The town is pronunced oy-yahn-tietahm-bo but everyone calls it Ollanta for short. It was named for Ollantay, the Inca general who expanded the frontiers of Tawantinsuyo as far north as Argentina during the reign of the Inca Pachacutec. The general asked for the hand of the emperor´s daughter, a request Pachacutec refused. Accomplished though Ollantay was, he was still a commoner. The general rebelled against the ruler and was imprisoned. Ollantay´s love may have met a bad end, but yours will not when you glimpse the stone streets and houses, mountain scenery, some of the most lush territory in the valley, and great ruins.
Poll visitors for their favorite Sacred Valley of the Incas and the answer will likely be Ollantaytambo Cusco - endearingly nicknamed Olly - which lies at the valley´s northwestern entrance. Ollantaytambo´s traditional air has not been stifled by the invasion of tourists. Ask around for the local mercado, situated just off the Plaza de Armas, close to the pick up point for collectivos and taxis. This bus marketplace quietly evades tourism´s grasp and offers a behind-the-scenes peak at life beyond the ruins. The juice stations on the second floor, towards the back, might just be the town´s best kept secret.
Ollantaytambo is one of the best spots to spend the night in the Sacred Valley tour, especially if you want to be able to wander around the ruins alone in the early morning or late afternoon, before or after the groups take them over.
The only spot in the Sacred Valley you can get to by train is Ollantaytambo, which lies midway on the Cusco-Machu Picchu route. All trains traveling to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu) from Cusco stop first at Ollantaytambo (a 90-min, ride). The train station in Ollantaytambo is a long 15-minute walk from the main square. The train is the only option for travelling from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu other than the Inca trail.
To get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, you´ll need to change buses at the terminal in Urubamba. Buses drop passengers at the Plaza de Armas in the old town, about kilometer (a half mile) from the ruins. The train is a simpler option from Cusco if you don´t plan on intermediate stops in the valley. From Ollantaytambo buses for Cusco depart from Avenida Estación, the main street leading away from the rail terminal. For Urubamba, colectivos depart from the Plaza de Armas.
Taxis between Ollantaytambo and Cusco generally charge US$20 each way.