Ollantaytambo (called by locals "Ollanta") is a small town of cobblestone streets and buildings built on foundations of Inca stonework, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas near Cusco in the Southern Sierra region of Peru. This is where the Incas retreated after the Spanish took Cusco. Much of the town is laid out in the same way as it was in Inca times, and it is surrounded by spectacular green mountains dotted with Inca ruins. A few small canals, reminiscent of the Inca fountains at the ruins nearby, run through the town.
There are frequent buses to and from Urubamba for S/1.50 (soles); further connection can be made to Cusco there (S/3-6). At 15:50, 16:40 and 17:20, there are direct buses leaving from Av Grau 525 in Cusco (S/5) and there are also direct minibuses (S/10) and shared taxis (S/15) all day from nearby Pavitos in Cusco. In taxi or minibus the trip takes 1½-2 hours.
Two types of trains arrive at the station. The first is locals only that is heavily monitored to ensure no tourists ride it. There are hefty fines if caught on the locals' train. The second is the tourist train which runs from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes. If you are doing the Inca Trail, you will want to get on the train to Aguas Calientes and get off when the train stops mid-route.
There are three types of tourist trains. Ordered by descending price, they are the Hiram Bingham, Vistadome, and Backpacker trains. Go to Peru Rail's website for the current prices and schedule.
If you purchase a ticket from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, you cannot get off at Ollantaytambo for a few hours and then use the same ticket from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. If you want to spend time in Ollantaytambo, it is more cost effective to take a bus to Urubamba from Cusco and then a connecting bus to Ollantaytambo (or a direct minivan).
After trekking to Machu Picchu
Many guide services include a train ride from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo or all the way to Cusco as a part of the guided services. In the former situation, trekkers are expected to pay for their own bus from Ollantaytambo to Cusco and are informed of this in advance. Taking the bus from Ollantaytambo to Cusco as opposed to the trains full route saves a half hour to an hour. Inquire with your tour operator in advance as to which tickets they purchase. Tickets purchased by the guide services to Ollantaytambo can be changed at the station the day of or the day before depending upon seat availability. Change fees can range from US$0-20 depending upon the class of train that is being changed to. Arrive at least 45 minutes early as there may be a line, for the earliest trains (05:30) the ticket office opens at 05:00.
Travellers and trekkers can make excellent use of the obligatory return trip to Cusco by staying the night in Aguas Calientes or the more attractive Ollantaytambo after visiting Machu Picchu and visiting the Ollantaytambo ruins, the salt mines near Maras/Urubamba, the Incan agricultural lab of Moray, or the ruins above Pisac the next day (all sites are along the route back to Cusco in that order, with Pisac on one longer route and Maras and Moray diversions from the shorter Chinchero route). Choose two sites and allow a half day for each site for relaxed viewing, transit, and meals. The last buses from Pisac to Cusco leave around 20:00. Be aware of your belongings on busses after dark. Or, stay in Pisac and backtrack to any of the sites the next day. Inquire at Ulrike's cafe in Pisac for lodging recommendations (open until 21:00).
Walking or cycling is the best idea. Three wheeled moto-taxis and regular taxis are available at the train station but are not necessary. The walk from the train station to the main plaza is approximately a quarter mile (400 m). It can be broken up by various restaurants that line the way even after the busiest sections. It is a 2-minute walk from the main plaza to the ruins.
The main square in Ollantaytambo is usually swarming with hikers and porters, but a few blocks away is a vibrant community still living in pre-Columbian dwellings. If you still have a guide, see if he can take you into one of these houses, where alpaca fetuses hang on the walls (to bring fertility), ancestors' skulls watch over the goings-on from niches in the Incan stonework, and dozens of guinea pigs scoot underfoot (the entrée at some future feast).
- 1 Ruins of Ollantaytambo. Ruins of largely religious significance, they doubled as the last and largest defensive structures near the plains below where the Incas defeated the Spaniards in battle. Admission with boleto turistico (can be purchased at entrance to ruins, S/130 for 10 days) or S/70 for "boleto turistico parcial" for a 2-day pass to this and other Sacred Valley sites. Local guides can be hired in the market area below the ruins (S/20-100). Or, do it yourself by purchasing the book most of the guides use, ¨Cusco and the sacred valley of the Incas¨(Salazar and Salazar) which has an extensive section on Ollantaytambo. The book can be purchased in the market below the ruins (S/50) or in advance in Cusco (S/35). Neither the guides nor the guidebook discuss the battles, for information on this research on your own in advance. Tours focus largely on the unique architectural significance of the sun's rays on the cad face of the canyon wall and on the temple walls, the still functioning fountains, and the large stone operating table. Even if you're not an archeology buff or ruins fan, these are worth seeing. Beautiful views abound.
- 2 Pinkullyuna. 07:00–16:30. The hill with Incan storehouses overlooking the town and facing the main ruins. To get to the path up to these ruins, follow the road closest to the base of the hill, Lari Calle (the rightmost one in the town grid when facing Pinkullyuna). You will see a small sign with an arrow pointing to a steep path, which takes you up to a series of ruins and storehouses. Admission is free, and from here you can see some of the most spectacular views of the Ollantaytambo ruins and town and the Urubamba Valley. It's a lovely hike, and can be done in just an hour or two. Some parts of the various path can be a little harrowing, especially the less oft used side paths (all of these also lead to ruins that are less apparent). Go with a friend or at least make sure you let your hosts at the hostel know where you have gone in case something should happen.
Look for houses with red plastic bags hanging outside on posts. These houses are where locals go to drink chicha, a local brew made out of corn. It is a great way to experience the local flavor, provided that you speak enough Spanish to communicate with the other chicha drinkers. It is advisable that you look for a place that serves things other than chicha, as some people find the taste unpleasant. However this is an acquired taste and can be overcome easily. Chicha, unlike masato made in the rainforest is not made by mixing with saliva as erroneously stated in the entry that this is correcting. Careful with the chicha, however - it is sometimes made under unhygienic conditions and it could make you quite sick.
- Visit the Old Town unique in all of Peru, this part of Ollantaytambo was built by the Incas over five hundred years ago is inhabited to date. Entering an Inca cancha or courtyard is like travelling back in time.
- KB Tambo. A hostel, restaurant, mountain bike, and adventure tour office rents mountain bikes by the day and arranges tours. If you're lucky, KB will lead the tour; if you get this opportunity you should jump on it, and be advised you're likely in for some serious adventure.
- Chicha Tours is led by two quirky expats, who will take you to the safest chicherias in the Sacred Valley while teaching you about the history and production process of this unique beverage. A fun and informative way to experience the local culture first hand.
- Awamaki Weaving Project, Calle Convencion s/n, e-mail: email@example.com. Awamaki is a small non-profit organization that works to support Quechua women weavers from remote, rural communities in the Patacancha Valley.Awamaki runs a small-scale sustainable tourism initiative to support this project, conducting tours to the Quechua communities where it works, and coordinating workshops in traditional Andean crafts. Tours to the community of Patacancha offer the chance to experience and learn about Andean indigenous culture, while also contributing to its survival and to the well-being of rural indigenous women and their families. Awamaki also works to promote sustainable tourism with families in town. They can arrange homestays in Ollantaytambo or even in the indigenous communities where they work. For bookings and inquiries please email or stop by the Awamaki fair trade store in Ollantaytambo.
There are several shops, mainly Inca souvenir types. A 1 market plaza for tourists sits at the entrance to the ruins, small shops up the hill from the plaza may carry the same items and be more willing to negotiate.
On the way from the ruins to the plaza, look out for the Awamaki Fair Trade Store after the bridge on your right hand side. Emphasis is on fairly-traded weavings from the Patacancha valley made with 100% natural fibers and dyes, as well as a select range of books, alpaca yarn and other locally produced artisanal items. The project is non-profit and proceeds from the store are invested into community development projects in the Patacancha Valley.
There are several restaurants in Ollantaytambo:
- El Albergue Restaurant. Within the El Albergue B&B this new restaurant has a first rate open kitchen where you can see your alpaca and trout dinners being prepared. Menu options include homemade fettuccine, sandwiches and great breakfast. In the evening white table cloths are spread, candles are lit, and the restaurant becomes a first rate dining experience.
- Cafe Mayu. On the Ollantaytambo train station where you can grab a very good espresso or cappuccino, chocolate chip cookies and brownies. You can browse their menu for great breakfast and lunch options.
- Kusicoyllor Restaurant Cafe offers novo andine & international cuisine,provide a good and unique view to the ruins, a candelite atmosphere for the dinner,Kusicoyllor restaurant is most common know to have the best coffee in Cusco.Located just near de Ollantaytambo fortress. +51 84 204114
- Hearts Cafe. Is on the main square of Ollantaytambo with views across the plaza onto the Inca temple-fortress. Profits go to children's projects in the Sacred Valley. Pleasant pavement dining, quality coffee, book exchange, and plenty of magazines.
- KB Tambo. A hostel, restaurant, mountain bike, and adventure tour office, has very excellent food by Chef Alejo, a Chilean native who has lived in Ollanta for 15 years. KB Tambo is located just down the hill towards the ruins from the Main Plaza.
- Panaka Grill, ☎ . is on the main plaza. Sit upstairs on their balcony and take in the view of the square while you enjoy the wonderful novoandina and international food. Finish off with a cappuccino and one of their delicious desserts.
- Quechua Blues Bar. This place is a very laid back spot, located just across the river in town. Once you cross the river, facing the ruins, look to a street on your left. The upstairs has swings and a very relaxed atmosphere, and the food is very good. Meals run about 15 soles, and lots of cool people are around at night.
- Mayupata Restaurant, Next to the bridge (On you way to the ruins), ☎ . Quality Peruvian dishes and superb pizzas made in a firewood oven and served in a warm atmosphere. Also provides drinks at a bar attend by peruvian owner "Tio Raul". Be ready to enjoy an interesting conversation with someone who knows about the place and local culture.
- 1 Alma Amor Restaurant, Calle Principal (on the main street, a block east of the plaza), ☎ . 12:30–21:00. Quiet vegetarian restaurant with filling meals: some Peruvian and some international dishes. The restaurant doubles as a wellness center, offering yoga and guided meditation. S/25–35.
The English Pub: Ollanta's first "pub" opened in early 2010. Landlord Porfirio has years of experience bar-tending and knows what a real bar needs. The only place in town with British ales on tap, comfy sofas and satellite TV. Local non-profit Awamaki hosts regular quiz nights, salsa nights and everything-else nights in between.
Hang out at El Ganso with very down-to-earth owner "Acha".
- KB Tambo (KB Tambo is located at the top of Ave Ferrocarril, the road from the railway station, at the intersection of the main road through town (Calle Ventidero)), ☎ . Private baths in every room, pleasant courtyard garden and awesome rooftop deck with ruins views. English speaking owner - "KB" (very dynamic and interesting guy) - also rents mountain bikes by the day or will arrange a tour. $10-28 per person.
- Hotel Munay T'ika, Av. Ferrocarril Nº 118, ☎ . This hotel has been under recent renovations. It is just up the road from the railway station, not too far from Pakaritampu. It is an inexpensive but clean hotel that also provides breakfast of breads, jams, eggs, banana pancakes, coffee and tea in the mornings S/100-180 depending on which room you get..
- 1 Hostal Chaskawasi, Calle Principal (Down Calle Principal from), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. Near the entrance of Ollantaytambo on Calle Principal, this hostel is managed by Katy, nice girl, very friendly and helpful. A pleasure to stay there. The place is clean, there are different spaces created for different ambience: bar, TV, room with sofas, maps and a lot of advice about things to do. If you ask Katy, she can lend you Lonely Planet "Central America on a Shoestring" or "South America on a Shoestring". Beds in a 4-bed dorm from S/. 20.
- [dead link] Hostal Kiswar, ☎ , . Right on the main plaza. A nice, clean hostel with private rooms and private bathrooms with hot showers. The owner, Jesús, also owns the adjoining Café (Café Kiswar) and will be happy to talk to you about Ollantaytambo culture, tours, or how good his coffee is. US$17-33 per room.
- Hotel Las Orquideas, Ave Ferrocarril (Down the road from the train station), ☎ . Small rooms around courtyard with shared bath. Often used by tour groups. Upper floor has view of ruins. $45-65 depending on room you get.
- [dead link] Hostal el Tambao, Calle del Horno, Pueblo Incan. In the middle of the old Incan pueblo, with clean rooms and a beautiful garden. Operated by a very friendly Peruvian family. Rooms are private with shared bathrooms. $10 per person.
- Full Moon Lodge, Pilcohuasi, ☎ . Near the center of town, with a nice view of the countryside. Simple, clean rooms with private bathrooms and hot showers. Specializes in mystic tours. $15-20 per night.
- El Albergue Ollantaytambo, Ollantaytambo Train Station platform, Tele, fax: . Built in the 1920s, this hotel was reopened in the 1970s as a backpacker place and has been renovated recently to include private baths, hot showers, beautiful gardens and friendly staff. The Albergue restaurant is rated one of the best in the Sacred Valley serving delicious trout, alpaca, house-made fettucine and a great breakfast. The proprietor has been living in Peru for 30 years. English spoken. Sauna included in price of room. Knowledgeable staff offers great orientation and arrangements for day hikes, tours and activities. Hammocks in the back. $58-74. During peak season (May 1 – August 31) minimum stay two nights required, discounted December–March.
- Apu Lodge, Calle Lari, Old Town, ☎ . Walk up from the plaza for five minutes along a narrow cobblestoned street into the unique Inca grid of back streets and you reach this quiet retreat, a new building within walled gardens with magnificent views of the Inca fortress and red tile roofs of Ollanta. Sunny rooms boast large windows, private bathrooms with hot showers, orthopedic queen size beds with down comforters and art by talented local artists. Hammocks and benches invite relaxing in the Andean sun. Book exchange, free internet, wifi, ample breakfasts, dinner served. Scottish owner Louise Norton lives nearby with her kids and knows everyone in town. She and her staff happily answer any question about travel, hikes, and tours. $65-75 with discounts November to March.
- Hostal Andenes (Hostal Los Andenes), Calle Ventiderio s/n, Ollantaytambo 28080, Peru (About 5 minutes from the rail station, at the crossroads between the road to the rail station and the main road through Ollantaytambo.), ☎ . Newly renovated, clean hostel with a central location. Owned by a very nice Peruvian family. Doesn't look like much from the outside, but has a very beautiful interior. Rooms come with private baths, hot showers, and access to their computer lab. Guests also get a discount at their adjacent restaurant. ~US$30/room.
- Hostal Iskay, 722 Patacalle (Go north on Chapui Calle and turn left on Calle 5), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 11:00, check-out: 09:00. Beautiful view from two garden terraces of the Ollantaytambo Fortress. Breakfast is a full American breakfast with eggs, fruit, bread, butter, jam, coffee or tea. Coffee and tea are available all day. Full use of the kitchen to cook your own meals or store your food. From $39 for a single room.
- [dead link] Hostal Sauce, ☎ , fax: . Calle Ventiderio 248, Located at the top of the road to the train station and Calle Ventiderio (the main road through town). Just off the main square, centrally located, some rooms have views of the Ollantaytambo ruins, breakfast included, no restaurant. Rates $88-$145.
- [dead link] Tunupa Lodge, Ave Ferrocarril, 200. M from train station to Machu Picchu. Located just above Pakaritampu, this hotel has an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding area, which includes the glacier-topped Mt. Veronica, the Incan fortress of Ollantaytambo, the Incan ruins of Pinkuylluna, and the Andes Mountains. The hotel is located on a 5000 m2 yard complete with picnic tables and garden terraces for enjoyment of the surroundings. The rooms itself are classy, clean, and include private bathrooms, hot showers, and free internet. Breakfast is included as well with any stay. US$50-70.
- 2 Casa Blanca Lodge, 174 Estudiante, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 09:00. Peaceful and tranquil setting with gardens and views of the surrounding mountains and ruins. Free Complete Organic and local ingredients for an American breakfast. Fast WiFi in every room. Lounge and bar area is available for beer and TV. US$30-70.
- 3 Intitambo Hotel, Qoya Rumiyoc 215, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Polished hotel, a bit tricky to get to by car (you may have to get out and walk up a flight of stairs), but rooms on the third floor have great views of the ruins in the surrounding mountains. Free breakfast buffet and wifi, 24-hour hot coffee. If you're leaving before breakfast starts, they'll make you a bagged breakfast. From US$47 for two people.
- Hotel Pakaritampu, ☎ . About halfway down Ave Ferrocarril between the main square and the railway station. Recently constructed modern rooms. Beautiful garden. Restaurant and bar. Business center.