5 places to visit in Ollantaytambo, Peru, the monumental Incan fortress on the way to Machu Picchu

On the way to Machu Picchu, don't miss all the attractions in the town of Olllantaytambo, an Incan architectural jewel of Peru.

Pinkuylluna storehouses, Ollantaytambo, Peru. Image courtesy of Juan Carlos Caceres Ccahua via Wikimedia Commons.

If you plan to travel to Peru on vacation to visit Machu Picchu, one of the seven wonders of the world, on the way to this citadel you will find Ollantaytambo, another Inca architectural jewel that was recently selected as one of the ‘Best Tourism Villages’ by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Ollantaytambo is 3,000 meters above sea level and is located 80 km from the city of Cusco and 40 km from Machu Picchu. It is one of the oldest architectural complexes of the Incan Empire, recognized for preserving its homes, streets and irrigation canals from the ancient civilization that are still used by its current population.

Ollantaytambo is a necessary stop for tourists on their way to Machu Picchu, because from there you can take the trains to Machu Picchu.

The city is full of activities and tourist attractions that will make you fall in love. Here are some Ollantaytambo destinations that you must not miss on your next visit.

 

Ollantaytambo Archeological Park – Cusco Peru. Image courtesy of Paulo JC Nogueira via Wikimedia Commons.

Ollantaytambo’s Archaeological Park 

There is no doubt that the ruins of the old fortress of Ollantaytambo are the main tourist attraction, especially for its constructions over four meters high made up of platforms and perfect stone carvings.

In these ruins you can find iconic Inca constructions including:

  • The Temple of the Sun: it is an incredible monolith created by six enormous blocks of stone perfectly joined together. In the past it was an Incan watchtower.
  • Real Casa del Sol: there are a total of 17 platforms carved into the side of the mountain that overlook the square and the town.
  • Baño de la Ñusta: a source of water from the Patakancha River, this construction is considered a masterpiece of hydraulic engineering created by the Incas. It is said that here the Inca woman bathed to purify herself.

To access the ruins, you must purchase the Cusco Tourist Ticket, which varies according to the type of visitor (adult/student) and the type of ticket (general/partial). The price ranges between 70 and 130 soles, depending on the number of tourist destinations you want to visit. Tickets can be found in authorized tourism offices around Cusco.

 

Ruins of granaries on the hillside over Ollantaytambo. Image courtesy of Stevage via Wikimedia Commons.

Pinkuylluna Mountain Storehouses

On a steep mountain located in front of the Ollantaytambo fortress you can find the Pinkuylluna storehouses, where the ancient civilization stored several agricultural products for better conservation. 

Climbing this mountain is not very complicated and takes about 20 minutes on foot. The location of these storehouses is at the top of the hill because the fresh and cold air kept the stored food ventilated, like a refrigerator.

From there you can see the entire town, the architectural complex and take beautiful pictures. Admission is free.

 

Ollantaytambo’s Main Square (Cusco). Image credit: Courtesy of rockaroundtheglobe (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Ollantaytambo’s Main Square

Ollantaytambo’s main town square is an unmissable destination because it’s a hub for essentially everything you’ll need during your trip. The main square provides tourist services, cafes, typical restaurants, bars, hotels, markets, craft markets and access to the train station. 

The most impressive views are of the buildings and houses around the square, because they have preserved the original design that existed during the time of the Incan empire.

Ollantaytambo is the only Inca town that is still inhabited. The square and the surrounding streets are built with stone. This area is also known as the Living Inca City, because its residents maintain some of the traditions inherited from their Inca ancestors. 

Visiting the town square is free, but bring some extra soles to purchase some of the beautiful local crafts and delicious food.

 

The Perolniyoc waterfall in Ollantaytambo (Cusco, Peru). Image credit: Courtesy of Luis Iparraguirre – ANDINA

Perolniyoq Waterfall

For those who love nature, a visit to the Perolniyoq Waterfall is a must. The beautiful aquatic attraction is located in the community of Socma, half an hour by car from Ollantaytambo. 

This waterfall is over 100 meters high with crystal clear water cascading down sharp rock edges.

An added bonus, visitors to the waterfall can also make their way to the Inca archaeological complex “Raqaypata,” which is located on top of the mountain where the waterfall begins its descent. The top of the mountain offers beautiful vistas as well as loads of Andean flora and fauna, including condors, eagles, spectacled bears, foxes, among others, along the way.

Once you arrive at the town of Socma, take a local taxi or car service to a section of the road that connects with a traditional Inca trail. From that point you must walk about 3 kilometers to reach the beautiful Perolniyoc waterfall. 

In Cusco’s downtown or in the Ollantaytambo main square you can find tourist agencies offering tours to the Perolniyoc waterfall for a fee.

 

Catcco Museum in Ollantaytambo (Cusco). Image credit: Courtesy of Davide (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Catcco Museum

Another free and fun destination is the “Catcco” museum, where elements of the geography, history, archaeology and agriculture of Ollantaytambo are on full display. 

Inside the museum there are five rooms with panels, models, paintings and infographics about everything you should know about Ollantaytambo. In addition, there is information about other tourist sites that you can visit during your stay.

Also, a collection of ceramic handicrafts, carved handicrafts and textiles that are created by the local residents stands out.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday and is accessible with a small entrance fee.

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