Ollantaytambo is situated at the northern end of Peru's Sacred Urubamba Valley. It's a small town, one of the only surviving Inca towns that is still inhabited.
While it has shops and homes, it's best know for some spectacular Inca ruins, including a temple and an extensive network of steep irrigated terraces made of fitted stones (known as the fortress). Ollantaytambo is located at an altitude of 2,792 m (9,160 ft) above sea level.
Hiram Bingham stopped here in 1911 while on his search for Machu Picchu (which he later found and explored). Ollantaytambo is close to one of the common starting points for hiking the Inca Trail.
Ollantaytambo is also one of the few places where the Spanish conquistadors lost a major battle. Manco Inca, who lead the Inca resistance, had retreated to the fortress after his defeat at Sacsaywamán in 1536. A group of 70 Spanish cavalrymen, supported by large numbers of indigenous and Spanish foot soldiers, attempted to capture him. They were attacked with arrows, spears and boulders from the steep terraces above them and were unable to ascend, abandoning the chase. Their victory was short-lived, as the Spaniards returned in force and captured the area.
The main function of the area was religious. The access to Temple Hill is up a series of steep stairways that will almost certainly take your breath away as you climb to the top of the terrace complex. As you enter the Temple of the Sun you see the Wall of the Six Monoliths, which has extremely well-fitted rock walls. It was under construction at the time of the conquest and the Temple has never been completed. A photo from the Wall of the Six Monoliths was featured in last week's One Clue Mystery, which was recognized by George G.
Each of the stones from the Walls of the Six Monoliths weighs over 50 tons and were quaried about 5 km away from the site. It must have been an incredible challenge to bring these large stones here.
The unfinished structures at the Temple Hill and the numerous stone blocks that litter the site are a reminder that it was still undergoing construction at the time of its abandonment.
The views of the Urubamba Valley from the top of the Terraces are lovely.