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Ollantaytambo, City of the Living Inka

The living Inca city, Ollantaytambo, conceals much Inca history within its architecture. Learn more details here.
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Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo.

Ollantaytambo was one of the most important towns in the Sacred Valley, primarily because it was the closest Inca city to Machu Picchu. Today, its archaeological remains are the main attraction of the place.

The town of Ollantaytambo is the only Inca town that is still inhabited today, which is why it is known as the living Inca City. The layout of the town around the archaeological site still retains the architectural style of the Inca culture, and the residents still maintain traditions inherited from Inca ancestors.

History of Ollantaytambo

It is said that the town of Ollantaytambo was built during the expansionist period of the Inca empire by order of Pachacútec. However, there are walls that were constructed by the Huari culture, such as the fortress of Pumamarca, which later became a military compound accessible by the famous Inca trail.

What does Ollantaytambo mean?

Some historians suggest that the name Ollantaytambo derives from the word "Ullantawi," which means "looking down." Over time, it evolved to Ullanta, and as it became a tambo, it acquired its current name.

Ollantaytambo is also known from an Inca drama titled "Ollantay," whose protagonist was the general Ollanta. In this literary work, the setting of the story is this location.

View of the Ollantaytambo valley

Significance

Ollantaytambo served as a gateway to the Sacred Valley, being a mandatory passageway to Machu Picchu and thus considered a strategic military point. This site was crucial in the Inca's resistance against the Spanish during the conquest, as they managed to stop the Spanish cavalry by flooding the fields surrounding Ollantaytambo.

Location

The Ollantaytambo Archaeological Park is located in the district of the same name, in the province of Urubamba, 60 km in a straight line from the city of Cusco. It is strategically located at the opposite end of the archaeological site of Pisac.

Attractions

The Temple of the Sun

An impressive architectural ensemble almost entirely destroyed, leaving the immovable pieces that form a stone canvas which, due to its solidity, volume, and assembly method, resisted the onslaught of idol eradication and repelled treasure looters.

It is thought that the entire complex formed the Temple of the Sun, of which only the western wall remains, composed of 6 stones of red porphyry, interspersed with precision-fitted lintels.

The Bath of the Ñust'a

A beautiful water feature with a triple cascade in parallel and broken lines, sculpted on its front side. The Incas built clusters of liturgical fountains in every urban center.

Mayraqay Square, also called K'uychipunku

Mañay means request and Raqay means shed; interpreted as the Square of Petitions. This name was given to the Ollantaytambo Square and is maintained to this day; the square is located on the right bank of the Patakancha stream, rectangular in shape, with many doorways in its enclosing walls.

The Royal House of the Sun

The Royal House of the Sun still preserves the layout of Incan urban planning. It consists of 17 superimposed terraces, a succession of straight and wide platforms oriented towards the side of the square and the town; the upper group of terraces runs transversely to the previous group at a higher elevation.

The Enclosure of Ten Niches

Located on the last terrace of the upper group, the entire wall forms a kind of room. This enclosure is currently incomplete, as the outer wall and the wall containing the entrance door were demolished, though the foundations remain, showing that the niches faced inward, not exposed to the elements as they are today.

Groups of Terraces

Several kilometers before Ollantaytambo, there is a grouping of parallel terraces with formidable inclined faces toward the hill, featuring steps embedded in the walls.

The Forts of Choqana

Choqana, a Quechua word meaning "where it is knocked down or thrown," corresponds to a barracks located two kilometers before Ollantaytambo, on the left side of the Urubamba River. It served as an administrative control point, a signal station, and communication hub, as it has many enclosures designed for surveillance.

Streets of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley Tour
The streets of Ollantaytambo retain Inca architecture

General Information about Ollantaytambo

Opening Hours

Monday to Sunday from 08:00 am to 05:30 pm.

Price

Admission to Tambomachay is included in the Cusco Tourist Ticket.

  • Cusco Tourist Ticket for Foreign Tourists: S/. 130.00 (Approx. USD 36) allows entry to 16 tourist sites, valid for 10 days.
  • Cusco Tourist Ticket for National Tourists: S/. 70.00 (Approx. USD 20) allows entry to 16 tourist sites, valid for 10 days.

Climate

The climate in Tambomachay is generally sunny during the day and cool-cold at night. It is recommended to visit this place in the mornings, as the afternoon wind makes the visit uncomfortable.