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Exploring the archaeological zone of Ollantaytambo

Home / Travel Blog / Exploring the archaeological zone of Ollantaytambo
Exploring the archaeological zone of Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is one of the points where the train leaves to go to Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of Machu Picchu, since in the rainy season the train does not leave Cusco, only from Ollanta. As Machu Picchu is the main attraction of the Sacred Valley, many people pass by Ollantaytambo, but this ancient Inca population was one of the most important in the empire and played a key role in the resistance against the Spanish conquest. For this reason and for its privileged geographical location, its ruins are a visit more than interesting.This fortress has a tragic hero linked to its history: Manco Inca. This brave heir of the lineage of Inca rulers, was the leader of the rebellion against the Spanish and captained the reconquest of the lands of the empire of their ancestors. For a time, he came to control Cusco again and his allies were about to retake Lima. However, the Spanish reinforcements coming from Guatemala and some betrayals among his own forced him to retreat to Ollantaytambo, after his defeat at Sacsayhuaman. Hernando Pizarro tried to conquer the fort with his cavalry to put an end to the rebellion, which had already lasted several years. The Spanish conquistador suffered several humiliating defeats against Manco Inca and his own, who used very clever tactics to repel the invader. The Inca leader was aware that he played everything there, because Ollantaytambo was a strategic point in the Sacred Valley of the Urubamba River. There converged several roads that supplied the wealth to the Inca kingdom and, in addition, the Ollantaytambo fortress controlled the passage that led to Machu Picchu. Finally, Pizarro returned with even more cavalry and Manco Inca was forced to flee, but it is said that before he left Cusco, he eliminated several roads and bridges that led to other Inca towns, such as Machu Picchu and perhaps it was thanks to him that the Inca city that is world famous today remained lost and, therefore, safe from the Spanish soldiers.


Ollantaytambo Streets and History:

Ollantaytambo was divided into two parts: the town where people lived, which still retains the same street layout of the time, and the fortress, which is the archaeological area of today, where religious, political and military life. Upon arrival, the view is directed unintentionally to the steep terraces of cultivation, which face uphill and are more worked the closer they come to the top, where were the noble residences and the Temple of the Sun. It is the only Inca city in Peru that still preserves its streets intact, the beauty of this town is magical since it is a living example of a perfect urban plan made by the Incas, with a main square surrounded by streets and water channels that follow flowing since that time. According to the chroniclers, the Inca Emperor Pachacutec conquered and destroyed Ollantaytambo and then incorporated it into his empire. Under the government of the Incas, the town was rebuilt with splendid buildings and the valley of the Urubamba River was irrigated and provided with platforms; the town served as a shelter for the Inca nobility. Its beautiful cobbled streets, and its agricultural areas are unmissable attractions for tourists as it is one of the most monumental archaeological complexes of the Inca Empire.

 

What can we see at Ollantaytambo Fortress

  • At the highest point of the Ollantaytambo Ruins stand the impressive remains of the Temple of the Sun, which leave you breathless with its cyclopean blocks of solid rock carved and fitted with millimeter precision by the Inca craftsmen of six hundred years ago. From this point it is possible to contemplate the three valleys that converge at the foot of the hill.
  • On the other side, on the side of the mountain that is in front of the terraces, you can see the face of the god Viracocha, supporting the Inca world behind him. It is not clear if the Incas carved it or if the face was already there before, but in any case it is a surprising element of the environment, which gives a magical air to the ruins. On this image of Viracocha, several Inca warehouses are located, strategically located on the heights so that the fresh air from the mountains keeps the food that was stored in good condition.
  • Another fascinating element of the archaeological zone of Ollantaytambo Ruins that perplexed ever was the Ñusta bath. In these baths, the Inca's wife bathed to purify herself and, surprisingly, if you run your finger along the edge of the stone channel through which the water falls, the flow of water is cut off. Hallucinatory!
  • Ollantaytambo Fortress, you can see its walls that protect an ancient civilization between mountains, and that was the scene of battles and witness some of the most famous Inca defeats, at the hands of the Spanish conquerors.

Visit CATCCO:

The Andean Center of Traditional Technology and Culture of the Communities of Ollantaytambo (CATCCO) is located a few meters from the main square, we find this didactic museum, located in what was a traditional house of the Inca ancestors, and where you can understand the whole history of Ollantaytambo. In addition, the community organizes walks or trekkings, in which there are tour guides who go from 3 to 7 hours to visit the surroundings, old houses, and other historical vestiges. 
  • Address: Patacalle s / n, Ollantaytambo, Urubamba. 
  • Hours of operation: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. 

Experiential tourism in Willoq and Patacancha...  

Less than 30 km from Ollantaytambo, if you have more days off and want to enjoy a different experience, it is worth noting the possibility of practicing what is known as "experiential tourism" in the Andean communities of Willoq and Patacancha. Its inhabitants have preserved the traditional style of life of the first Andean inhabitants and not only dress their costumes, but also show their customs and fabrics to the visitor, which allows days of participating in their activities. They can be hired from the CATCCO, and also from any Responsible Tourism agency both in Cusco and in Ollantaytambo.


Ollantaytambo: The Inca Village Live...

Without doubting the archaeological value of the site, what really won some visitors is to walk through the town itself. It is a real wonder. The buildings that inhabited the Inca nobles are kept, conserving their original construction. In some of its narrow streets, which apparently still retain their Inca names, the water channels are maintained, where the clean and potable water flowed for the use of the population. Hostels, restaurants, laundries, spiritual homes for meditation, retreat and even yoga. And what surprised some are the famous "chicherias" It seems incredible that in the place of step to take the train to Aguas Calientes, we could feel such a pleasant calm.

  • Jora's chicha: To finish, another of the things that you can do in Ollantaytambo are the traditional "chicherías". The chicha is the drink whose juice is extracted from corn or "choclo", as the Peruvians call it. In its refreshing version, we have the chicha morada, sweet and delicious for any time of the day, it is in all the restaurants and cafeterias and it is very cheap it costs from 1 to 10 soles according to the lineage and category of the site. The jora´s chicha, instead is the most rogue version of the soda, or for us to understand, the one that carries alcohol. It is a traditional Inca drink, made from the fermentation of corn. Its recipe and manufacturing in the so-called "chicherías", is transmitted from generation to generation. It is usually women who are in charge of this trade. The chicherías, are not official establishments. They do not have signs, nor menus, nor anything that identifies them, hence they are so mobile. They recognize each other because at their door there is a stick, like a broomstick, which has a red bag or red balloon.  

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