Peru Pt IV: Ollantaytambo

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Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is a town built during the Incan time and stayed pretty much intact till now. We chose to stay here for a couple of reasons; firstly, at an elevation of 2800m, it was a good place to acclimatise to the altitude (since we would spend the next 10 days or so at above 3000m). Secondly it was close enough to be a base for our day trip to Machu Picchu and the reviews of Aguas Calientes, the nearest town to Machu Picchu, weren’t as stellar as Ollantaytambo’s.

Cobble-stoned streets and Incan-built drains

The town’s commercial activities are centered around its Plaza de Armas. Most tourist-centric businesses were there and we changed more money there (100 USD for 270 PEN) for the next few days.

Plaza de Armas, Ollantaytambo

Peruvian woman in traditional costume

We chose a random place at the Plaza for breakfast and ordered eggs and quinoa soup. Ying also ordered the coca tea, hoping that it would help us acclimatise with the altitude.

Caminos del Inca Cafe

Breakfast (22 PEN)

The coca tea was really bitter; it was definitely an acquired taste.

After breakfast, we explored more of the town before attempting to climb Pinkuylluna.

Locals with their wares in Plaza de Armas

Beware of pickpockets?

Reminded us of The Simpsons

The start of the trail to Pinkuylluna was literally steps away from our accommodation and it didn’t take us long to run out of breath. The combination of altitude, lack of rest and the mid-day heat did us in.

The view compensated though

Hot

Took us around an hour before reaching the archaeological ruin and the view up there was even better.

Good view of Ollantaytambo and Temple Hill

Pinkuylluna

Unlike Pinkuylluna, the archaeological site on Temple Hill require an admission ticket (bolero) of 70 PEN.

Temple Hill

So we skipped it and retreated back to our room for shower and nap after the strenuous hike.

We didn’t emerge out of our room until close to sunset.

Inka Kola ad

Plaza de Armas

Market near Temple Hill

Masks/hats for sale

The kitchen of Cocoa Museum

Game time

We walked around the town till after sunset and we settled down for a pre-meal drink first. It had to be pisco sour, Peru’s national drink.

Plaza after sunset

Pisco sour 1-for-1 (15 PEN)

After the drinks, we looked for a restaurant which seemed popular and settled down on one serving Italian food.

More Peruvian than Italian

Chef preparing our pizza

Nachos

Pasta & pizza

The food turned out to be quite palatable and the bill came up to be 50 PEN. Not very cheap but understandable since Ollantaytambo is a touristy place.

We spent most of the following day in Machu Picchu and didn’t reach Ollantaytambo until after dark. We were left with the morning of the day when we were heading to Cusco to explore more of the town.

Apparently some of the houses dated back to Incan time

Incan gate

Incan gate

Following the tourist map borrowed from our hotel, we found our way to the Incan bridge across Urubamba river.

The PeruRail tracks followed the course of the river and there was a crew doing maintenance on the track.

PeruRail crew at work

Rail crossing

Across Urubamba river

Incan bridge – rather underwhelming

Local house

It was a cloudless day and it became quite hot. Both of us were sweating from the walk.

I bet it felt hot too

There were two posters on the other side of the bridge; I believed that they were about construction of some tourist infrastructure in the Sacred Valley region.

I only understood tourist circuit

Construction of something something

While we were the tourists at the bridge, we managed to spot other tourists in the vicinity.

Rafters tackling Urubamba river

Close-up

A PeruRail train also passed through when we were there. The train was the top-class Hiram Bingham service and an one-way journey between Cusco and Machu Picchu cost a cool 397.50 USD.

PeruRail

Hiram Bingham passengers waving back at us

Cute service train

One of the many dogs we saw in Peru

Instead going back via the main road, we decided to take a short cut by going up the terraces. We were treated to a good view of the valley and river.

Awesome view

We saw lots of similar paintings like this around Peru – turned out that they were campaign posters for the upcoming election

We managed to make our way back to Plaza de Armas and detoured through the market which was just off the main square.

Mercado

Collectivos to Urubamba and Cusco would leave from the parking area beside the market. However, we didn’t need to go there for our return trip to Cusco; one which was heading there was going around Plaza de Armas looking for customers when we were leaving. Saved us the hot walk with our huge bags to the market.

Although Ollantaytambo’s places of interest (read Incan ruins) weren’t that interesting to us, we liked that the place is relatively car-free and has a relaxed vibe. I can understand why many tourists like us would spend a few days there en-route to Machu Picchu.

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Peru Pt III: Picaflor Tambo

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Picaflor Tambo

Our collectivo dropped us off at Ollantaytambo’s Plaza de Armas and we took some time to locate our hotel which was located two block away.

Waiting to check in

We had booked two nights at Picaflor Tambo through Expedia for 60 USD a night and we would pay at the time of check-in. We had a choice of paying in either USD or Peruvian Soles. The room wasn’t ready yet and we left our bags at the reception while we went to get breakfast and explore the town.

Our room was ready when we returned from our little excursion around Ollantaytambo.

Our room (Rumi) was the one on ground floor to the right

We found our room Rumi to be big and beautiful. The firmness of the bed was to our liking as well.

Bedroom

No complaints about the bathroom which was clean and modern.

Bathroom

Breakfast was included in our room rate and the staff would checked with us what time that we would prefer to have breakfast the evening before. As we would be catching the early train out to Machu Picchu on the second day, the staff proactively provided us with packed breakfast (consisted of biscuits, juice and bananas) and the food turned out to be our lifesaver in Machu Picchu.

Otherwise the breakfast was served at the dining area. It was decent with bread, jam, fruits, juice and coffee/tea.

Dining area

On the second night, after we returned from Machu Picchu, the owner of the guesthouse invited all the guests to the dining area for complimentary pisco sours. It was great that the owner had such an event where the guests could chat and share experiences.

Although there were complaints about noise in some of the reviews, we didn’t experience anything too bad during our stay. Although our room was beside the street, we hardly heard any noise from there. The main source of noise was from the occupants upstairs when they were walking around on the wooden floor. In all, it was a nice place for a few nights in Ollantaytambo and we enjoyed our stay there.