Updated October 22nd, 2018.
Staying in Ollantaytambo is like going back in time to an authentic Inca village from the thirteenth century! It seems that not much has changed since the impressive Inca civilisation was living here… Plus, unlike the more popular, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, is not swarming with tourists and filled with souvenir shops and alpaca jumper stalls!
Located at about 2,800 meters above sea level, half way between Cusco and Machu Picchu in South Peru, Ollantaytambo is a great base from which to explore the amazing region. You can do some incredible treks right from the town. Also, as Ollantaytambo is not as high as Cusco (Cusco stands at 3,300 meters), it is easier to get used to the altitude and the temperatures are not as cold at night.
If you do decide to stay here, you will discover a lovely Inca village wrapped in mountain fog, with narrow cobblestone streets and massive stone buildings built to resist earthquakes throughout the years. You will love the little canals that are still running throughout the village, giving a lovely old-fashioned touch to this mountain village. You will be impressed by the fortress built on a mountain flank and overlooking the little village. Stay in Ollantaytambo and live the ultimate Inca experience away from the crowds of tourists!
Places to stay in Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo is a very small village but you will find many hostels throughout the village that can match your budget. You will find everything at a walking distance: restaurants, banks, internet cafés, travel agencies, the Inca ruins and even the train station! Take the ‘moto taxi’ to get around the village.
If like us, you are looking for a little bit more of comfort after a long backpacking trip, we can recommend the Hotel Tierra Inka. You will be staying in a cozy room, right at the foot of the impressive Inca ruins! You will be treated like a family member by your host who will prepare a delicious breakfast for you and will offer you tea at night! If you are cold, your host will have an electrical heater ready for you!
Things to do in Ollantaytambo
- Walk around the little Inca village
What we most enjoyed during our stay in Ollantaytambo was walking! Ollantaytambo is such a photogenic place! If you are a photography enthusiast like me, you will be in heaven! You will be impressed by the perfectly fitting stones in the walls, you will love the little cobble paved lanes and you will enjoy listening to the water gently running through the village in the canals built by the Inca.
- Visiting the Inca ruins
Ollantaytambo’s main attraction is the Inca fortress built on a mountain flank and overlooking the village. As you go up, you will be impressed by the terraces built by the Incas for farming purposes. Once again, you will be fascinated by the perfectly fitted stones and you will be wondering how the Inca managed to carve stones in such a precise way and lift them up to the mountain top. What’s more, from the top of the mountain, you will have the loveliest view on the village.
How to get to Ollantayambo
The easiest way to go from Cusco to Ollantayambo is to take a collective taxi. It is also the cheapest option. There are no precise departure times: each taxi will just leave once they have gathered enough passengers. You will reach Ollantaytambo within 1 hour 45 minutes.
You can also take a private taxi if you must leave Cusco at a precise time. It should cost you about 80 soles.
Places to head next?
- Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo is an alternative place to stay before going to Machu Picchu. Wake up early and walk to the train station. Within one and a half hours you will reach the the town of Aguas Calientes and the amazing Machu Picchu. Spend a whole day in the mysterious ‘Lost City of the Incas’ and enjoy this beautiful mountain landscape! Hop back in the train at night to go back to Ollantaytambo.
Take a collective taxi from Ollantaytambo’s main square and spend a day in the beautiful Cusco. Explore the city that once was the capital of the Inca Empire. Go straight to the historical heart of the city, the Plaza de Armas, and discover a beautiful and impressively well preserved colonial city, with imposing churches, red-tiled roofs and wooden balconies.
About the writer: This destination guide was written by Aurélie Moureaux who runs for the travel blog, La Petite Valise d’Aurélie (which means little suitcase). Originally from Bordeaux France, she spent 12 years studying, then working in Paris, before leaving her 20-square-meter Parisian apartment to go and explore the world! Follow her adventures on Facebook here.