The archaeological site of Ollantaytambo is one of the most important Inca structures and is located at a strategic point in the Sacred Valley on the way to Machu Picchu.
The Inca site is known as the religious, astronomical and administrative center of the Incas, some areas of which were also used for agriculture.
The town itself lies in a valley at 2,800 meters and is surrounded by two mountain ranges.
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.
A trip to the ruins of Ollantaytambo is worthwhile from Cusco. This site is included in the tourist ticket "boleto turistico". Only entry to the ruins would cost 70 soles.
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$30 each way.
Due to its location, Ollantaytambo is the starting point for visits to Machu Picchu. Therefore, a trip to the ruins of Ollantaytambo can be easily combined with the onward journey or trekking to Machu Picchu like Inca Trail, Cachicata Inca Quarry, or Lares Trek. There is a beautiful main square, quiet side streets, numerous small hostels, guesthouses and lodges in Ollantaytambo, so you will find small cafes, restaurants and shops selling handicrafts here.
You should bring some time to visit Ollantaytambo because we'll tell you two insider tips that very few tourists have a plan for and which are definitely worthwhile.
Tip: Opposite the main ruins of Ollantaytambo you will see more ruins on a mountain slope. These are Inca stores. Because of the cool winds and the shade, groceries such as potatoes were stored there. You can hike up to these ruins on a somewhat steep and unpaved path. From there you have a winning view over the city center and the main ruins. The tourist hype is forgotten for the moment.
Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views.
The best season is during the dry season, which covers the months April to the end of September. In October the rains begin and you can find Machu Picchu covered by clouds. If you travel in June, we recommend you to book the Inti Raymi 2023 Tour that takes place in June 24th, and also hike the Palcoyo Mountain Tour, which is an incredible Rainbow Mountain located in the Andes.