About Ollantaytambo Ruins
Ollantaytambo is an ancient Inca fortress and modern village located approximately 60 miles north of the city of Cuzco, which now contains a series of impressive Inca ruins.
History of Ollantaytambo
The fortress was originally built by the emperor Pachacuti in the mid-15th century to bring local tribes under Inca control, but it was also used as a temple. Its prominence was short-lived however: after a heavy defeat at the hands of the conquistadors at Sacsaywamán, Manco Inca retreated to Ollantaytambo.
The conquistadors – under the command of Hernando Pizarro – attached the site in 1536, but suffered one of their few defeats. Manco Inca ordered the plains below the hilltop fortress to be flooded using channels already in place, grounding Spanish horses and removing their advantage.
Refusing to accept defeat, the Spanish returned with four times the force and Manco Inca fled to Vilcabamba. Those who remained at Ollantaytambo were under a Spanish encomienda, and the site was all but deserted.
The ruins resurfaced again in the 19th century, and Hiram Bingham stopped here en route to Machu Picchu.
Today, the ruins of this ancient fortification sit 2,800m above sea-level atop a high hill and still boast the original stepped walls – which also served as terraces – as well as the remains of a royal chamber, Temple of the Sun and a structure known as the “Princess’ Baths”. The ceremonial centre sits atop the terraces.
Stone was quarried 6km away – not far in modern terms – but given the steep terrain and enormous size of many of the blocks of stone, it is a remarkable feat, even considering the engineering prowess of the Inca – that they managed this.
The ruins are on the Inca Trail, and are relatively popular with tourists. Admission is included the boleto turístico which covers 16 other nearby sites – it’s worth the investment if you plan to stick around in the region for any length of time.
Getting to Ollantaytambo
Ollantaytambo is a small town as well as just the ruins, and it’s worth wandering around. The town is about 60km north west of Cusco – it should take about 90 minutes to get there. Buses are relatively regular, or you can join a guided excursion from Cusco.
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