According to Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, a 16th-century Spanish chronicler, the Inca emperor Pachacútec conquered Ollantaytambo to incorporate it into his empire. Under the rule of the Incas, the town was rebuilt with splendid buildings, and the Urubamba river valley was irrigated and provided with terraces; The town served as a shelter for the Inca nobility while the platforms were worked by yanaconas, servants of the Inca. After Pachacutec’s death, the region passed into the custody of his panaqa, his family group.
During the conquest, Ollantaytambo functioned as a temporary capital for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance against the Spanish conquerors. Under his command, the town and its surroundings were fortified in the direction of the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, which had fallen under Spanish rule. On the Mascabamba plain, near Ollantaytambo, Manco Inca defeated a Spanish expedition by blocking his advance from a set of terraces and flooding the plain. However, despite his victory, Manco Inca did not consider it feasible to remain in Ollantaytambo, so he retired to the thick forest of the Vilcabamba area. In 1540, the native population of Ollantaytambo was assigned in encomienda to Hernando Pizarro.
Ollantaytambo is one of the main tourist attractions in Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. It is one of the best places for tourism and tours that can be diversified by the immense range of tourist attractions that Ollantaytambo contains; with picturesque places that preserve the beauty and distribution of Inca times in its cobbled streets and paths where you can tour the city and its different services such as hotels, restaurants, bars and parking lots that keep the same symmetry of Inca times.
In addition to the archaeological remains within the city, you can take Ollantaytambo as the starting route to Machu Picchu, where you will find the ancient Inca Trail that can be scheduled for two days or four days of walking, and you will rest in one of the so many hotels and hostels of 1,2 and 3 stars that Ollantaytambo has.
Ollantaytambo serves as the endpoint for the routes that leave Cusco towards the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Lares trek that has its starting point in Calca and ends in the living Inca city “Ollantaytambo”. With all these tourist details you have endless alternatives to visit one of the last bastions and Inca towns of today in Cusco.
It is the only Inca city in Peru that is still inhabited. In Ollantaytambo, there are resistance platforms (to avoid landslides), as well as terraces for cultivation as in the other archaeological sites in Cusco. Ollantaytambo is a typical example of the extraordinary urban planning of the Incas, and therefore a must-see for anyone interested in this civilization.
Its cobbled and winding streets, its agricultural terraces are attractions that stand out for themselves and the visitor can appreciate it in all its splendor. Among the places to visit, it is recommended to reach the old fortress and the temple, where we can appreciate magnificent views of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The Archaeological Park of Ollantaytambo is located in the Cusco region in the province of Urubamba, district of Ollantaytambo at 2,792 meters above sea level. It was declared as such by National Directorial Resolution No. 395 in 2002.
Ollantaytambo is one of the most monumental architectural complexes of the ancient Inca Empire, commonly called “Fortress”, due to its enormous walls, it was actually a Tambo or lodging city, strategically located to dominate the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The architectural type used, as well as the quality of each stone, worked in detail, making Ollantaytambo one of the most peculiar and surprising works carried out by the ancient Peruvians, especially the Temple of the Sun and its gigantic monoliths.
The straight, narrow and picturesque streets today form fifteen blocks of houses located north of the main square of the city, which in themselves constitute a truly historical legacy. Some colonial-type houses are built on beautiful, finely polished Inca walls. The tones of the stone are cheerful, the color of a petrified flower, dark pink. In the main square, a large block with perfect edges fits its fifteen angles of a terrestrial star into a double row.
OLLANTAYTAMBO – THE TOWN
The town is divided into rectangular blocks with a well-planned geometric scheme that gives the impression of a town designed by modern architects. Its narrow streets open towards the Urubamba River. Each block or court is made up of a group of houses that share the same door to the central patio.
Originally, a suspension bridge was used, made with braided ichu or maguey fibers, which had to be renewed annually. Today, the stone bridges that span the river are built on two huge boulders.
The agricultural activity in this area was benefited by the presence of the Patakancha stream, a place where large cultivation terraces were seen that are currently deteriorated and abandoned.
Ollantaytambo – The ceremonial sector
It was mainly dedicated to the cult of “Unu” or “Yaku” (water deities). For this reason, there were a series of fountains that served this purpose, such as the Ñusta Bath, which is one of the fountains carved from a single piece of granite, 1.30 meters high by 2.50 meters wide. It is one of the best known and water still flows from its interior.
This place is made up of a short plain that leads to a huge hill on whose sides various archaeological monuments are located. The main one is located at the top and is known as La Fortaleza or Casa Real del Sol.
The Terraces of Ollantaytambo
To the west of the plaza is a set of terraces that served two purposes: cultivation, and stopping the deterioration of the most important temples in the area.
To the right are the platforms oriented towards the side of the square. The upper group of these stands out for the fine carving of its stones and its excellent assembly. The last platform contains the enclosure with ten niches, also called the Temple of the ten windows, and the Monumental Portal, whose function is still unknown.
The Inca Misana also stands out, an aqueduct carved into the stones of the mountain, next to a liturgical fountain, small stairs, and niches with false openings; that served as a place where the Inca spoke to the people about him.
Ollantaytambo’s privileged position allowed other small buildings to be strategically located at high angles of the mountains, to control the movement of people in the valley.
The Fortress or Royal House of the Sun in Ollantaytambo
The Royal House of the Sun, and Ollantaytambo in its entirety, still preserves the layout of the urban planning of the Incas. Its rooms still recall the presence of Manco Inca, who confronted Hernando Pizarro in 1537, during the indigenous resistance that continued for many more years.
The fortress or shrine is made up of seventeen superimposed terraces, built on large carved pink granite stones, which measure more than four meters high by two meters wide and two meters thick.
The walls or walls of the Royal House of the Sun have an internal slope, and the main one, a composition of six blocks of huge stones, with joints of small stones, which are part of the Main Altar.
It is believed that the main quarry for the construction of the place was Cachicata, located 6 kms. away on the left side of the Vilcanota River. The rocks were partially carved in the quarries and then lowered into the valley. But there were some, known as “tired stones”, that did not reach their destination.
It has always been impressed how they transported the huge stones from long distances; in this case, they required an artificial channel parallel to the river to move the immense masses, and climb them up a steep slope. They used instruments such as log rollers, rolling stones, camelid leather ropes, levers, pulleys and the strength of thousands of men.
It is thought that this type of construction has as its antecedent the architecture of Tiawanako that the Collas could have brought from the region of Lake Titicaca, since on the external surface of the room, at the southern end, there are three carved symbols that belong to the prehistoric culture. -ceramic: the Hanan Pacha (The Sky), the Kay Pacha (The Surface of the Earth), and the Ukhu Pacha (The Subsoil or Interior). But the Inca particularities are differentiated by the use of joints and finely polished exterior surfaces, which even served as mirrors.
To learn about the mysteries and the power of its walls, you can enter the fortress by means of a stone staircase (15 to 20-minute walk) that takes you to an esplanade and a portal that is facing the Plaza Mañay Racay.
Inca Huatana or Intihuatana of Ollantaytambo
Located in the upper part of the Temple of the Sun, on an almost vertical slope, the Inca Huatana or Intihuatana consists of a wall with high niches, on whose sides there are security holes of up to 80 cm. deep. In front of these, there is a structure that is suspended over a precipice, which is why it is believed that it was used for the torture and execution of prisoners of war or criminals, although the function of astronomical observatory is the most accepted.
The Pincuylluna Center
Pincuylluna, which means “where the pincuyllo is played”, a wind instrument of Inca origin, is located west of the Patucancha River, in front of the Temple of the Sun. It is an architectural complex made up of buildings with three identical and superimposed blocks. The base of the blocks is rectangular, they have six windows on the façade and six on the wall facing the hill, providing adequate ventilation and lighting.
In the place are the most interesting colcas (agricultural deposits) of the Sacred Valley, because to the left of these you can see a giant stone block that, for the locals, represents the face of an Inca.
If you want to visit the place, we indicate that the tour is a three-hour walk.
Ollantaytambo Site Museum
The museum is the work of the Andean Center for Traditional Technology and Culture of the Communities of Ollantaytambo (CATCCO). We recommend you visit it because it presents the history of the region in an educational and modern way.
It contains five rooms on the second floor of a mansion on an old Inca court, which allows the visitor to learn more about the history, archaeology, architecture, crafts and beliefs of the inhabitants of Ollantaytambo.
In addition, this association organizes walks through seven ancestral routes: Yanacocha, Pincuylluna, Pumamesarca, Huílloc, Páchar, Cachicata, and Ollantaytambo. The walks take from three to seven hours, and they have tour guides.
There are two means of transportation to get to Ollantaytambo.
By bus: It is accessed by the paved roads Cusco – Chinchero – Urubamba – Ollantaytambo and Cusco – Pisaq – Calca – Urubamba – Ollantaytambo.
By train: It is accessed from Cusco – Poroy – Urubamba – Ollantaytambo.
The climate of Ollantaytambo is dry from April to December and rainy from January to March. Due to its location between two slopes, a moderate wind blows at night. The minimum temperature is from 5°C to 11°C and maximum from 18°C to 23°C throughout the year.