A trip to Peru's Sacred Valley is truly a rewarding experience that leaves a firm impression on the soul. Besides the stunning scenery that the Andes Mountains provide, the valley boasts raging rivers, friendly locals, and the omnipresent mysticism that an abundance of Inca ruins create. Many visitors to the Sacred Valley come of course to see the stunning ancient city of Machu Picchu, which is usually reached by hiking the Inca Trail or by train from Cusco. If you are aboard the Cusco to Machu Picchu train, you may interest yourself with a stop in the town of Ollantaytambo, where you will find the best surviving example of Inca town planning. Many of the building foundations in old town Ollantaytambo Peru were built by the Inca, and the majority of the Inca canchas, or blocks, are still intact, making for a nice walk indeed. Having the chance to see the Ollantaytambo ruins and the Ollantaytambo Fortress is a side treat along the Machu Picchu route, and the secret is quickly getting out. Ollantaytambo Peru is just 60 miles northwest of Cusco, and its snowcapped mountain surroundings make for a most picturesque setting.
Because of its strategic location in the Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo became a prime center within the Inca Empire. It was generally reserved for the elite, and the Ollantaytambo Fortress was first a place of worship, as well as a location for studying astronomy. The Ollantaytambo Fortress is just on the outskirts of the old town, and though its primary intention was rather benign, it has an overwhelmingly forbidding air about it. Among the Ollantaytambo ruins that are the most visually spectacular are the rising terrace walls, that served as an integral means of defense; something that would come in handy upon the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors. As Francisco Pizarro and his men went about conquering much of Peru in the 1530's, they found considerable troubles within the heart of the Sacred Valley. An Inca nobelman by the name of Manco Inca had led an attempt to siege Cusco in 1536, and though he was unsuccessful, he did not give up there. After he was defeated by Pizarro and the Spanish in Sacsayhuaman, Manco retreated with his forces to the Ollantaytambo Fortress.
Hernando Pizarro, brother of Francisco, was in charge of a modest attempt to wrestle Ollantaytambo from Manco. The Spanish forces, although joined with scores of native fighters, proved insufficient for the deed. From the Ollantaytambo Fortress, the Inca met the Spanish troops with an unrelenting assault of arrows, rocks and spears. The surviving aqueducts that are among the Ollantaytambo ruins were used by the Inca to flood the valley below, making it hard for the Spanish horses to find sufficient footing. Quickly sensing defeat, Hernando and his men retreated, and Ollantaytambo is generally hailed as the only place where the Inca were able to resist attacks from the Spanish. You can climb the some 200 steps to the top of the Ollantaytambo Fortress to observe the skilled masonry that the Inca employed. The Ollantaytambo Fortress is undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of advanced Inca architecture. As you further explore the Ollantaytambo ruins, you will find the adjacent Temple of Ten Niches, which leads to some very curious pink rocks whose purpose never came to fruition. A particularly interesting relic is the Temple of the Sun, which bears some faint Inca carvings. You might also check out the Baños de la ñusta (Princess Baths), at the bottom of the ruins, where you can observe the carved Inca face on one of the surrounding cliffs. The Ollantaytambo ruins open every day at 7 am, and they close at 5:30 pm. You can access them with the "boleto turístico", which you can purchase in Cusco. If you get there early, you can enjoy the ruins in peace, as they generally experience the bulk of visitors in the middle of the day.
If you are looking to add some adventure to your trip in the Sacred Valley, you might investigate the companies that offer river rafting Ollantaytambo excursions. Many organized white water trips start at Ollantaytambo, or in the nearby town of Pisac, where you can also enjoy shopping at the Pisac markets. In and around Ollantaytambo Peru, there are some excellent opportunities for highlands trekking as well. If you are tight on time and don't want to miss the Ollantaytambo ruins, you can book a Cusco tour that includes them on the trip to Machu Picchu. There are a few nice hostels to choose from should you want to stay the night in Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo boasts a few sufficient places to grab a bite, and there are some good restaurants on the main road between Ollantaytambo and the town of Urubamba.