There’s a small old town hidden in a valley amidst the Andes Mountains in southern Peru called Ollantaytambo. It is on the train route to Machu Picchu and most people do not stop here, but oh, what a wonderful place it is.
Approximately 37 miles (60 km) from the city of Cusco, Ollantaytambo (pronounced oyan-tay-tam’-bo) rests at an elevation of 9,160 feet (2,792 m). It has an extensive history dating back to the 15th century, and provides a rare look into the Incan empire. For more history on Ollantaytambo, click here.
When you visit here now you have the unique opportunity to walk through the ancient Incan sites, learning about a vanished culture, appreciating their architecture and craftsmanship. Simultaneously a visitor can experience the activities and culture of the 21st century, strolling along the cobblestone roads, observing the vegetables and fruit that locals are selling beside the internet cafe. There are only a few such sites that still exist–including here and Machu Picchu–that offer a broad look at the Incan empire.
Most impressive is the architecture. In the 15th century, local stones, often granite or limestone, were rolled up earthen beams on wood ramps; then cut with stone, bronze or copper tools. Stones were usually split along the natural fracture lines. Each large piece of stone weighing 500-2,000 pounds was moved via handholds, set into place, and then the handholds were shaved off creating a smooth wall. Amazingly, the stones were laid without mortar and still, to this day, the walls have no fissures or gaps between stones. Incan architecture is a vast subject, read more here.
Many people headed for Machu Picchu do not spend time here, which is why I liked it so much. There is a peace among the narrow stone alleyways and the towering ruins.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander