Ollantaytambo is strategically located 80 kilometers northeast of Cusco, where the Vilcanota River becomes the Urubamba. Marking the gateway into Cusco’s Amazon region, many consider this both the end-point of the Sacred Valley, and the entrance into the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary. Upon arriving at the town of Ollantaytambo, travelers can choose from two ways to get to the famed citadel: they can either take a train to the town of Machu Picchu – also known as Aguas Calientes, or hike the legendary Inca Trail.
Ollantaytambo, which gets its name from the celebrated legend of the rebel general Ollantay, is one of the Inca Empire’s most monumental architectural complexes. It’s layout and designs – as well as the majority of its structural foundations – date back to the Inca era, and most of the streets still maintain their original Inca names. The cobblestone paths, gorgeous water channels, and remarkable Temple – built in 1620 and dedicated to Santiago Apostol – are some of the many sights to be seen.
Based on what are presumed to be ruins of former agricultural warehouses, defense walls, and watch towers, it is thought that Ollantaytambo was a strategic military, agricultural, and religious center used by the Incas to administer and control the Sacred Valley (probably used to protect themselves from ethnic groups from the jungle). The incredible, seemingly perfect stone-masonry can be appreciated in the 150 steps that lead from the base to the top of the site. With details very similar to those of the Tipon Archeological Site, the lower level of the fortress appears to have been used as a ceremonial center dedicated to the purification and worship of water. The site also features a series of superimposed terraces with huge, finely carved blocks of stone, located on the top level (Temple of the Sun).
The town of Ollantaytambo is considered a “Living Inca Village” due to the fact that it has been continuously inhabited by local families since Inca times. Here, townspeople continue to live much in the same way that their Inca ancestors did, and employ many of the same customs. The fascinating details and history behind town’s original design and structure is noticeable on each street and in each corner of 15 blocks that the settlement spans.
DO NOT MISS
- Be sure to make your way to the Temple of the Sun at the top of the archeological complex, an ideal place to snap some excellent photographs.
You can find some more pictures of this incredible destination on Instagram.