Nestled in the heart of Peru’s spectacular Sacred Valley is Ollantaytambo (or Ollanta as it is known to the locals), a small town that is home to the famous Ollantaytambo Ruins. These ruins are some of the best-preserved of their kind in all of Peru, alongside Machu Picchu. If you are planning on spending time in Peru then a trip to Ollanta is definitely worth it.
The first thing you will notice about Ollantaytambo, is just how tranquil it is. A far cry from the touts and tourists of Cusco, Ollantaytambo is little more than a main square with a few streets coming off it and a market. It is exactly the kind of place you would expect to find in the Sacred Valley.
It is believed that the Ollantaytambo ruins date back to around the mid-15th century and were built under the command of the Inca Emperor Pachacutec. Less than a hundred years later the ruins played a vital role in the Inca resistance against the Spanish conquistadors. This rebellion was led by Manco Inc and was successful in defeating a Spanish expedition.
Many centuries later, the ruins were once again launched into the limelight as a group of foreign explorers re-discovered them. This generated international interest in the ruins, which has held strong ever since. Nowadays, the ruins are a popular site for people from all over the world and are usually visited by those on their way to start the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
The Ollantaytambo Ruins are open every day from 7am until 5pm. Entry to the site will cost 130 soles (US$40) or 70 soles (US$21.50) for students. This seems like a steep entry fee but what you are actually buying is known as the Cusco tourist ticket (Boleto Turistica del Cusco). This ticket is valid for ten days and grants you access to around 16 different archaeological sites.
You can buy tickets at the ruins but you might be asked to show your passport both when you buy the ticket and when you enter the various sites. Sometimes they won’t ask you but it is a good policy to have it on you at all times anyway just in case they do. Note that the tourist ticket does not include Machu Picchu.
Ollantaytambo is easily accessible from Cusco, with the journey by car taking around two hours. From Ollanta’s main plaza it is very easy to find the ruins.
There is also a train station in Ollantaytambo that takes you to Aguas Calientes (en route to Machu Picchu). The train station makes Ollantaytambo a perfect destination to stop by on the way to Machu Picchu.
Once you’ve looked at the main ruins, you might want to check out Ollantaytambo’s less well-known but equally fascinating Pinkuylluna ruins. If you are not with a guide, then you will probably need to ask around for someone to show you the footpath that will guide you to these ruins but it is worth making the effort. These ruins are free to explore but they are not well-maintained and the path can be a bit treacherous so make sure you are wearing a good pair of hiking shoes if you decide to take one this challenge.
If you’ve had enough of ruins and want something else, there are plenty of day hikes you can do around Ollantaytambo. If you find and cross the Inca Bridge, you will wind up on a path that will take you for quite a spectacular walk. Prepare yourself for some of the most incredible scenery you have ever laid eyes on.
Those feeling a little peckish should definitely pay a visit to the T’anta Wasi Bakery. This wonderful little place serves fresh bread, sandwiches and pastries and is part of a social enterprise initiative that has been set up by the non-profit organization the Sacred Valley Project. This charity helps young, indigenous girls from Ollantaytambo and the surrounding villages access education and become empowered and educated young women.
Visiting the Peruvian Andes means getting the chance to see some of the most amazing ruins on the planet. Don’t just make a beeline for Machu Picchu but take the time explore the Sacred Valley’s other incredible ruins like those at Ollantaytambo. You won’t be disappointed.
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