Ollantaytambo was not on our radar originally, but when we saw cheaper train options to Machu Picchu leaving from there, we added it to our trip.
Once we arrived we both loved how cute the town was. It was filled with cobblestone streets, stone walls and channels of water running in canals along the sidewalks. It honestly looked like it was from a fairy tale.
Colectivo to Ollantaytambo
There are tourist buses which run from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, but they are an expensive option. Since Cusco killed our budget, we wanted to pay as little as possible to get from point A to point B.
We read online that we could take a colectivo or shared van from Cusco to Ollantaytambo for only 10 sols or $3 for a ride that was just under 2 hours. This is an absolute steal since a private taxi would have cost us 90 sols or $27. We looked up where we needed to be to catch the van and walked through the local part of town to get there.
Once we arrived we noticed that only 2 people were in the van. Knowing that the drivers never leave before the van is completely full we would have to wait for 11 more people before it left. We sat for about 40 minutes until this happened. While it was annoying to have to wait, that is the price that you pay to save money.
As we started our drive to Ollantaytambo we saw the true local market. There was everything for sale from produce to bags of rice, children’s toys and more. The worst thing that we saw were baby animals, likely from puppy mills, being sold out of cages or cardboard boxes. There were puppies, kittens, guinea pigs and rabbits. After seeing so many stray animals in the street it killed me to know that people are buying these animals while so many others would remain homeless.
Things We Saw & Did in Ollantaytambo
We hadn’t read much about what to do in Ollantaytambo so when our guest house told us about some free ruins nearby we were all ears. The entrance to Pinkuylluna was literally across the street from where we were staying so it couldn’t have been easier to get to.
We went exploring for a few hours in the afternoon, climbing up to the large ruins and then working our way around the hillside to the smaller ruins. The weather could not have been more perfect with blue skies and puffy white clouds. Our only issue was that every once in a while there were very strong winds, so strong in fact that we couldn’t even use our tripod at times, fearing that it may blow over if we tried.
The craziest thing about Pinkuylluna is that there were very few people walking around the ruins. We had a direct view of the Ollantaytambo ruins and saw tons of people at those ruins. The entrance fee to visit those ruins, along with some others in the area was 70 sols or $21, quite expensive when you put it into context. While we didn’t visit Ollantaytambo, from what we were able to see, the Pinkuylluna ruins looked more interesting, at least to us.
Around 4:30pm, right when the light was starting to get perfect to take photos, a worker told us that the park was closing and we had to leave. We were bummed out that we weren’t able to stay longer, but understood it would be quite dangerous to have someone try and walk the path in the dark. We took our last few shots and headed back down to town.
Since we had fun exploring in the evening, we returned to the ruins after breakfast to get a few more pictures before we caught our train to Machu Picchu.
Wandered around Ollantaytambo
Every time that we wandered the streets, we kept being amazed at how charming the town was. From the water channels running along the streets to the lack of traffic and the narrow, cobblestone streets, we loved it all.
Before we caught our train, we tried to capture what the town was like in some of the pictures that we took. While it can’t fully capture the mood, it gives a general idea of what it was like. When you look at the pictures imagine a quiet place where the loudest noise is the running water of a stream.
I can’t believe that we hadn’t heard more about Ollantaytambo when we were researching Peru. The only things I read about it were that you could catch the train there and that it was close to ruins in the Sacred Valley.
Had we known about Ollantaytambo earlier, we would have likely spent more time there instead of Cusco. We liked the quietness and fresh air of the countryside where we could just relax.