Ollantaytambo Ruins in Cusco, Peru — Cyclopean Inca Ruins

1. History:

Ollantaytambo Ruins Cusco Peru | According to Spanish chroniclers such as Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, this architectural precinct dates bakc to the 15th century when Pachaquteq converted a chiefdom to an Empire.

Ollantaytambo Ruins Cusco Peru

There is a very famous literary work from the Inca period known as “Ollantay“, the work is set in the years that Pachaquteq reigned and indicates that General Ollantay became a rebel man against the Emperor Pachaquteq(Ollantay fell in love with Pachacuteq´s daughter however the emperor never gives the permission to court on her daughter because Ollantay was not a noble blood man), but Ollantay loses many battles and entrenches himself in this place with thousands of soldiers, giving rise to the name of the city: Ollantaytambo, literally means The trenchif Ollantay.

Other intellectuals such as Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino point out that the name comes from the Aymara language: Ullantawi: which means a Watchtower, this was the name of this city until the Quechua ethnic group took control of this town in the 15th century and changed the nunciation was changed to Ollantaytambo.

Rodolfo Cerrón Palomino

Ollantaytambo fulfilled a ceremonial function back in the Inca Period, the terraces that are located in the upper part of the old Ollantaytambo were dedicated to Deities such as The Sun, consider that in the Inca period there were lands exclusively dedicated to the Gods and were carved by the Yanaconas (People who had the perpetual obligation to work in agriculture, livestock, ceramics or other activities).

The other function of this city was the control of products that came from the jungle such as Coca leaves and coco beans, we mean that this was a checkpoint – Consider that there was no money therefore no monetary taxation system in the Inca period. Taxes needed to be paid in different forms such as working on agriculture.

2. Architecture of Ollantaytambo:

The lithic architecture is the one facts that outstands the most for visitors, some of those lithic pieces can weigh up to more than 100 tons.

Architecture of Ollantaytambo

Each piece was carved individually, all the pieces were brought from the Káchik’ata quarry, which is located almost 3 km away – Ollantaytambo and the quarry are separated by the Vilcanota River.

The stones had to be broken into lighter pieces in the quarry by using expansion through fire, contraction by water, and friction through percussion, they used bronze hammers and meteorite stones.

Then the lithic pieces were moved down the mountain to the Vilcanota river by using gravity and the ramps; They used hundreds of specialized people, llama and alpaca fibre ropes, sand, wood rollers and stone rollers were used on the ramps for pulling the stones.

To transport the stone over the river, this process had to be carried out in the dry season (April to September), then the river had to be channeled to one side and the stone moved to that place, then the river was channeled again the opposite side and thus finish the transfer of the stone to the other side of the river.

From the Vilcanota river, the stone had to be moved to the top of the mountain. For the temple of the Sun the stones had to be placed vertically, however, there is no much space to move cyclopean stones(more than 100 tones) but they were still capable to place the stones(6 big stones), however, they were not able to fit them very close, there are small narrow vertical spaces in between the 6 big stones, these spaces were covered with thin stones. Please See the Image Below:

The Temple of the Sun

3. Details – Important facts of Ollantaytambo:

3.1 Description

Ollantaytambo as attraction is divided into two locations:

  1. The Inca-Colonial city of Ollantaytambo that still maintains its culture and idiosyncrasy from the Inca period, as well as its language: Quechua. This part of the city still maintains the urban layout from the Inca Architects, however many of the houses are from the spanish period.
    Inca-Colonial city of Ollantaytambo
  2. The dead city of Ollantaytambo – No locals live in this old city but there are many tourists exploring the terraces, temples of this site and the ramp.
    Ollantaytambo Old Inca City

3.2 Where is it located and what is the weather like?

It is located on the northeast of Cusco, 90 Kilometers away from Cuzco at 2792 meters above sea level, the average temperature is 18 ° C, so don´t worry about high altitude sickness, consider that Cusco is at 3400 meters above sea level.

3.3 Where is Ollantaytambo on Google Maps?

3.4 Schedules – Opening Hours for Ollantaytambo:

The archaeological part can be visited every day, from 8am to 5pm.

3.5 What is the price to access Ollantaytambo?

Prices may vary, depending on whether you are peruvian or foreigner, student or you belong to the Andean Community.

Tourist Ticket Cusco – Boleto Turístico Cusco

In any case, you will require to buy the Tourist Ticket or “Boleto Turistico”, the price for peruvians is 70 Soles and for Foreigners is 130 Soles, it can be cheaper if you only buy the Partial Tourist Ticket.

For more information about the Tourist Ticket Cusco,  you can aslo buy the ticket Avenida el Sol 185 or the same attraction but sometimes the Partial Tickets are sold out when you buy at the same attraction. Please bring local curreny for the ticket.

Important: You don´t need to pay for visitng the Inca-Colonial city, the Tourist Ticket is used to enter the ruins of Ollantaytambo, the old city.

4. How to get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo ruins? Transportation, Schedules

4.1 By Van, Bus, Minibus, Colectivo, Taxi, Uber

There are many ways to do it, but we recommend that you go to Calle Pavitos in the historic center of Cusco, there you will find many Vans (Minibuses), they leave every 10 to 15 minutes, you will find them from 6am to 7pm. – Pay an average of 10 Soles.

If you take a taxi, the price is an average of 150 Soles, you can find them in the Regocijo square, but we don´t recommend them because they normally over-charge, if you really want a Taxi, use Uber.

5. How to get from Ollantaytambo to Santa Teresa, Hidroeléctrica and Aguas Calientes?

  1. We recommend booking a tourist train ticket (remember that you cannot buy a Local train ticket for Aguas Calientes unless you are Peruvian). Buy your train ticket in advance from Peru Rail or Inca Rail in Cusco city or Online.
  2. There are no public busus to get to Santa Teresa or Hydroelectric, therefore we recommend you buy your Bus tickets in Cusco or Ollantantaytambo via a Tour Agency. Many people prefer Buses because they are cheap compared to trains, however don´t forget that no Bus will take you to the city of Aguas Calientes, all buses drop you off at the hidroelectric, you will have to walk from the Hydroelectric to Aguas Calientes for about 3 hours.
  3. We recommend you buy your Bus or Train tickets in advance through a travel agency, don´t worry, we don´t want to sell you anything, but it is much more practical to contact a travel agency, considering that sometimes the queues are endless, sure that you will pay a few Dollars more, but nothing is more valuable than your tranquility. It’s all up to you!

6. What to do and visit in Ollantaytambo? Activities?

The town’s population is very small, it does not exceed 15 thousand inhabitants, which also gives us aclue to understand that the city is small, therefore the activities to be carried out are limited, however very enjoyable, below we recommend some of them:

Guinea Pigs in the Kitchen

  1. Visit the Ollantaytambo ruins, especially the Temple of the Sun
  2. Take a walk on your own in the Inca-Colonial city
  3. Visit a “Cuyeria”(the place where they breed the guinea pigs), many houses still breed guinea pigs in their kitchens, thus maintaining the Andean tradition, remember that guinea pigs in Peru were domesticated 7 thousand years ago to be eaten – They are not Pets!
  4. Visit a traditional restaurant and order something typical of the city with Chicha de Jora(fermented alcoholic beverage based on corn)
  5. You can also do Experiential Tourism, there are many families that offer this type of very trendy activity, that helps to better distribute wealth for the families that have the least, basically the indigenous communities.

7. What Lodgings and Accommodations are there in Ollantaytambo?

7.1 Recommended Hotels

  1. Terra Nostra
  2. Las Portadas
  3. Peru Quechua´s Lodge

7.2 Recommended Hostels

  1. Mama Simona
  2. Ollantaytampu Hostel Patacalle
  3. Hostal Chaska Wasi

8. What Restaurants and Bars are there in Ollantaytambo?

9. Where is the train station of Ollantaytambo?

The Ollantaytambo train station is located on Avenida Ferrocarril, about 10 minutes maximum on foot, if you have luggage, don’t worry, the city has many “Motorbike taxis”, hire one of them and pay about 5 Soles!


This Blog was written by the team of Cusco Free Walking Tour