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Ollantaytambo

Listed under Archaeological Sites in Peru.

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In the shadow of Machu Picchu and Sacsayhuaman, I´d say that Ollaytaytambo is at least as interesting and spectacular. The story about one of Pachacutec´s generals, Ollay, and the daughter, might not be true, but this amazing grain storage and partly fortress is amazing in its size, structure and show´s the Inca Empire at its best and most grandeur. Bring a good guide to fully appreciate the ruins. Well, people still live here today. And this is where the conquistadors run into some serious fight back under Manco Capac Inca before he fled to his hide-away in Vilcabamba.

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Ollantaytambo

Despite being the point at which many people start the Inca Trail this site is nowhere near as busy as Machu Picchu, where the trail finishes, though dates from a similar period in Inca history. The main difference is that Ollantaytambo is still in part inhabited, so as well as being an archaeological ‘site’ it also has some of Peru’s oldest continually inhabited buildings.

The site’s main buildings and the terraces and irrigation systems which the city needed to thrive at such a high altitude were built in the 15th Century then fortified in the 16th when it became the military centre of the Inca civilisation. It’s built on a New York style grid of streets around a plaza of cut and fitted stone tiles which was built over in colonial times. The living town has taken over large sections of the ruins but the layout remains the same and a large number of original buildings survive.

The main religious centre was built on a hill and topped by the Sun Temple, though there are numerous smaller temples and ceremonial areas, and this is the main point of archaeological and historic interest today. The terraces built in the steep valleys and slopes are some of the most carefully designed and constructed of the Inca empire and they’re still in pretty impressive condition today, as are the storehouses built with ventilation at the highest altitude. The aqueducts you can see in the valley floor and heading upwards were used to flood the valley and protect Ollantaytambo from the Spanish. A pretty and exceptionally historic town, proving by its very survival that the Incas knew at least a thing or two about architecture.

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