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Ollantaytambo: discover the fortress of the Incas in the Sacred Valley

Ollantaytambo: discover the fortress of the Incas in the Sacred Valley
Foto: Flickr @ Ivan Mlinaric

Ask any Peru visitor about their favorite Sacred Valley place, and the answer will likely be Ollantaytambo. This attractive little town, located at the valley’s northwestern entrance, is main attraction for this day.

An Introduction to Ollantaytambo

Ollan-tay-tambo – what a charming small town with such a long name. The local Quechua language gives the name to the word tampu or tambo, which means a city that offers accommodation, food, and comfort for travelers, and Ollanta – a famous Inca captain. But Ollantaytambo is part of a longer list of hidden treasures waiting for any traveler who seeks to take a break on the crowded Inca Trail route to Machu Picchu.


According to the chroniclers, the Inca Emperor Pachacutec conquered and destroyed Ollantaytambo and then incorporated it into his empire. Under the government of the Incas, the town was rebuilt with splendid stone and adobe (mud and straw bricks) buildings.

Ollantaytambo is one of the most original and best-surviving examples of a pre-Incan and Incan town in Peru. Once a shelter for the Inca nobility, the city is a symbol of their engineering genius. Everything is well planned, and the city is divided in canchas (blocks) which are almost entirely intact. With the main square surrounded by streets and water channels that continue to flow from that time, Ollantaytambo is a living example of a perfect urban plan.


Located about two and a half hours by bus from Cusco, the city is a amazing. It has several attractions, you’ll have the opportunity to explore beautiful cobbled streets, unmissable agricultural areas and one of the most monumental Inca archaeological complexes.

Visit the famous Ollantaytambo ruins


The Ollantaytambo Archaeological Complex is made up of a series of imposing, terraces, temples, platforms, paths and walls. The site offers excellent views of the surrounding countryside – the town of Ollantaytambo itself and the Incan storehouses. This complex served multiple purposes such as military, administrative-political, agricultural, religious and residential.

Go on a tour and explore the majestic ruins. Attractions such as the Royal House of the Sun, The Choqana Fort, the Temple of the Sun, the Monumental Front and the 10 Niches Enclosure, totally deserve your attention. The ruins require you to buy the boleto turístico, a tourist ticket to access archeological sites.

Climb the Pinkullyuna Hill

This is another beautiful site in Ollantaytambo you have to explore. Pinkullyuna is a hill with Incan storehouses overlooking the town and facing the main ruins. Admission is free, and from here you can see some of the most spectacular views of the Ollantaytambo ruins, the town, and the Urubamba Valley. It’s a lovely hike and takes just an hour or two.


The Incas were able to build houses on this steep ravine. The reason they did it, seems quite clear: food was an essential part of any military campaign and thus needed special protection. Built on such a high vantage point, it would have been possible to defend the structure with a mere handful of warriors against a whole army. There is also more wind (providing circulation inside the granaries) and a lower temperature.

Stoll around the Old town


Ollantaytambo old town is unique in all of Peru. Entering an Inca cancha or courtyard is like traveling back in time. You’ll find lots of coffee shops, restaurants, tourist shops in the Plaza de Armas. There are even a couple of hostels and guesthouses located in the old part of Ollantaytambo, so you might want to decide to actually stay a night! Enjoy the scenery and have fun walking on the very own streets laid out and used by the Incas. This little town is a walker’s paradise. It is a great spot to enjoy relaxing evenings after the tour buses are long gone. The cobbled streets have massive walls, and around each mountain, the water flows down Inca irrigation channels. The atmosphere is incredible!

Visit a Weaving community


Learn the basics of Andean Weaving. The Patancancha weaving community is a traditional Quechua community located about a one hour drive up a dirt road from the town of Ollantaytambo. Learn to weave your own piece out of alpaca wool and help preparing a typical Pachamanca meal.

Ollantaytambo is probably one of the most original and picturesque stops in Peru, still keeping much of its traditional culture. Many people pass only briefly through Ollantaytambo to get to Machu Picchu and miss out on this charming Incan town located at the end of the Sacred Valley. Big mistake, as Ollantaytambo is well worth a visit! For more information, visit our blog!


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