Of course when you plan your trip to Peru, you have Machu Picchu pinned down already. It is an incredible place, definitely worth a visit whichever way you chose. In the end it is one of the 7 Wonders of The World! You can take the famous Inca Trail, take a bus and train combo or even bus and walk as some people do. The latter can nowadays more and more difficult as Peruvian government is clamping-down on such walks to sell more permits. There is however one place we urge you to add to your list when planning your visit, so put together a little Ollantaytambo Travel Guide.
Not all roads lead through this picture perfect village of Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, your train might be passing by but we can assure you a few hundred yards from the train station lies a peaceful, unspoiled and friendly village with plenty to offer. So there is a good reason why you should slow down and stay for a night or two.
We arrived in Ollantaytambo early in the morning and we instantly fell in love with this place. It is full of tourists yes, but still it is pretty authentic with Inca terraces, temples and original irrigation system. That irrigation system almost cost me a broken leg so mind your step peeps when visiting. I somehow did not see it in front of me, fell in with one leg and bruised it really hard. So, trekking around Ollantaytambo was out of the question for me. It had to get better to climb Machu Picchu. Tom went on and he loved the views of the valley. It is so easy to understand why Inca thought of it sacred. It’s very green with flows everywhere and a huge river floating along and massive mountain peaks surrounding it – just naturally stunning.
Interested? So here is what you need to know!
How To Get There?
You can take a taxi (expensive!), go with a tour company (probably a rip off!) or take a local colectivo (easy and fun!). A colectivo is usually a small bus and passengers share the cost of the journey. From Cusco’s main square – Plaza de Armas, shared colectivos for Ollantaytambo leave every 20 – 30 minutes. There are no scheduled times for colectivos, they simply wait until full before heading off. The journey from Cusco to Ollantaytambo (and Ollantaytambo to Cusco ) takes around about 1 hour and 45 minutes, and costs 10 – 12 Soles per person.
You will enjoy the journey out of Cusco I am sure, with its rugged highlands surrounded by fields of livestock, snow-capped mountains, jagged ridges, magnificent glaciers and far-reaching views down the valley.
Where To Stay?
Since Peru’s tourism is very developed, you will have a choice of any type of accommodation you wish. From simple hostels and guesthouses to luxurious apartments. Even though the town was packed with visitors we had no trouble of finding a place to stay. We stayed in the very centre by the main Plaza and I suggest to use either Booking.com or Expedia for hotel bookings, Hostel World for hostel beds and backpackers vibe and finally Airbnb if you fancy your own place.
What To Do?
#1 Visit the Inca Ruins
For history and archaeology enthusiasts, Ollantaytambo’s main draw is the terraced fortifications above the western edge of the village. For those who can handle the fairly steep climb, the reward at the top is a well-preserved Inca temple, the place of a famous victory of Inca Emperor Manco against the Spanish in 1536.
Entry to the ruins is free with the ten-day Cusco Tourist Ticket (along with the church at Chinchero and the terraces at Moray) or you can pay an entry fee for Ollantaytambo alone. Alternatively, an easier way to save some money is to visit one of Ollantaytambo’s free attraction on the opposite side of the valley, the Inca granaries which are no less impressive.
#2 Walk around the town’s ancient streets
Even if you only have a few hours in Ollantaytambo, you can wander around its ancient cobbled streets, lined with centuries-old beautiful buildings, colonial houses and of original Inca walls. The sound of mountain water cascading down wonderfully preserved Inca irrigation channels (remember them irrigation channel and my poor leg?) you will hear everywhere you go. You are going to love bumping into a local in traditional Andean clothes with a brightly coloured outfit.
#3 Hike up the hills for spectacular views
Provided you have no fear of heights, you are fairly fit and don’t mind the steep climb, you will love it! What’s best than a view from above of the valley around the town after you have already seen all the sights and enjoyed a stroll though the ancient streets?
#4 Watch locals and their lives go by
Finish your walking tour with a pit-stop on the main square. It’s probably not the most interesting from the architectural point of view but it’s a great place for a bit of people watching, and – that is why you should stay overnight – it is a great spot to enjoy a nice evening meal or a cold beer with the view of the Inca ruins at sunset.
How much money to bring?
The southern part of Peru is not a backpackers mecca when it comes to spending budget. It is relatively more pricey than other parts of the country or neighbouring countries. I am sure you already budgeted for this when planning your visit to Machu Picchu, which by itself is a rather large cost (Inca Trail from $550pp; train to Aguascalientes from $55pp; ticket to MP $70pp plus Huayna Picchu $16pp; plus accommodation and food). Good news is that there is an international ATM in Ollantaytambo should you need more money there and then.
Ollantaytambo Travel Guide – Essential Travel Tips:
- Ollantaytambo is a starting point of the ‘cheaper’ train to MP (it is half way between MP and Cusco). It is ridiculous as it is but you, as a foreigner, are not allowed to take a local train from Ollantaytambo to Aguascalientes village.
- It was the first place we have visited that did not allow tourists to take a train with locals. As far as we understand the price difference, we don’t understand why we could not ride with them but had to sit in this posh carriage with leather seats and waiters serving coffee. Even in very a conservative Myanmar we could ride a train with the locals who add to the overall experience of every place.
- Surprisingly we met a lot of people on the way who were considering not visiting MP at all because of the overall experience. I suppose Peruvian Government is rushing to make as much money as possible as MP is sliding down and it is unsure how long they will be able to do so. So sad, really!!!
- To register to MachuPicchu visit: www.machupicchu.gob.pe and choose your date. They only allow 400 people a day. Good tip: for best views choose 10 am hike up the Waynapicchu/ Huaynapicchu as earlier the clouds cover the valley views
- The cheapest way to get to MP is by Santa Maria (bus) and Santa Teresa (bus) where you can catch a train for only 12$ to Aguascalientes. You will miss on Ollantaytambo though so we don’t recommend this option. Unless you come back on the way back:-)
- Peru has incredible Tourist Information points that can help you with pretty much anything. They printed our MP tickets for us, gave us loads of pamphlets and even called a boat company for the Amazon to find out dates of departure. Use them, really recommended.