Travel Journal

Sacred Valley - Ollantaytambo

We arrived at Ollanta (as it is known) in the late afternoon. This unique town, the best preserved Inca village in Peru, is characterized by narrow cobblestone streets, streams flowing down the sides (reminding us of Liijiang China) and a large central square.

traditiionaly-dressed locals in Ollantaytambo square
traditiionaly-dressed locals in Ollantaytambo square

 Large tour buses from Cusco rumble through the middle of town each day, headed for the Inca ruins on the hillside. We spent an hour of so wandering the streets, then headed down to the railway station where there was a unique hostal and its fabulous, highly-recommended restaurant (right along side the tracks at the station). Great meal to end the day!

Walking back up the dark streets back to the hotel, we realized that Ollanta is a ghost town in the evening. Most tourists come into town on tours, see the main Inca fortess, drop a few soles at the market, then leave. We were spending 4 nights here, with one day being the day trip to Machu Picchu. We were looking forward to slowing down a bit, doing some hiking and LAUNDRY! Our hotel was like an oasis in this busy tourist town. There were surprisingly few people staying here despite having a great rating on Trip Advisor. Our room was at the back with a balcony overlooking a beautiful garden! We spent our first full day sleeping in, organizing laundry and getting caught up with emails.

Once chores were done, we headed to the huge Ollantaytambo fortress towering over the town. It is considered the second most beautiful Inca ruin after Machu Picchu. A major battle between the Inca and the Spanish was fought here and it was one of the few battles won by the Inca. We wandered the terraces and through building foundations, imagining what it must have been like for its inhabitants. Following a mountainside trail to some deserted terraces and down to the valley, we discovered some ingeniously designed baths using diverted river flow. We grabbed an empanada to go and crossed town to tackle the Inca "graineries" on the opposite hillside.

the graineries

 The buildings of these ruins were used for agricultural storehouses and are surprisingly intact. The hike was steep and narrow along the cliff but the views of the valley were stupendous. It felt good to hike in the mountains again! So good, we just had to do it again!

The next day we set out on a hike to Punamarka ruins. This is a 15k round trip hike that many guide book recommend. The trail climbs up from the valley and runs along the mountainside, passing terraces, farms and offering spectacular views. Our destination was a well-maintained Inca fortress ruin, virtually deserted except for two American mountain bikers who were testing gravity on the terraced slopes below.

Punamarka ruins near Ollantaytambo
Punamarka ruins near Ollantaytambo

 The day was perfect, despite a rather vicious attack by two dogs as we walked by a farmhouse. Thank goodness we had hiking poles to ward off the beasts.