After all my travel in Peru, from my Sandboarding experince in Huacachina to taking the boat into Amazon city Iquitos, I would say Ollantaytambo is one of my favorite places in Peru. It's located about 1 hour away from Cusco and it's also a town in the Sacred Valley. It has one of the magnificent ruins in Peru, nice mountain views all around and lots of traditional dress to see.
During my stay in this town, I got to visit most of the Archaeological sites in the Sacred Valley, If you gonna do the same thing. I highly recommend you to buy the 130 Soles 10 Days Cusco Tourist Ticket then you can take your time to visit the sites. Because Moray is the first site we visited we bought our pass at the Moray site (You can buy the ticket in any of the sites) and we didn’t expect to spend too much time in Ollantaytambo (That is how much we liked this town) then we had to rush up our visit in Cusco. Please don’t make the same mistake as we did.
So I think it's probably better to get the ticket in Cusco and visit the sites in Cusco and around it then head to the Sacred valley for the rest. This is my personal opinion, the thing I wanted to say is that you should plan it better.
And ok, too much talk, it's time to jump into the information part! Here we go:
How to get to Ollantaytambo from Cusco
There are 2 ways you can transfer between these cities.
The cheapest way is by Colectivo (Mini-van) which only costs 10 Soles each, but they don’t have a schedule. Normally they leave when they're full.
Here is the location of the terminal.
And there is another one, by private transfer (Personal-Taxi) which costs 15 Soles each. They also leave when they're full. The location is near the terminal and the Taxi drivers will come up to ask you if you need a ride when you are there. We took the Colectivo, but if you are in a rush then I highly recommend you take the private transfer.
What to do in the town
Ollantaytambo itself has a beautiful, chill vibe, nice mountain view and also good cheap food.
There are many things you can do in the town.
1) Walk around the town - You can cross walked across these cobbled stone streets. Do you feel like walking back to hundreds of years ago? Because I did.
2) Visit the handcraft market - This is located right in front of the ruins and the local market which is near to the plaza. I really enjoyed walking around the plaza to watch people making their handcrafts, watch the tourists come and go with big smiles on their faces after a good visit and especially watching the local people in traditional dresses.
3) Visit the ruins - This is one of the most beautiful Incan ruins I’ve been to in Peru, along with Machu Picchu and Pisac. There's a lot to see, and you will be amazed how they built all of it.
When I was visiting the ruins, I was walking through them and meanwhile I was picturing how it became the last stronghold for Incan when Spanish came over. Uffff, what a fight!
4) Try local Chicha Morada (Which is a drink made of corn in the Andean regions of Perú.) - We met a local artist at the not well-known ruins and he brought us to his friend’s place where they sold homemade traditional Chicha Morada for a crazy cheap price, 2 Soles for a huge cup of it. It was definitely worth it to try, but I'm not a fan.
5) Visit the not well-known ruins: Centro arqueológico Quellorakay - These are located a bit out of town. They are Free and the place is nice for a meditation and to enjoy the mountain views around you.
This is the place we met the local artist who has been living here more than 6 years. We asked why he chose this place out of other options and he said this is a special place for him, according to him because the mountains which there are a lot of - some having what seems to be men's faces - and also the spiritual vibe.
What to do around the town
Ollantaytambo is located in a perfect location in the sacred valley. You can visit a lot of other sites from here. As what I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, you should get your Cusco tourist ticket for the sites.
There are 2 types, the one we bought is called The Full Cusco Tourist Ticket (BTCI) which costs 130 Soles (About 35 USD) for 10 days including 16 main sites in Cusco, Sacred Valley and South Valley. There is another type which is called Partial Tourist Ticket (It has 3 different circuits) which costs 70 Soles (About 18.5 USD) for 2 Days, the sites will depend on which circuit you buy. For us, we think the full ticket is the best deal.
1) Maras - This is the little town and you will not miss it if you want to visit Moray and the Salt mine, which I'll talk about next. I think it is very cute, traditional and cultural. If you want to see something different and more local then don’t miss it!
2) Moray - This is an archeological site where the Inca build terraced fields to experiment with crops at different heights (probably lots of potatoes). This is a bit far away, and I highly recommend you do a tour of it or hire a local tuk-tuk or taxi for it. We did it by ourselves, which you can do too, but it costs more (if you like adventure, I still recommend you do it on your own) and it takes more time. The taxi or tuk-tuk we asked for offered us 80-90 Soles for a round trip and included waiting for you.
We paid a bit more than that in total for 3 Colectivos and 1 taxi going there and 1 taxi and 2 Colectivos coming back.
3) Salineras de Maras - This salt mine is pre-hispanic. It was used by the Inca over 500 years ago and has over 5,000 salt ponds. The salty water drains from the mountain into these ponds where the water evaporates and the salt is harvested off the top.
We also did it by ourselves, which wasn't that bad. We took a Colectivo to Urubamba then another one from Urubamba to Maras. After arriving in the town follow the map to do the hike or take a taxi (We asked one taxi and it was expensive. Therefore, we didn't take it and I don't remember how much it was exactly.) The hike is about 1 hr to 1.5 hrs. It is pretty nice, and you will see people working in the fields, cows, and even snowy mountains!
4) Machu Picchu - Machu Picchu... if you haven't heard of this place then just Google it. If you plan to take the train to Machu Picchu then Ollantaytambo will be on the way. You can take a train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, but this stops in Ollantaytambo too, so you can get on here if you want. I got a really good deal (35USD for return tickets) for the train. You can check my post 'Train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu' blog for more information and it's coming soon to!
5) Pisac - It is known as the living museum town. Beside the town and the ruins, Pisac is very hippie town as we had seen. You can do Ayahuasca, San Pedro and more. And there are some shaman shops in the town where you can even buy San pedro powder, Rapé and others.
This was the last town we visited in the Sacred Valley and we stayed 1 night in Pisac to see the town a bit before we headed back to Cusco. If you want to go to Pisac directly from Ollantaytambo you need to take a bus to Urubamba then take another bus to Pisac. But we did it differently. We took a bus to Urubamba then from Urubamba to Calca, then Pisac. I forget why but based on what I did research there should be a bus direct from Urubamba to Pisac.
6) Urubamba - After I wrote down everything I realized that Urubamba is the central location for the sacred valley. I only went there for transportation, and based on what I saw I prefer Ollantaytambo more. Urubamba is more of just a big city that people pass through to go to places that actually matter.
Where to stay
We were staying in 2 different places. The first one we booked on booking.com which is named Posada Inka Wasi. It was really nice, but a bit expensive compared to the second one. But the room was well decorated with stone walls which are pretty cool, and also it’s kinda warm due to the design. But it doesn't have a kitchen and that led us to find another hostel which had a kitchen.
We were walking around in the town and just asked the price directly and found out that none of them we asked had a kitchen, so we gave up the kitchen and found the second one named Kizza Hostal, which is in a perfect location next to the main plaza with a nice rooftop and cheaper price. We negotiated with them for 40 Soles for 1 night for 2 people.
Where to eat
Talk about food and restaurants in the town. I think I can definitely give you good advice since we’ve been eating at the restaurants every meal!
These are my few favorite restaurants and the reasons why.
We discovered this restaurant in the last few days before we left Ollantaytambo. It became our favorite breakfast spot. It isn’t expensive and has high-quality food compared to other restaurants with similar prices in the town. This place had the best empanadas (Baked, I don’t like deep-fried) I had in a while. I'm not a fan of empanadas, but they have really good ones. I tried to find the photos of the restaurant but I realized that I didn’t take any of them because I was enjoying the food too much to think about taking photos. LOL
No. 2) Inti Killa
The food isn’t amazing but it’s a great deal. In the town you can find Menú del día from 10 - 25 Soles. This place is one of the 10s. Why I like this one better than the others is that they will give you a drink, appetizer, and the main dish. And also they have nice view! Some of the restaurants might not give you the drink, and also they have better soups sometimes (because we went there at least 3 times, but only the first time we got one of the better soups. After that, the soups they gave always had noodles inside of the soup which I don’t enjoy that much.) And the food is similar everywhere. I always go for Trucha fish!!! I LOVE TRUCHA! If you haven't tried it, then try! Don’t miss the chance! It's available in almost Every restaurant in the town!
No. 3) Apu Veronica Restaurant
If you want something a bit fancy, this one is definitely the best option I discovered so far. It’s a bit pricey compared to others but not crazy expensive. I’m a full time backpacker at the moment, so you know my budget is low. The Menú del día is 17 Soles (which is around 4.5 USD) including an appetizer, drink, and main course. I loved the cream soups, and also the way they present the food is amazing! They use stone plates and bowls. And my best friend also tried one of the taco dishes there (check photo 2). It was really good too.
No. 4) Cafe Restaurant Valentino's
Before we discovered Misky Papa`s this was our breakfast spot. They have many breakfast options but I normally went for the cheaper ones and they turned out pretty good. My best friend had tried an Alpaca burger a couple times at different places in Ollantaytambo. Conclusion is they have better alpaca burgers than the ones he had tried. And also their Menú del día is worth a try!
Here are my restaurant recommendations, you can mark them down on your map and give them a try. Let me know what you think about them.
More information, gym and market
Ollantaytambo is a small town. You can walk around the center within 10 mins, but it’s spread out as well. There are many alleys you can walk around to discover something interesting.
I know it is a bit hard to believe that we stayed for almost a week. We wouldn't have if we couldn’t find a gym there. So I think you already know what I am about to tell you, THE GYM! XSTRING CLUB GYN (It isn't a typo, that's what I found on google maps). It's the cheapest gym I've been to in Peru, at just 5 Soles for a day pass, but make sure to ask about the schedule. I don't remember exactly but I remember it has really strange hours. It's small but it got what I needed for my workout. It's easy to find, located in the building across the market on the 2nd floor.
As I mentioned on the top, you might be wondering, `Mabel, you told me the gym is across from the market but where is the market?’ Ah, don’t worry, I got your back. Here is all you need to know about the market.
About the Market:
I think you already know where it is if you are in Ollantaytambo, because you will pass it when you enter the town. It’s a very basic market. Most of the stores were closed and there wasn't much going on when we were there, except on Mother’s day. It was very interesting to see people celebrate for all the mothers there. I only went there to check it out. I didn't buy anything there, because it’s pretty expensive compared to other parts of Peru. And we didn't have a kitchen anyway. But you can still get some fresh fruits there if you need.
Ok, Here is what I remember about Ollantaytambo. I can't think more at the moment but you're always welcome to leave me your questions and what you know that I haven't mentioned on the blog.
I enjoyed it very much and hope you also have a great time in this living Incan town.