The Sacred Valley of the Incas hides incredible tourist sites and dream landscapes. There are also towns that were witnesses to the splendor of one of the most important cultures of Peru. There is one that is especially close to the center of the Incan Empire, which is why we went to see Inti Punku and the ruins of Ollantaytambo.
The city has the preserved original foundations of the ancient Inca architecture. Through its streets there are channels through which the water that comes from the mountain is drained. It’s paths are made of stone and the houses combine Incan ingenuity with a colonial style. A few meters from the center is the entrance to the ruins of Ollantaytambo. And a few kilometers away is the door of the sun or, as it is said in Quechua, the “Inti Punku”.
Videos of the OLLANTAYTAMBO RUINS
Walking through the ruins of Ollantaytambo
You will need to leave very early from Cusco to make the most of your stay in Ollantaytambo. The town is two hours from the capital of the region, but the route is incredibly beautiful. You can appreciate the sunrise coming out of the big city and see how the sun fills the valley with light as you descend to Urubamba. The road is paved until the entrance to Ollantaytambo where the original stone paths are preserved.
The ruins are on the side of the mountains that surrounds Ollantaytambo. The walk is somewhat slow and demanding, but it’s worth it. The view of the valley and the city are incredible. The ruins were a kind of gigantic checkpoint along the Inca Trail. You could observe all of the valley during the Inca Empire. It was not just a citadel, since there were also cultivation terraces. Incan architecture boggles the mind with the placement of their cities and fortresses, all of this was achieved and placed on the side of a mountain. The creativity of the construction is admirable and remains almost in it’s original state despite the years that have passed.
The guided tour can last up to 3 hours, there is a lot to admire and learn on this expedition. We spend the whole morning until noon in this iconic archaeological site.
The foundations of the Incas with colonial architecture
As soon as we finished our time at the ruins, we walked to the center. The town is small and cozy. Its buildings maintain the original foundations of more than 500 years of history. With the arrival of the Spanish colonizers, the houses and other buildings show the mixture of colonial architecture. It is a beautiful town, with narrow lanes and narrow streets. The central square is adorned with colorful flowers and ancient monuments. The whole town is a painting that invites you to enjoy it. The doors of the houses are huge, an imprint of the Incas and the roofs are made of tiles and adobe.
Very close to the town is the Urubamba River that bathes the fertile valley with its waters. It is a nice walk that can take you to the river banks so you can hear the sound of water. We spent a quiet and restful afternoon here because the next day we would have a more demanding challenge. Onto Inti Punku, or Puerta del Sol. From the top of the mountain you willl have one of the best views of the Sacred Valley.
Connection to Machu Picchu
Ollantaytambo is important not only because it is an Incan village, but also because it is a commonly visited place by tourists on their way to Machu Picchu. This place is along the way to the famous archeological site, and the trains pass by for visitors. The train offers passengers an incomparable view of the landscape, and Ollantaytambo is an obligatory stop on the way to other relics of the Incan empire.
Inti Punku or Door of the Sun, by horse
In Ollantaytambo there is an altitude of 2800 meters above sea level, which can already be challenging. But the altitude of Inti Punku is around 4000 meters above sea level. The imposing construction is at the top of a mountain and there are trails to get there. But, how did we do it?
You can walk from Ollantaytambo to Inti Punku on a trek that lasts almost 5 hours. But, we had the opportunity to rent horses and we were mounted on Rosa, Pedro, Jacinto and Lorenzo. The section is not all done on horseback since there are sections where we dismounted and let them rest while we walked alongside.
After crossing the bridge that is on the Urubamba River, we glide along paths and fields of the valley. Then we started to climb more and more. The sun beat ever so often on our faces, but sometimes we were lucky and the sunrays fell on the mountains, casting shadows.
The adventure lasted a little over 3 hours until finally we saw the lone construction on the top of the mountain. We let the horses eat and we went to the top. From this point we could observe the entire Sacred Valley.
It is not known for sure what this construction was. Some attribute it to ritual purposes, but it is also believed to be built for military purposes. From this place you could monitor any movement of locals and strangers. It is also on the way to the Machu Picchu archaeological complex at the end of the valley.
After a few hours up here, resisting the wind and the cold, we started the return hike. We left this mythical place and walked our faithful horses to the valley. Just once we had reached the plain we remounted them and entered the town triumphantly at evening time. The ride through these silent and beautiful places was the most memorable experience of our trip. The stars could be seen in a clean sky without light pollution, it was truly unforgettable.
That is how our brief trip ended and we not only experienced Ollantaytambo, but also amazing sites. With little time but well organized, we took full advantage of it and we got to know the best of this ancient and majestic Inca town.