Exploring Mysterious Ollantaytambo, Peru
Zona Urbana in the Sacred Valley, Peru

Ollantaytambo is a town that sits at the foot of enormous ruins that share the same name.

The town dates back to the late 15th century, contemporary with the ruins, and has some of the oldest continuously occupied dwellings in South America.

The village of Ollantaytambo, Peru

The village of Ollantaytambo

It also serves as the gateway to Machu Picchu, since it is the starting point for the famous Inca Trail (for backpackers) and the narrow gauge railway (for the oh-my-aching-back crowd) that are the only ways to reach the legendary Lost City.

Click here to learn how we dealt with altitude issues while in Peru

Ollantaytambo, the archaeological site

As remarkable as the village of Ollantaytambo may be, the archaeological site is the main attraction.

We entered the site, gawking up at the stonework that covers the entire side of a mountain, and our guide, Eddy, gave us some background.


The fountain at Ollantaytambo

Originally the royal estate of Emperor Pachacutin, it became a bustling agricultural center, and then during the Spanish conquest, served as a fortress for Manco Inca Yupanqui while leading the Inca resistance.

Ollantaytambo, Peru

He went on to point out the many stones left sitting where ever they happened to be at the time that work was abandoned, showing how this site was still unfinished when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s.

The freestanding stones gave us a close up look at some of the amazing stone cutting and shaping involved in the construction.

Ollantaytambo, Peru

Ollantaytambo, Peru

See more about The Sacred Valley of the Incas

The Ollantaytambo Ruins, Sacred Valley, Peru

The bulk of the Ollantaytambo archaeological site is covered by huge stone terracing that was specially designed to transform the impossibly steep hillside into usable crop land.

The bulk of the Ollantaytambo archaeological site is covered by huge stone terracing that was specially designed to transform the impossibly steep hillside into usable crop land.

The bulk of the Ollantaytambo archaeological site is covered by huge stone terracing that was specially designed to transform the impossibly steep hillside into usable crop land.

This not only provided level ground for farming, but also prevented landslides and flooding in times of heavy rains.

Grain storage buildings at Ollantaytambo, Peru

See more about The Sacred Valley of the Incas

Peru produces a wide variaty of corn

Alongside these stair-stepped growing areas are granaries built to store up to five years supply of food as preparation in case of drought, blights or freezes.

This was just one of the methods used to guard against a poor harvest in The Sacred Valley .

Crops were also planted at different altitudes to insure proper growing conditions, and many varieties of each crop were developed.

There is a huge variety of potatoes in the Sacred Valley of Peru

For example, hundreds of different types of potatoes would be sown.

Each were cultivated for certain characteristics such as resistance to insects, cold, heat or dry conditions.

This was all fascinating stuff, but our natural inclination was to climb, so we did, up over 9000 feet. It's a touch hard to breath up there, but we huffed and puffed, and I-think-I-can, I-think-I-canned our way to the top.

Click here to learn how we dealt with altitude issues while in Peru

Ollantaytambo, Peru

From the top of Ollantaytambo, we could see for miles!

Above all of the agricultural structures is a temple. This was the part still being worked on when Ollantaytambo was abandoned, so it is not overly impressive, but some of the massive stones are, and the view certainly is.

From the top we could see for miles in every direction and make out the path across the valley to the quarry where the stones were originally cut.

View from the top of Ollantaytambo ruins

The massive stones fit together tightly at Ollantaytambo, Peru

From there the giant rocks were hauled down that mountain, over the river, and back up this mountain, all without the use of wheels.

One of the many mysteries that surround the building abilities of the Quechua people when ruled by the Inca is the lack of the wheel.

The massive stones fit together tightly at Ollantaytambo, Peru

Eddy offered the theory that the round shape represented the sun and moon and therefore was sacred, so it could not be used for such mundane tasks as moving rocks.

The massive stones fit together tightly at Ollantaytambo, Peru

Possibly, but no one knows for certain why they didn't use wheels.

The massive stones fit together tightly at Ollantaytambo, Peru

Ollantaytambo, Peru

Another of the mysteries of Ollantaytambo is exactly how the stones were cut, because no metal hard enough to cut granite was available at that time.

The Quechua language was not written and the Spanish destroyed most evidence of methods used in construction.

We may never know the answers.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See more about The Sacred Valley of the Incas or head on over to Machu Picchu

Click here to see our full adventure with Road Scholar - a not-for-profit organization - through Ecuador, Peru, The Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu and much, much more!




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