We continued our adventure across the Andes with the visit of the little inca village of Ollantaytambo in Peru, where we decided to stay a few days to regain our energy.
OLLANTAYTAMBO: A PLACE WHERE WE FELT GOOD
Located at about 2 800 meters above sea level, half way between Cusco and Machu Picchu in South Peru, it was a great place to stay to explore the region! As it is not as high as Cusco (Cusco standing at 3 300 meters), it is easier to get used to the altitude and it is not as cold.
After being on the road for three weeks, after spending a few nights in “basic” places, at more than 4000 meters of altitude, after a scary boat ride on an angry Lake Titicaca and after so many long bus rides, all we wanted at that point was to rest for a few days in a cozy place! The hotel Tierra Inka in Ollantaytambo was the perfect place to do that! We decided to stay six nights in this lovely place and the first two days, we did absolutely nothing as we were working on regaining energy.
OUR HOTEL: TIERRA INKA
After a first good night of sleep, we woke up to this lovely view. The landscape had definitely changed. We had left the desert for good and we were now in the middle of mountains. The vegetation was luxuriant. A thick layer of fog was permanently covering the village.
We really enjoyed staying at the hotel Tierra Inka. It is a great place to stay at when visiting Ollantaytambo. The rooms are very comfortable and we were warmly welcomed with a hot tea as nights are rather cold in the region. We were also able to rent an little electrical heater.
STAYING IN AN AUTHENTIC INCA VILLAGE
Staying in Ollantaytambo was like going back to the Inca time! It seems that not much has changed since the 13th century, when the impressive Inca civilization was living there.
We discovered a lovely village wrapped in mountain fog (the sun only made a few quick apparitions), with narrow cobblestone streets and massive stone buildings made to resist earthquakes throughout time. We were impressed by the series of little canals built by the Incas which are still running throughout the whole village and which gave a lovely touch to this mountain village.
VISITING THE INCA RUINS
LEARNING ABOUT OLLANTAYTAMBO’S HISTORY
The little village is dominated by massive ruins built on a mountain flank and called “the fortress”. We learnt that this site served several purposes during the Inca times. The huge steep terraces that we can still see today were used for farming. The site was also used for religious purposes as a temple was built on the flank of the mountain. Finally, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived, the fortress was used as a retreat and it was the site of a major battle won by the Incas over the Spanish.
BEING WELCOMED BY A “RASTA” LAMA
When we arrived, we were welcomed by the funniest “rasta lama”!
CLIMBING THE RUINES
We then started exploring this amazing place. The weather was constantly changing. It was mostly cold and clouded and it even rained a little bit. The higher we went, the stronger the wind was. But at times the sun made some quick apparitions and we were hot…
As we were going up, we were in the middle of the impressive terraces that the Inca had built for farming purposes.
WONDERING “HOW DID THEY DO IT?”
We were fascinated by this door and its perfectly fitted stones. The same question came back to our heads: “how did they do it?!” How could the Inca cut stones in such a precise way and how could they lift them up all the way to the mountain top…
We then went back down and discovered a place which seemed to have been a quarry. Here again, we wondered how the Incas had managed to cut stones in such a precise way!
ENJOYING A BEAUTIFUL VIEW ON THE VILLAGE
From the top of the mountain, we had the loveliest view on the little village of Ollantaytambo.
SPENDING A WHOLE DAY TRYING TO ORGANIZE THE MACHU PICCHU EXCURSION
Our first objective when we arrived in Ollantaytambo was to buy the tickets to Machu Picchu. As there is a limited number of visitors allowed each day, it is recommended to buy your tickets in advance.
However, we did not do that… As we had no precise travel plan, we had no idea when we would reach Machu Picchu. So upon arriving at Ollantaytambo, our first task was to plan our excursion to Machu Pichu! But it was not that easy and took us almost a whole day…
First of all, we checked the weather forecast. There was only one sunny day that week, four days later: we would choose that day to go! We were glad to have this flexibility because we would have been disappointed to see Machu Picchu under the rain.
The next step was to buy the tickets. Four days before going to Machu Picchu, there were only five tickets left so we had to hurry! We looked for an Internet café to buy them online and managed to make the reservation but when the moment to pay came, our credit cards did not work!
Now that our online reservation was made, we had three hours to pay to finalize it. The clock was ticking! We only had two possibilities to pay: going to a travel agency in Cusco (one-and-a-half hours away) or going to the “Banco de la Nacion” in Urubamba (only half an hour away). We chose the second option.
But when reached the bank, the system was down! If we did not quickly finalize the reservation, we would lose the tickets! After a silence that appeared an eternity to us, the staff member told us that we could wait half an hour, hoping that the system would be fixed. After some very stressful forty five minutes, we were able to pay and finalize the reservation! Yeeeaaah!
Now that we had our tickets, we had to figure out how to get there from Ollantaytambo. Machu Picchu is literally lost in the mountains, which makes it hard to get there! No wonder the Spanish conquistadors never found it! We found out that we had 2 options:
An option with a lot of walking
Taking a bus to a place called Hidroelectrica, walking two hours from Hidroelectrica to Aguas Calientes, walking another hour to go up to Machu Picchu
A “lazy” option
Taking a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes and then a bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. We quickly chose that option.
As we were reaching the end of our trip, we did not have much energy left so we chose the lazy – and more expensive – option. We went to the Ollantaytambo train station and bought our tickets. The trains were almost full. We were very lucky!
We were now ready to explore Machu Picchu!