Visiting the Ruins of Ollantaytambo: What to See for the Curious Tourist

Oct.22.2021
Visiting the Ruins of Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is an ancient Inca town with mysterious megaliths, located next to the town of the same name in Peru, surrounded by beautiful mountains. The city was built in the Spanish colonial style. And its main value is the Inca buildings on one of the mountains. The Ollantaytambo, with a former Inca sanctuary, is unique in that it features amazing huge ruins, both scattered throughout the complex and still standing in the wall.

At the same time, Ollantaytambo is not a dead city: people still live in it, and in the architecture of the buildings you can see buildings from various periods of its history, from pre-Inca to colonial. One of the notable buildings is the palace of the Inca emperor Pachacuti.

A Bit of History

To this day, it has not been established exactly who built the city, and the date of its foundation has been lost in the centuries. According to official versions, it is believed that the Incas who came to these lands founded a settlement, and their leader Pachacuti annexed the complex to his empire. Later, he ordered the destruction of old buildings and erect new ones in their place. The city with adjacent territories became the possession of the emperor.

Today Ollantaytambo is one of the best-preserved Inca settlements, moreover, some of its buildings date back to the end of the 15th century.

The main settlement was designed with a trapezoidal layout with four parallel streets, intersecting with 7 shorter streets. In the center of this “grid” used to be a huge city square, surrounded by massive buildings. On the northern side of the square, they were made of hefty, unworked boulders, and on the west and south, from carefully worked stones of the same size, tightly fitted to each other. This suggests that the southern areas of the architectural ensemble were built much later.

Tired Stones

Tired Stones of Ollantaytambo

In reality, Ollantaytambo holds many more secrets and mysteries than it might seem at first. The official theory says that the Inca began to build their temple complex during the reign of the most successful ruler – the Inca emperor Pachacuti. However, most of the construction work took place during the reign of the next emperor, Manco Inca, in whose era the Spanish invaders invaded. Presumably, the Spaniards prevented the Incas from completing what they had begun. What was unfinished was simply destroyed, this is confirmed by numerous artifacts of the past – several dozen granite boulders scattered throughout the top of the hill. An intriguing detail is that the blocks seem to have been simply thrown in the middle of one of the streets and forgotten about.

Over the years, these orphaned blocks were called “Tired stones”. The huge blocks, which are also found at the foot of the Hill and on the paths leading to the quarries, as if they simply had not been brought to the place of installation, probably due to the strange reason why the construction was suddenly interrupted. “Tired stones” prove that the complex was not destroyed, it simply was not completed.

Various historical sources indicate that there are several dozen such stones.

How to Get to Ollantaytambo?

The city is located about 60 km northwest of Cusco – the journey may take about 90 minutes. Buses run regularly, or you can join a guided tour from Cusco.

Where to Stay?

El Albergue

El Albergue

El Albergue is located near Ollantaytambo Station and is close to many interesting sights. The hotel is almost 100 years old and has perfectly preserved the elegance and charm of the early 20th century while offering all the modern comforts. Here you would find a distillery, beautiful gardens, delicious food made with ingredients from an organic farm, and a coffee shop.

Price: from $100 per night.

Mamá Simona

Mamá Simona

This is a more economical option and is located in three convenient locations: Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Aguas Calientes. Mamá Simona is a friendly hostel located 8 blocks away from Ollantaytambo Plaza de Armas. Here you can have a delicious meal and have a good rest, as well as share your travel experience with interesting people during a pleasant conversation. The hostel also has a convenient location, in just 10 minutes you can walk to the main square of the city.

Price: from $28 per night.

Kamma Guest House

Kamma Guest House

Cozy guest house surrounded by picturesque landscapes. There are not so many rooms in the house, so we recommend booking them in advance. There is a water channel nearby, which creates a peaceful atmosphere. The main advantage of this Ollantaytambo hotel is its breathtaking rooftop views of the ancient ruins, which you can admire over a delicious (and free) breakfast.

Price: from $50 per night.

The ruins of Ollantaytambo are amazing archaeological sites, and it is better to spend at least a whole day exploring them. Walking along the little old streets, it would seem to you that you have returned to the past for a couple of centuries. A truly fabulous place, steeped in mysticism and legends. We recommend that you come here early, so you would have enough time to see as much as possible.

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