Why you should visit Ollantaytambo
My trip to Peru last week marked my first time in South America. In my mind, I imagined it as Costa Rica, as that’s the farthest south I’d been so it was the closest thing I could think of, and I must say this comparison wasn’t too crazy off.
The flight to Peru also marked the first time I’ve had a journey with two layovers (El Salvador & Lima) which confirmed my theory that it would make the travel time seem one billion times longer. I’ve been lucky that my last few international trips were direct flights where I ambled onto a plane and snoozed for a bit and then woke up somewhere new and exciting. The two layovers spaced awkwardly through the night really made it feel like I was traveling far away. But, totally worth it.
Arriving in Cusco was a relief. Mostly because I hate flying and don’t really believe that airplanes staying in the sky makes any sort of sense. But, arrive we did, and we headed outside to wait for our pre-arranged taxi. There is public transportation available in the form of busses and moderately sketchy street taxis, but we knew after the long trip it would be worth it for us to have a taxi set up.
We were headed directly to Ollantaytambo, a roughly 2 hour drive which cost 100 soles or $30 USD, which seemed super cheap for such a long ride for 2 people.
The drive was actually a good way to see some Peruvian countryside, and once we got past the garbage filled streets near the airport, the scenery was really pretty. Sadly I did see a dead dog in the road which bummed me out, but with so many of them wandering the roads perusing the garbage it’s really lucky that most were faring as well as they were.
We also drove passed the Sky Lodge pods, which are basically just glass pods stuck to the side of the mountain and called a hotel. Just looking at them makes
me feel a bit off, so it wasn’t at all on my list of things to do.
We decided to travel to Ollantaytambo for a few days before spending a day in Machu Picchu, and from there we would head to Cusco. I completely recommend starting out in Ollantaytambo and here’s why!
Ollantaytambo is significantly lower than Cusco, which meant we had a better chance of adjusting and not experiencing altitude sickness. It worked! The first day there, I noticed the air felt thin so I walked up stairs a little slower, but didn’t have any other issues. We also took it fairly easy, and drank lots of water which definitely helped, too!
- It’s Cheap
The prices for food and drinks was lower than in Cusco, and things like an entire pizza would be around 15 soles ($5 USD), and mojitos were only $3 USD. The prices in the market were also good, so it was a decent place to pick up souvenirs and gifts. Cusco is priced well too, but overall there are better prices in Ollantaytambo
- It’s a traditional Inca Town
The streets and walls are all stone, and made during the Incan times. The town is really unique and charming, and exploring the streets is a great way to spend a day. The small streets means there are no cars within the old part of the town. Without the noise of traffic the town is quiet, adding to the charm.
Ollantaytambo has it’s own ruins to explore, which are included on the Tourist Ticket. If you’re visiting more than one of these tourist sites it probably makes sense to get the tourist ticket which will run you 70 Soles ($23 USD). There are big discounts for students, but sadly I’d forgotten to take my old student ID (hoping they wouldn’t look too closely of course).
- On the way to Machu Picchu
If you’re traveling to Machu Picchu like almost every other tourist coming to Peru, you can catch the train in Ollantaytambo. It’s much closer than Cusco, so you won’t have as long of a journey when you do make the trip.
Though seeping with charm, there isn’t a too terribly much to do in this town, so I felt like a day and a half here was a good amount of time. We had time to explore the ruins, visit the chocolate factory to taste traditional hot chocolate with cloves (mixed feelings in this), visit the market, and eat in five of the local restaurants. I also highly recommend the hotel we stayed in, as it has a rooftop deck with a beautiful view, and breakfast included.
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If you’re traveling around the area, Ollantaytambo is definitely worth a stop!