Ollantaytambo – Things to Do in an Overlooked Incan Town

Arrival in Cuzco, Peru!

 There isn’t a much better feeling than living in a foreign country for five months, and after traveling for 18 hours to step off a plane Peru and getting to see your family. Jordan was waiting for me in the customs line in Cuzco, after a huge hug and lots of excitement the reality that I was actually getting to see my family was setting in.

Travelling from Buenos Aires to Cuzco, Peru

Getting from BA to Cuzco was quite the process. I left BA at 4 in the afternoon, took a bus to the airport, flew to Santa Cruz, Bolivia (after standing in line forever with my super heavy bag), then flew to La Paz, Bolivia where I took a taxi and stayed a night in Loki Hostel… First hostel I had stayed at that required wrist bands. It was 6 stories, crazy boliche style bar on the top floor, and signs covering almost every inch of the wall claiming excessive drinking was bad for your health and any illegal drugs were severely punished. I got the hint of what type of hostel I was in haha. I got lucky though and the 4 bed girl dormitory I rented ended up staying empty so I got a private room. Early the next morning I cabbed back to the airport, caught my flight to Cuzco, Peru and enjoyed the wonderful family reunion.
Family backpacking reunion in ollantaytambo

Peru + Bolivia 1-week Trip Itinerary

Our trip itinerary went as follows; arrive in Cuzco, take the train to Aguascalientes and spend the night. Next morning go to Machu Picchu, hike Waynapicchu mountain and catch the train back to Ollantaytambo that night. Spend the night in Ollantaytambo and spend the following day exploring Cuzco until getting on our Bolivia Hop bus that would take us to Puno, Copacabana, and final destination, La Paz. After two nights in La Paz (and hopefully biking Death Road) we would catch a flight to Uyuni where the following three days would be a tour of the salt flats of Uyuni. Final leg was flying back to La Paz, then to Buenos Aires the next morning. PHEW.

The #1 Think you Should Know Before Visiting Machu Picchu

While sitting in the airport in La Paz I decided to do a little research on Machu Picchu and Aguascalientes where I realized the trains from Cuzco to Aguascalientes weren’t quite as simple as I had previously thought, most were booked out weeks in advance. Sure enough once checking the train website, there was no way we could get Aguascalientes that night… Fingers crossed I hoped mom or dad had booked train tickets previously without my knowledge as I boarded my flight to Cuzco. But I did reserve a night at a hostel in Ollantaytambo in case we couldn’t get to Aguascalientes that night.
My fears were confirmed upon arrival as my mom explained to me exactly what I had figured out that morning. A man who owned a car service (and supposably worked for a tourist agency) had been trying to convince them to buy tickets from his company before I arrived, but they were holding out on the hope I had booked the train tickets without them knowing. By the time I got there his tour agency had supposably ran out of the train tickets, but he told us our best chance was getting to the Ollantaytambo train station where we might get a ticket if someone cancelled. Agreeing we got in his car and we were off. Very slowly. After filling his tires with air (and doing a painfully slow loop around the block cause the air station was reserved) and stopping at 2 different gas stations because the first was out of gas (figures, South America), and receiving a ticket from the cops for something to do with his license plate we were actually starting the 2 hour beautiful drive to Ollantaytambo.

Arrival to Ollantaytambo

 Arriving at Ollantaytambo we immediately booked our train tickets to Aguascalientes for the next morning at 6 am then set off to find the hostel I had booked earlier that morning in La Paz.
After a bit of wandering we found our cute hostel, Hostal Ollantaytampu, dropped off our bags then went search of lunch.
The square in Ollantaytambo, Peru

Authentic Peruvian Lunch at Misky Unu

Near the plaza next to the Ollantaytambo ruins we stumbled upon a nice, authentic, Peruvian food restaurant, Misky Unu. Immediately we ordered a round of pisco sours and an appetizer of the well-known Peruvian ceviche. It was delicious!! We got main entrees of llama steaks, stuffed peppers, and ají de gallina; all very typical Peruvian dishes, a perfect way to start the trip!
Authentic Peruvian Lunch in Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo Ruins

Afterwards we headed to the Ollantaytambo ruins. After being initially turned off by the cost of entry (which actually applies to multiple ruins in the sacred valley) we entered knowing that the odds of seeing them again were slim to none. Immediately upon entering a young guy named Ron approached us asking if we would like a guided tour of the ruins. After an awkward moment of bartering, him getting extremely offended and defending his profession, we agreed and we were on our way.
Ron was great! Funny, charismatic, spoke great english, and was super passionate about the incas and the ruins having grown up in the culture. Walking with him through the ruins added fantastic stories and insight to the crazy looking rocks surrounding us. He described their buildings for storing foods, pointed out faces that they worshiped in the rocks, and gave a great idea of what and why these ruins were there.
Can you see face in the hill? Ollantaytambo Ruins

Mysteries of the Ollantaytambo Ruins

Incas were able to cut stones, perfectly. Perfect squares, interlocking systems, and geometrical shapes were either carved into or made out of the massive boulders. To this day scientists have been unable to replicate the techniques that Incas used to achieve that. He also pointed out the unfinished temple of the sun, which consisted of five or six massive rocks that weighed 100 to 150 tons each.
Temple of the Sun in the Ollantaytambo Ruins
Their smooth surfaces and perfection was incredible, but our minds were blown when he pointed out a quarry far in the distance on a mountain on the other side of the valley. Ron informed us that those 150 ton rocks came from that quarry. The Incas had brought them down the mountain, forged a river, crossed a valley, and then brought them up to the top of another mountain. I was exhausted just looking at it.
View of the valley from the Ollantaytambo Ruins
I also couldn’t quite believe that the incredible ruins I was looking at were built in only 96 years. Mind blowing.
Ron then took us slowly through the rest; telling great stories and giving very interesting information. We were all a little embarrassed we hadn’t known more about the Incas before coming…
Family Photo at the Ollantaytambo Ruins

Exploring Ollantaytambo

Afterwards Ron walked us back out to the main square (as he had kept the tour going until the security of the ruins kicked us out) making us try on silly hats, and telling us his favorite places to eat. After slipping a number to Jordan he was off on his way ;).
Funny Masks in the Ollantaytambo Market
We prepared for Machu Picchu the next day by getting sandwiches that we could take with us. We popped into a bakery called Arider on the main square where probably the nicest man in the entire world worked. After some fun chatting and realizing he had craft beer (the owners of the brewery were from Colorado… weird) we sat down and enjoyed delicious dark stouts while waiting for our sandwiches. So fun to just sit with the family and talk, I haven’t gotten to do that in months!

Dinner at 5Comentarios

Wanting to try one of Ron’s favorite restaurants we didn’t stay for dinner, but the owner slipped us some cookies in our to go bags on our way out (remember: nicest man ever). Hilariously Ron’s two favorite restaurants was a ChiFa restaurant which at the time we thought was just Chinese food (it’s actually a Peruvian/Chinese fusion) and a rotisserie chicken place that consisted of some plastic tables and chairs, a soap opera on the TV, and us being the only guests. We ended up choosing 5comentarios, the chicken place. What a goofy dinner. They had one type of beer and one type of wine, served a starter of chicken soup (seasoned with chicken feet), had a buffet salad, and rotisserie chicken with french fries. As ridiculous and goofy the dinner was, the chicken was amazing! Laughing at the fact that this is what Ron recommended we headed back to our hostel and fell asleep quickly anticipating the early morning to come.
Chicken dinner at 5comentarios in Ollantaytambo
To continue with us to MACHU PICCHU click here!
Ollantaytambo Things To Do in an Overlooked Incan Town
2017-02-24T12:01:27+00:00 August 19th, 2015|Peru, South America, Travel|2 Comments

About the Author:


  1. […] del Mar, Casablanca Valley and San Pedro de Atacama. After the program I traveled with my family to Ollantaytambo, Cuzco and Machu Picchu in Peru and to Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Death Road, and Uyuni in […]

  2. […] del Mar, Casablanca Valley and San Pedro de Atacama. After the program I traveled with my family to Ollantaytambo, Cuzco and Machu Picchu in Peru and to Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Death Road, and Uyuni in […]

Leave A Comment