So we’d have enough time to explore the Inca ruins in Ollantaytambo (or Ollanta), we spent several nights there, using it as our base to explore the Sacred Valley. Ollantaytambo was the site of the Inca’s last resistance against the Spanish, and sits at over 9,000 feet above sea level. Yes. That’s high. But not as high as some of the touristing we did on our way in through the Sacred Valley. It’s home to some of the oldest continuously occupied buildings in South America. As we wandered through the town, we saw many homes built on top of stone foundation dating from the Incas.
It’s a beautiful little town whose two industries appeared to be tourism and agriculture. It’s the kickoff point for those undertaking the 4-day Inca Trail hike to Macchu Picchu and a convenient place to use as a base for exploring the Sacred Valley.
After the big city life of Lima, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to relax and wander.
The Ollanta ruins have been restored and are maintained by the Peruvian government. There’s an entry fee, and you can pick up a guide near the entrance.
At the base of the ruins is a cute artisanal market. Prices were reasonable, and we stocked up on gifts to bring home to family. Bertrand took this amazing picture with an Inca soldier before we entered the site.
The ruins involve lots of stairs, but they’re an easy climb and there are ample opportunities to rest. We were happy that we paid for a guide, who reiterated the history of the Sacred Valley and explained quite about Ollanta. We also decided that it would be our last paid guide this trip. With each one, the added value was diminishing and as I’d already devoured several history books on the Inca, I was able to fill in a lot of details myself.
Ollanta is primarily an agricultural town, outside of the tourism industry. You can see on the right side of the photo terraced agricultural storehouses. We hiked there in the afternoon.
Lunch was street food–grilled alpaca and potatoes. I know, I know, there’s tons of great food in Peru, but sometimes you’re hungry after a long hike at altitude and all you want is some fresh carbs and protein. It was delicious.
We asked our hostel how to get to the Pinkuylluna Ruins, but got lost on the way. Never ones to shirk from an adventure, we stopped by a local hooch vendor (fermented corn beer), where Bertrand indulged, then got more specific directions.
The lady was utterly charming (and charmed by Bertrand, of course). She actually walked us over to the entrance to the Pinkuylluna ruins, after surmising that we would get turned around again on our own.
We hiked two portions of this mountain. The first is to the terraced store rooms, which you can see in the middle of the photo. The second was to a tiny ruin on a cliff face, which you can see just above the store rooms and to the left. The hike was insane.
Bertrand had no difficulties, of course, but I found the hike incredibly challenging. Terrifying. The hike wasin two parts: the first to terraced storehouses used by the Incas to store grain and other crops. The second to more Inca ruins of indetermine provinance. We weren’t able to figure them out, in any case.
Bertrand wanted to watch the sunset from the top of the mountain, but I had no intentions of trying to make the decent in the dark. We enjoyed a snack up top, then rapidly desended in search of dinner.
I was so glad when we hit the bottom again. Yes, those non-descript wooden doors are indeed the trailhead.
After exploring both ruins, we were hungry and tired, and knew we needed to pick up snacks for the next day’s trip to Machu Picchu. We hit up the Ollanta market, which was cute and fun and full of delicious food. This vendor was shocked that we only wanted a quarter of a wheel of cheese. We stocked up on fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and olives, then went back to our hostel for some much needed sleep.