Hernando Pizarro, brother of the conquistador leader.

Attractions

The Plaza de Armas

s the center of civic life. Backstreets radiating from here are littered with stone water channels, which still come in very handy during the rainy season, carrying the gushing streams tidily away from the town and down to the Urubamba river.

The Plaza de Armas ollantaytambo

Catcco Museo

Close to the central plaza is the CATCCO Museo, which contains interpretative exhibits in Spanish and English about local history, culture, archeology and natural, history. It also has a ceramic workshop where you can buy attractive pottery.

Catcco Museo

Plaza Mañya Raquy

Downhill from the plaza, just across the Río Patacancha, is the old Inca Plaza Manya Raquy, dominated by the fortress. There are market stalls in the plaza plus a few artesania shops and cafés nearby, rnainly opposice the attractive small church, the Templo de Santiago Apóstol. Built in 1620, it has an almost Inca-style stone belfry containing two great bells supported on an ancient timber. The church's front entrance is surrounded by a simple yet appealing mestizo floral relief painted in red and cream.

The fortress

Climbing up through the fortress, the solid stone terraces and the natural contours of the cliff remain frighteningly impressive. Above them, huge red granite blocks mark the unfinished sun temple near the top, where, according to legend, the internal organs of mummified Incas were buried. A dangerous path leads from this upper level around the cliff towards a large sector of agricultural terracing which follows the Rio Patacancha uphill. From up above you can see down to the large Inca plaza and the impressive stone aqueducts which carried the water supply. Between here and the river you see the Andenes de Mollequasa terraces which, when viewed from the other side of the Urubamba Valley (a 20min walk up the track from the train station), look like a pyramid.

The fortress Ollantaytambo

Around Ollantaytambo

High up over the other side of the Río Patacancha, behind Ollantaytambo, are rows of ruined buildings originally thought to have been prisons but now considered likely to have been granaries. In front of these, it's quite easy to make out a gigantic, rather grumpy-looking profile of a face carved out of the rock, possibly an Inca sculpture of Wiraccochan, the mythical messenger from Viraccocha, the major creator-god of Peru. According to sixteenth- and seventeeth-century histories, such an image was indeed once carved, representing him as a man of great authority; this particular images frown certainly implies presence, and this part of the mountain was also known as Wiraccochan Orcco ("peak of Viraccocha's messenger"). From here, looking back towards the main Ollantaytambo fortress, it's possible to see the mountain, rocks and terracing forming the image of a mother llama with a young llama, apparently representing the myth of Catachillay, which relates to the water cycle and the Milky Way. The Sacred Valley of the Incas - Myths and Symbols (available in most Cusco bookshops), written by archeologists Fernando and Edgar Salazar, is a useful companion for interpreting the sites in this part of the valley.

Around Ollantaytambo

Activities Around Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is surrounded by stunning countryside and skyscraping mountain peaks, and offers a wealth of interesing day-trip options.

Walking

It's easy enough just to choose a path leading up into the hills to the east and see where you get to, remembering, of course, that you will need a tent or have to get back to town by ?'" nightfall. Any route will provide a good hike, bringing you into close contact with local people in their gardens. There are also a number of organized tours, available from Ollantaytambo as well as from agents in Cusco.

Trekking

The area around Ollantaytambo is an excellent spot to begin trekking into the hills. One possibility is to head along the main down-valley road to Km 82, where a bridge over the Río Urubamba is becoming an increasing popular starting point for both the IncaTrail and Salcantay. Alternatives are the hard-going two-day trail to the beautiful and remote lake of Yanacocha, or travel up the Río Patacancha to the little -visited Inca ruins of Pumamarca, on the loft of the river where the Río Yuramayu merges with the Patacancha under the shadows of the Nevada Helancoma. from here the main track carrier, on along the right bank of the Río Patacancha through various small peasant hamlets - Pullata, Colqueracay, Maracocha and Huilloc - before crossing the pass, with the Nevada Colque Cruz on the right-hand side. It then follows the rios Huacahuasi and Tropoche down to the valley and community of Lares, just before which are some Inca baths. Beyond the village are several more ruins en route to Ampares, from where you can walk back to Urubamba, travel by road back to Cusco, or head down towards Quillabamba. It's at least a two-day walk one way, and you’ll need camping equipment and food, as there are no facilities at all on the route.

Horseriding

The Inca quarries of Cachiqata can be reached in four hours on horseback with a Cusco or Ollantaytambo tour company. It's also possible to camp here and visit the site of an Inca gateway or Intihuatana There are also the nearer ruins of Pinkuylluna, less than an hour away by horse, or the Pumamarca Inca ruins about half a day away.

River Rafteng

Ollantaytambo is a center for river rafting, organized largely by KB Tours on the main plaza, who also offer lodging, mountain-biking and trekking tours; all activities start from around $45/day. Alternatively, arrange a rafting trip with one of the Cusco-based tour companies .The river around Ollantaytambo is class 2-3 in the dry season and 3-4 during the rainy period (Nov-March).

Accommodation

Albergue Ollantaytambo

Casilla 784. Right next to the river and the train station at the bottom end of town (the entrance is on the station platform), this albergue offers discounts to families, although it's advisable to contact them well in advance during the high season. The spacious rooms are rustic but arty, and very attractive and comfortable. There’s also a great sauna and very tasty meals, including breakfast. For full meals (also available to non-guests) you need to book in advance.

Hospedaje Los Andes

C Ventiderio. A small, cosy hostel with traditional patio in the heart of town, offering hot water and private bath in some of the simple yet well furnished rooms.

Hospedaje las Portadas

C Principal. A small hostel on the main road into town, with good views from one or two of the rooms, although baths are shared and, unfortunately, the yard is concreted.

Hostal La Ñusta

Carretera Gcobamba. Very hospitable but basic, this place has simply furnished rooms with shared bath, as well as a patio offering excellent views across to the mountains and the Wiraccochan.

Hostal Ollanta

Main Plaza. Close to the little market and chapel on the main plaza, Ollanta is a refurbished and well-run hostel. Very clean but can be noisy at weekends.

Hostal Las Orquídeas

Av Estación. Further up the track from the train station to the town, this pleasant place offers small rooms set around a courtyard, with breakfasts available.

Hostal Sauce

C Ventiderio 248. A modern and safe, if not particularly friendly hostel with elegant rooms and fine views. There's also a reasonable restaurant, only open to residents.

Hotel Pakaritampu

Av Estación. Within a few minutes" walk of the station and set in pleasant gardens, this is a safe and plush hotel. Price includes an excellent buffet breakfast.

Eating and Drinking

There are several good cafes in town, particularly around the bridge at the top of Avenida Estación (also known as Ferrocarril) and in the main plaza. If you want to try the local chicha mane beer, pop into any of the private houses displaying a red plastic bag on a pole outside the door - the beer is cheap and the hosts usually very friendly and fun. The red markers date from a time when red flowers were used to indicate which family in the village had enough chicha beer to share with friends and neighbors.

El Albergue Ollantaytambo

Casilla 784 It's hard to beat this place, which is open to non-residents by prior reservation; they have a |; great cook whose food betrays a North American influence.

Alcázar

C del Medio. A well-used and attractively laid out space just a stone's throw from the Plaza de Armas, Alcazar serves great breakfasts, snacks, pancakes and good local meat or veggie meals. Daily 730am-9pm. Café Restaurant Fortaleza Maza de Armas. A popular place with gringo travellers, serving good pancakes and tasty but relatively inexpensive pizzas. Daily 7am-8pm, Mayupata Restaurant Bar Jr Convention, opposite the Templo de Santiago Apóstol T284009. The fanciest big restaurant in town, serving pizzas and other Italian dishes, and international cuisine. Ifs not cheap, but has a fine setting by the river bridge.

Pachamama Pizzeria

Plaza de Armas. This place serves up some of the best food in Ollantaytambo, and is particularly strong on meat dishes (try the lomo saltado), pizzas and grills. You'll need to arrive before 8pm to be sure of a table.

Restaurant La Ñusta

Plaza de Armas. A very friendly café and shop with excellent breakfasts, snacks and soups made from fresh vegetables (unusual for this region, despite the fertility of the soil). They also have tables outside, facing the plaza.