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Ollantaytambo


Inca Trail, Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is a natural scenario located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas at 76 km of Cusco by road (Chinchero-Urubamba) and at 68 km (42.2 miles) by train.

Ollantaytambo is a compound Quechua word that is derived from " Ollanta" that is a personal name, and " Tambo" that is a Spanish form of " Tanpu" that refers about a city that offered lodgings, food and comfort for travelers.

Until some years ago Ollantaytambo was seen as a passing point in the route of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, subtracting its importance that had in the Inca's times and forgetting its legacy. The town is located at the foot of some spectacular Inca ruins which protected the strategic entrance to the lower Urubamba Valley. The temple area is at the top of steep terracing which helped to provide excellent defenses. Stone used for these buildings was brought from a quarry high up on the opposite side of the Urubamba river - an incredible feat involving the efforts of thousands of workers. The complex was still under construction at the time of the conquest and was never completed.

It is one of the few cities that still maintain the urban-Incan planning. It is divided in two parts by the Patacancha River; the first one (to the east) has an octagonal shape with blocks of different sizes, and the second one (to the west) has a ceremonial character, and is the place in where the square Mañay Racay, also known as Aracma Ayllu, is located. The first part of the town has a grid-shape design, with narrow streets that open up towards the Urubamba River. Each block or square is composed of a group of houses that share the same door to the middle yard.

They are made of edged stones jointed with rubblework clay mortar and adobe covers. Originally, they used a suspension bridge made of braided ichu or maguey fibers that had to be renewed every year. Nowadays, the bridges that cross the river are built on two huge pebbles and are made of large stones. The agricultural activity of this area benefited from the brook of Patakancha, a place that had huge cultivation terraces that, currently, are damaged and abandoned. The ceremonial sector was mainly devoted to the worship of "Unue" or "Yaku" (water deities).

For this reason, there were a series of fountains that were used to this end, such as the Baño de la Ñusta (Bath of the Ñusta), which is one of the carved-stone fountains made of a single granite piece of 1.30 meters high and 2.50 meters wide. It is one of the most known fountains and the water still flows inside it. This place is constituted by a small plain that leads to a huge hill in whose sides there are various archaeological monuments. The main monument is located at the top and is known ad the "Fortress" or "Royal House of the Sun".

The noble class that inhabited this place had at their disposal a wide urban sector that surrounded a square and especially a Kallanka, which was an amazing building with astonishing dimensions. The royal palaces had wooden doors, with many rooms around a central yard. The lowest part of the buildings is original and is made of pirka, covered with clay.

A half kilometer away from the main road, on the wall surrounding the city, we can find the old main door of Ollantaytambo, called "Llaqta-Punku" or Grating of the Town. To the west of the square we can find the terraces that were used with two purposes: cultivation and to stop the corrosion of the most significant temples of the area.

The cultivation terraces oriented to the square side are located to the right. The upper group of these cultivation terraces stands out due to their finely carved stones as well as their excellent assembly. The last cultivation terrace contains the ten-niche precinct also called the Temple of the Ten Windows, and the Monumental Front, whose function is still unknown.

Another remarkable monument is the Inca Misana, an aqueduct carved on the stones of the mountain, next to a liturgical fountain, small staircases and niches of false openings that constituted the places used by the Inca to address to the people. The privileged position of Ollantaytambo enabled the existence of other small buildings strategically located at high angles of the mountains so as to control the people movement in the valley.

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