Ancient Inca City and Start of Inca Trail

Ollantaytambo is an ancient Inca city in Peru. It is located in the famous Sacred Valley. In addition to being a city, it was also a defensive structure. For many, it is also the start of the famous Inca Trail. Or to take the train to Machu Picchu from the train station. These are the highlights of the Inca town of Ollantaytambo. This article also includes my recommendations for interesting and fun tours in and around the city.

The city was significant at the time of the Incas. But also some heavy battles with the Spaniards took place at Ollantaytambo. The city has a rich history. The current and the old Inca city are located on the banks of the Urubamba River at an altitude of 2,792 meters above sea level. In Ollantaytambo, you walk along the Incas' famous steep terraces and irrigation works. But there is more to discover.

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Ruins of Ollantaytambo

When you arrive, the famous Temple Hill looms in front of you. It is incredible to see how a steep mountain has been transformed by human hands into a place to live and to grow all kinds of food such as corn, beans and potatoes.

You will also see various carved stones, to which archaeologists do not know what they once belonged. To explore the higher parts you have to up the stairs. Take your time and look back often as the view is ever-changing.

Wall of the 6 Monoliths

The Wall of the 6 Monoliths is very impressive. ©Corno van den Berg

When you have made the climb up, you will see six large stones, among other things. Which makes you wonder how they got up the mountain. Archaeologists have discovered something special at the back of the hill. The Incas used tools to drive the heavy stones upwards. Just like the Ancient Egyptians did.

The Agricultural Terraces

The steep agricultural terraces. ©Corno van den Berg

The agricultural terraces of the Incas are unique. They often chose not the lower valleys, but places that seemed impossible for agriculture. These terraces are called andes. The Incas built them on steep slopes, including irrigation canals. Also note the famous Inca steps, which are stones built across the terrace walls.

This ingenious terrace construction allowed agriculture to take place in places where this was otherwise impossible. According to archaeologists, the terraces are of a higher quality than in other Inca ruins. Because the mountain is steeper, for example, the walls are higher and made of larger stones.

Stock Rooms

Around you will see storage rooms, these are also at a great height. They are called qullqas. Due to their location, the food was well preserved by the wind and lower temperatures. A ventilation system was also built, which can still be seen today.


Pinkuylluna are the ruins on the opposite hill of the same name. They are also special Inca ruins that you can reach on foot. And the trail is free, unlike Ollantaytambo. Choose the walking path for this.

Visit the Local Market

The local market of Ollantaytambo. ©Corno van den Berg

Between the current city and the Inca city, you will find a local market with many souvenirs, clothes and food. The range is large and not too expensive. You can haggle, they are used to that.

Accommodations at Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is a cosy and very lively city. In addition to many nice restaurants and bars, you will find small hotels, hostels and bed & breakfasts. They are often not expensive, but clean and close to the centre of the city. If you spend the night in the city you can go to the ruins early in the morning. Which allows you to avoid bigger crowds. And you probably have beautiful light at the archaeological site.

Find the best accommodations in Ollantaytambo 

My recommendation is Room In Lodge Intitambo

The History of Ollantaytambo

View of the city, the agricultural terraces of the Incas and Pinkuylluna. ©Corno van den Berg

The city, terraces and defences of Ollantaytambo were Pachacuti's royal estate. This Inca emperor conquered the city and surrounding region to build a city with a ceremonial centre. When the Spaniards came later, Inca emperor Manco Inca Yupanqui ruled in and around Ollantaytambo.

According to the stories, the Spaniards were close to discovering the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. This ran from Ollantaytambo but was destroyed by the Incas. As a result, the Spaniards never found the path to the ancient Inca city. The route has now been restored and as a tourist, you can hike the route in 3 days.

Start of the Inca Trail

Many hikers start their Inca Trail hike to Machu Picchu from Ollantaytambo. You must have a guide and pre-arrange it otherwise it will be sold out. In a separate article, I have listed all the tips for this three-day hike.

Read my article on the Inca Trail

Train to Machu Picchu

The other way to travel to Machu Picchu is by train. This is also a nice experience. Especially if you choose the right train and seat, as it can make all the difference.

Read my article on Train to Machu Picchu

Best Time to Visit

You can visit Ollantaytambo all year round. The busiest month is May, followed by January and June. Prices for hotels and flights are highest in these months. Although you can save some money if you buy well in advance. October is the least busy month, partly because the weather is less great.

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