Ollantaytambo, Peru

Ollantaytambo, Peru; background: Andes Mtns.

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.


Incan site, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Incan site, Ollantaytambo, Peru

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.


Ollantaytambo wall with some handholds still in place

Incan-built wall with a handhold (upper center) still in place

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.

Neighboring tow of Pisac, infant of working mother

Local infant protected in the shade


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander

Ollantaytambo woman

Ollantaytambo woman


Wandering alpacas at our hotel, Ollantaytambo

Grazing alpacas at our hotel, Ollantaytambo



41 thoughts on “Ollantaytambo

  1. Hello Jet,
    Thank you for sharing some of your adventures in Peru! Machu Picchu is another place hubby & I would love to visit someday…but like you, we’d want to stop by the ‘overlooked’ places, and it’s always nice to avoid crowded touristy areas 🙂 I realise that sounds rather hypocritical, being that I’d also fit in the tourist category 😀

  2. Jet my itinerary for our Peru trip is sitting beside my keyboard and guess what? Two nights we will be in Ollantaytambo! What fabulous timing of your post for me. I am excited by your description and photos very much. 🙂

    • I thought it must be soon that you will be going. I’m assuming it is part of your Gallapagos trip that you mentioned awhile ago. We, too, did Peru and Gallap. in the same adventure. How fantastic that you’re going to Ollan.! Pls. feel free to email me if you have questions. 😀

    • I don’t know if you are an introvert, Gunta, but I sure am and I choose my venues and times carefully. Thanks so much for your comment and visit today! 😀

      • Very much an introvert, though I can do a good imitation of an extrovert when absolutely necessary. Like you, I avoid the necessity whenever or however possible. I always enjoy my visits! 😀

      • Your comment gave me a smile, Gunta, because we’re on the same page here. Many thanks for your visit today and all the other days too. Much appreciated. 😀

    • It’s espec. enjoyable to walk around the Incan sites. Due to the altitude, however, it can be a bit tricky to breathe, but I (and many others) just sat down frequently and enjoyed the views. Thanks so much Helen. 😀

    • Amy you would not believe the level of craftsmanship here, it is astounding. So glad you enjoyed today’s post, and I appreciate your comments today and every day. 😀

  3. Beautiful description and pictures….my daughter was down in that area twice last year filming a couple of episodes for a show she produced on Travel Channel….your description brings it to life for me!!! Thanks for sharing!!

    • It is so wonderful that we still have the ability to walk among the Incan sites, and surrounded by the Andes makes it especially awesome. How wonderful for your daughter to get that opportunity twice! Thanks so much, Kirt.

  4. Fascinating and informative. Great choice of photos to accompany your article, too! You and Athena are quite a team!

    • That was such a lovely adventure, I am glad I could share it with you Nan. Thanks so much for your comments and visits, dear Nan, today and every day. 😀

  5. You’d captured the simplicity as well as the richness of this amazing place, the perfection of the pinkish granite is mind boggling, the puzzling angular cuts and positioning to reach the perfect plumb. All their work was a bundle of engineering masterpieces. Looking across the short valley to the mountain you are able to see the aqueducts cut on the rocks, still running water like it has been for centuries for the agricultural fields. I spent lots of time in Peru admiring the Inca and pre-Inca works. Thanks a million Jet to remind me of my explorer’s escapades. 🙂

    • How very satisfying to receive your comment, HJ. There is SO much to Incan architecture and their civilization, it was tricky writing this post in a short version; but I just kept editing and editing. You know exactly how extraordinary these places are, and I’m glad I could bring back some sweet memories for you. Many thanks my friend! 😀

  6. Jet, thank you for posting this today — I must admit I’ve never hear of Ollantaytambo but because of your wonderful photos and descriptions, I have learned something new!
    Thank you for virtually stamping my passport with each post you write!

    • Oh don’t I love hearing that Lia! The ol’ travel bug never stops does it? I had never heard of Ollan. before I went there, so I am glad I could open it up and share it with you today. Thanks so much. 😀

  7. Fascinating post, Jet! The Incan civilization was amazing. Their inventiveness and craftsmanship was truly remarkable. Thank you for letting me stop in Ollantaytambo though these beautiful pictures and descriptions.

  8. The heading got me very curious – I had to find out what Ollantaytambo was! I was unfortunately one of those not stopping here on the way to MP. It definitely looks like it would be worth a visit. The workmanship on putting the stone wall together is impressive. Love the picture of the local woman, brings me right back to Peru:)

    • That woman has a funny story. My partner and I were sitting on a rock posing for a photo, beautiful Incan architecture behind us; a friend was taking our picture. And from out of nowhere that local woman jumped into our photo — photo-bombed us!! Of course we were delighted, for she was so beautiful, but it was pretty funny that she intentionally jumped into our photo. She did it, quietly, to get a little money, which we gave her. A savvy opportunist. Thanks very much Ingrid, I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m glad you have enjoyed the splendor of MP. 😀

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