When visiting a country like Peru, chances are you’ll land in a tourist city like Lima, the capital, or Cusco, the unofficial gateway city to Machu Picchu. However, tucked in Peru’s Andean highlands sits the Sacred Valley, a lush green valley north of Cusco. Of the towns that make up the region, Ollantaytambo is one of the most important as the only place that preserves old Inca urban design.

Ollantaytambo is a quaint town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru. Visitors to the village are mostly passing through on the journey to Machu Picchu, but Ollantaytambo has a special mystique that feels rooted in ancient wisdom. Many believe it to have been a refuge for Inca royalty and nobility.

The biggest attractions of the village are the Sun Temple and the Princess Baths fountain, but it’s not the attractions of things to do that make Ollantaytambo so special. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

A true hidden gem delivers a level of relaxation that most major destinations can’t offer, and Ollantaytambo is no exception. Venture off the beaten path to one of the most inexplicably magical places in South America with our tips for visiting Ollantaytambo.

Main square shops in Ollantaytambo Peru
Photo Credit: Simone Cheri

Traveling to the Sacred Valley

The best way to get to Ollantaytambo is by first flying to Alejandro Velasco Astete International in Cusco. From Cusco, travel by train or taxi the one-hour distance for an unbelievably peaceful stay. 

Upon arrival, you’ll notice the Inca-era cobblestoned streets and longstanding adobe buildings. While lodging spaces are well-maintained, this location is more fitting for those seeking simple accommodations. The best parts of the village are outdoors, with historical sites in every direction.

Things to Do In Ollantaytambo

Book a Stay at Casa Inka

Hotel options are scarce as Ollantaytambo is truly a village with a small population. A stay at Casa Inka B&B will melt away the stressors back home. The family-owned hotel offers accommodations with a garden, a terrace, a 24-hour front desk, and free WiFi. 

The best part of this stay, aside from the friendly owners, is the super affordable rates. Casa Inka nightly stays average $24-30 for one of their six spacious rooms.

Additionally, their daily homemade breakfast option makes this boutique B&B feel like home. Imagine waking up to freshly brewed coffee, fresh fruits, and eggs your way each morning with the mountains as your backdrop.

Casa Inka B&B
Photo Credit: Booking.com
Starting at $24/night
Casa Inka B&B

Get Outdoors and Explore Incan Ruins

There’s a reason this region goes by the name of the Sacred Valley, and after a day of exploring you’ll understand why too.

Within walking distance from the main square are several structures dating back to the 1400s available to admire or hike. 

Pinkuylluna Mountain and the Sun Temple are easily accessible archeological sites that are free to explore. Both climbs are pretty steep but the scenery at the top is a worthy reward – and the fitness benefits are a bonus.

Pinkuylluna Mountain in the Sacred Valley of Peru
Photo Credit: Simone Cheri

Try Peruvian Delicatessens at a Local Restaurant

There aren’t more than a dozen places to eat in Ollantaytambo but each is uniquely delicious. Most restaurants offer indoor and outdoor seating, perfect for people-watching in the evening.

Enjoy locally-sourced ingredients in flavorful dishes or get adventurous and try cuy, Peru’s local delicacy known elsewhere as a guinea pig.

Personal favorite: La Serranita Restaurant

Take A Train Ride to Aguas Calientes

Peru Rail is one of two ways most tourists travel to the city that sits at the bottom of Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes. Whether you decide to visit the World Wonder, or not, a train ride is the best way to appreciate the magnificence of Peru’s landscape.

Countryside living, rushing rivers, and snowcapped mountains are enjoyed along this panoramic train ride. Catch glimpses of the world-famous Inca trail before arriving in Aguas Calientes. Take the day to explore the city or continue up the mountain to the entrance of Machu Picchu. 

Be sure to buy tickets for Machu Picchu in advance as tours are coordinated by day and time.

The Current State of Travel In Peru

Peru has been a mainstay in world news lately due to widespread protests and the closing of major tourist attractions and forms of transit. The country’s former president was ousted in December after attempting to temporarily suspend Congress to avoid impeachment. The act was denounced by opponents and allies, leading to a swift impeachment and what some Peruvians believe to be a coup. 

In the months following, demonstrators have been holding protests, blocking roads, and stalling several airports, a major hit to tourism in southern Peru. American officials have since warned travelers against travel to Peru due to social conflicts and strikes that continue.

Travelers should exercise a high degree of caution when traveling to Peru. Take precautions to ensure your safety, avoid protest areas, and follow the guidelines set by local authorities.

Related: The Ultimate Itinerary For Black Travelers In Lima, Peru

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