Going Inca in Ollantaytambo
comment 3 Written by on February 22, 2010 – 10:03 am

ollanta2I have a tip for you. I haven’t had much luck with it until now. None of my friends heading to Peru have taken me up on it. Why? Not because they don’t believe me, but generally because when it comes to visiting Machu Pichhu they’ve tied themselves into rigid schedules. A few days in Cusco to acclimatise, then straight on the Inca Trail, then out of there. Onward to Bolivia … or wherever.

Fine, if you’re tight for time and have your heart set on the Inca Trail, but if you do have some spare days, I totally recommend spending some extra time in Sacred Valley, especially if you can base yourself in the lovely Ollantaytambo. I’ve just written about it at length in TNT magazine.

Here’s an extract on why Ollanta won me over:

For most backpackers in Peru, seeing Inca ruins means one thing: trekking. Mostly this involves the Inca Trail, which, as satisfying as it is, also involves three nights’ camping and some fairly strenuous hiking at high altitude. This is why Ollantaytambo – which sits conveniently on the train route from Cusco to Machu Picchu – comes as a welcome respite. To soak up incredible historical ruins here, all you need do is slightly tilt your head. Some of the country’s most spectacular 15th-century ruins are built into the surrounding mountains and the town is framed by Inca terraces, which rise up the hills like giant stone steps and carry extra significance as one of the few places that the Incas defeated the Spanish conquistadors.

Ollantaytambo bills itself as a “living Inca town”, and walking its narrow, cobbled streets feels like being in a large, open-air museum – albeit one where you’ll see people carrying their laundry or riding a bike through the exhibits. It’s one of South America’s oldest continually inhabited sites, and is known for the best- preserved examples of kanchas (traditional stone houses built around a central courtyard). It’s an impressive sight even before you remind yourself that everything here – each perfectly carved stone block – was constructed without the wheel or iron tools.

You can find lots of local travel tips on Ollantaytambo on LeapLocal.org as the site’s founder lives there and runs the town’s new Apu Lodge Hotel.

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3 Responses to “Going Inca in Ollantaytambo”

  1. I love your description of Ollantaytambo’s streets. We ended up spending nearly a week in there in January because we enjoyed it so much, and just walking around the streets was one of my favorite ways to pass an afternoon. The staff at the hotel we were staying at looked at us strangely every morning when we told them that we’d be spending another day–not many people take their time there.

    Also, Hearts Cafe in the central plaza had the absolute best coffee that I had in all of Peru!

  2. Thanks Jessie. I also spent much longer there than planned. Found a wonderful homestay via LeapLocal.org with a wonderful family. (More about it here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/apr/04/machu-picchu-peru-local-guides)

    I remember Hearts. Sweet little place. Not sure I had coffee there though. Perhaps I’ll have to go back for that 😉

    By Vicky Baker on Mar 4, 2010 | Reply
  3. It’s nice to hear about some places that have loads to offer but are less touristed – I find that the more I travel, the more I seek out these places, the lesser known cities and regions, having been slightly disappointed when the crowds and hastles at the top ‘must see spots’ makes it less than a magical experience

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