Perched at the northern end of Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas, the Ollantaytambo Ruins were once the administrative center of the Inca Empire. It was also the site of a rare Inca victory over the Spanish conquistador army in 1536. These days, the remarkable ruins are the most common starting point for visitors to the legendary Inca Trail.
Learn the secrets of Inca urban planning at its finest in this well-preserved archeological park, much of which has been rebuilt according to its original construction. The massive Inca fortress soars above the village’s cobbled streets and the monolithic stones of the Temple of the Sun built by Pachacuti in the 1400s. The complex has many outstanding features, including a ceremonial temple above the fortress and masterful Inca stonework throughout.
There are many options for exploring the archeological park: private or group tours include day trips from Cusco or multi-day tours combined with visits to Lima, Machu Picchu, and various towns in the Sacred Valley, such as Chinchero, Moray, Pisac, and Maras—each with their own worthy attractions. Active adventures include tours through the exquisite scenery on mountain bikes and ATVs. Many tours include transportation, entrance fees, accommodations, and guides; check individual tours for details.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Ollantaytambo Ruins is a must for archaeology and history buffs, and first-time visitors to the Sacred Valley.
- Wear comfortable shoes, as you will be walking a lot on uneven stones. The best view—a panorama of the remains of several temples and ceremonial fountains—is atop 200 steps.
- Because of the high altitude, be sure to stay hydrated and take it slow. Chewing on coca leaves or drinking coca tea helps alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness.
- Tours operate in all weather conditions, so remember to dress appropriately: sweaters for colder months and a rain poncho for rainy season.
How to Get There
The Ollantaytambo Ruins are about 12 miles (19.2 kilometers) from Urubamba, and 37 miles (60 kilometers) from Cusco. Trains running between Cusco and Aguas Calientes (for Machu Picchu) stop at Ollantaytambo, which is the halfway mark along the route.
When to Get There
The archeological park is open from 7am to 6pm daily year-round. Arrive early for a less crowded visit. Dry season in the Sacred Valley is from May to October, and rainy season generally spans January through April.
Behind the Scenes
Follow the 3.5-mile (6-kilometer) trail to the quarry on the other side of the river to see where the Incas procured the immense stone blocks for their construction. Ever the ingenious builders, they diverted the river to flush the stones down to a construction site.