Ollantaytambo or Machu Picchu?
Machu Picchu may be what put Peru’s archeological wonders on your map, but nearby Ollantaytambo in many ways might end up being an equal in Peru treasure memories. By this writer’s fascination -per foot meter, they are indeed equals.
Crowds are smaller and the brilliance of Inca engineering and construction is just as clear to see, if not clearer. More--unlike Aguas Caliente, the tourist trap one has to go through to get to Machu Picchu--Ollantaytambo is a soothing and delightful town to spend some time in. For those who have already toured the archeological site, you get the added advantage of being able to just look up from the town square to revisit your peeks at the Inca granaries, temples, and trails.
When you arrive at the archeological site you hike up to the top and take it all in with panoramic scan. The exquisitely fitted jigsaw puzzle pieces of the Inca buildings are up close. Across Urubamba River below you see the next mountain where these enormous stones from quarries 5KM away had to be crossed and the boulders further dragged on log platforms or round stones up to this peak where you stand.
You can see the Inca trails where the workers pulled. When they got to the river these engineers knew to dam it to create a dry crossing.
You see also how the Inca made their structures relatively earthquake proof--- both by creating irregular trapezoidal shapes and sometimes adding thin precisely fitted vertical stone implants between boulders that could absorb shocks.
At the summit of this mountain is the temple for the sun gods. Fortress-looking structures are below, but actually are also part of this vast temple complex. Agricultural terraces with distinct microclimates extend further below.
The granaries, with bigger doors to let cooling winds in and moisture out, are high up and in view on a nearby mountain. This remote location also had to do with security.
A face profile is seen in this mountain where the granaries are. It’s said to be that of the creator God, Viracocha.
Your fascination with Inca engineering doesn’t end when you return to town. Fast flowing water channels still in use to deliver water to the town date back to the Inca. You can sit in town square and look up again at the ruins you have just visited—with the granaries especially clearly in view.
Hotels at every price point can be found here, probably because this is a main train stop to Machu Picchu.
Most of the restaurants on the plaza seem to have nearly identical menus. You too may make your choice based on avoiding loud music or aggressive touts. Look for riverside and creek side restaurants with large windows if you want to plant somewhere to read or write.
With 20-20 hindsight our tour would have included more than a quick overnight in order to catch the 5 am train to Machu Picchu—which was late anyway. (Read Machu Picchu News Report — What, or Who, caused the Rock Slide on the Tracks??). The fragrant trees in the sumptuous garden of Hospedaje las Portadas budget hotel, begged for a longer linger.