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Ollantaytambo, the Inca living city

Ollantaytambo is listed as a living Culture, and a Living Inca City since its inhabitants live according to customs inherited from their ancestors. Their houses are built on Inca bases.

Ollantaytambo is located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, in the province of Urubamba (Cusco). It is located 2,792 meters above sea level, almost 60 kilometers from the city of Cusco. The town sits next to the Urubamba River.

You will be amazed to see narrow streets of stone, which have original water channels from the Inca era in which a large amount of water flows. 

Templo del Sol Ollantaytambo

Temple of the Sun – Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is a marvel of engineering and architecture. Today one of the most asked questions probably is regarding the incredible sized blocks of stone that were used in the construction. Some of these over-sized rocks are found at the highest levels of Ollantaytambo. So now, the question is, how did they manage to cut these rocks out of the mountain and carry them while crossing the river and place them up in the mountain?


The construction of Ollantaytambo began in the early 1400s, by order of Inca Pachacutec, who launched an expansion of his regional Cusco kingdom and thus commissioned the building of many control complexes; Ollantaytambo was one of them, intended to establish Inca rule over the valley. When the Spanish invaders conquered Cusco, Ollantaytambo became the last stronghold of the Incas in the Andes. Manco Inca and his armies fought a battle against the Spanish expedition led by Hernando Pizarro. However, the resistance of Manco Inca could not stop the Spanish attack, so they had to flee to the city of Vilcabamba, in the jungle of Cusco.

Origin of the name:

The source of the name has several approaches. According to the Aymara language, Ollantaytambo comes from the word Ulla-nta-wi, which means “place to look down.” The word Tambo is added later. For the Quechua language, the name comes from the word Ollanta (the name of an Inca captain, whose story was saved as an oral tradition and written as a drama by Antonio Valdez, a priest of Urubamba in the mid-eighteenth century). The term Tambo, a Spanish derivation of the word Quechua tampu, which means “city that offers accommodation, food, and comfort to travelers.”

Ollantaytambo-Fotógrafa Paula Andrea Plaza

Ollantaytambo- Paula Andrea Plaza photographer

Is it worth visiting?

Absolutely! It is the only Inca town where many residents still live in the ancient Inca buildings dating back centuries.

Here you can see streets and houses Incas almost intact, a magnificent temple built with huge stones in a beautiful architectural style and a sanctuary with canals and waterfalls. Ollantaytambo has its railway station where you can leave for Machu Picchu instead of from Cusco.

Today, Ollantaytambo is considered one of the most critical places in South America. 

How to get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo?

There are two ways to get to Ollantaytambo: one to the north through the town of Pisac and another shorter to the south through the town of Chinchero.

Through Pisac:

  • To travel this route, you must take the buses on Puputi street in Cusco. The cars pass through the town of Pisac, Calca, and Urubamba. The trip takes approximately 2 hours.
  • When you arrive in the bus terminal in Urubamba, you have to cross to the other side of the terminal and take a ‘Colectivo’ (minivan) to Ollantaytambo

Through Chinchero:

  • You must board the small buses on Pavitos street in Cusco.
  • These cars reach the Main Plaza of Ollantaytambo (with an intermediate stop in the town of Urubamba). The trip takes approximately 2 hours.
  • If you are in one of the towns of the Sacred Valley, you can take the buses to ‘Ollanta.’

Inkayni additional notes:

  • Ollantaytambo train station is famous because it links to Machu Picchu Station. 
  • Don’t forget to book in advance. We can help you with that: here Inkayni Peru Tours.

Escalones de Ollantaytambo-Fotógrafo Paula Andrea Plaza

Ollantaytambo Inca stairs-Paula Andrea Plaza photographer

What can you see in Ollantaytambo?

Ollantaytambo was a strategic military, agricultural and religious center to administer and control the Sacred Valley of the Incas and enter the jungle of Cusco. 150 steps separate the summit from the lower part, and you can see the perfect carving of the stones, obviously dedicated to the cult of water.

Don’t wait too long and book now! Inkayni Peru tours – Sacred Valley.

While staying there, you can see the following:

The Temple of the Sun:

The Temple of the Sun is a unique building in the Sacred Valley. It is built on top of a pyramid of terraces that lead to the Main Square. It consists of 6 monoliths, each made of stones of tens of tons. This temple honors the meaning of Ollantaytambo, “place of observation from above”. It is also believed that they stopped construction during the Spanish invasion.

To access the Sun temple, you must climb 150 steps that separate the summit from the lower part. 

Templo del Sol Ollantaytambo

The Temple of the Sun – Ollantaytambo

Material: It is known that the material with which the temple was built was granite, a very arduous job since the stones were extracted 4 kilometers from the valley. Surprising, isn’t it? 

The Platforms:

The platforms were used as terraces by the inhabitants to plant and cultivate. They are 700 meters long, 58 meters wide and 15 meters deep. Everything is built concerning the position of the sun and the natural environment.


Andenes de Ollantaytambo-Fotógrafa Paula Andrea Plaza

Ollantaytambo terraces – Paula Andrea Plaza photographer

Inca People:

Ollantaytambo is the only Inca city that is still occupied by local families.

When walking through the streets of the town, you can see the water channels. There it ran the clean water that the people consumed.

The town is maintained in excellent condition, and the square is the centerpiece. You can see various buildings that functioned as the rooms for the nobles.

The combination between the old and the current makes the Inca town an excellent place to visit.

Inkayni tips:

  • We recommend booking at least 2 or 3 days in advance. Please visit our website: Inkayni Peru Tours.
  • Don’t forget to carry your documents with you all the time.

What to bring?:

  • Sun hat.
  • Sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 35 or higher.
  • Waterproof jacket/rain poncho.
  • Water.
  • Cameras and films.

«Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


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