This year has busy with travel and I’m loving every minute of it! After a few years off, Laura and I reunited for a bucket list trip to Peru. With only a week this go around, we focused our time on the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Most travelers use Ollantaytambo as a gateway to Machu Picchu but this quaint village was the perfect location to explore the beautiful area and get acclimated to the high elevation of the Andes. Built upon Inca stone foundations, it’s complete with cobblestone streets, adobe walls and canals that bring water down from the mountains. Just like being transported back in time!
Ollantaytambo is home the second most well-preserved Inca ruins in the country. Constructed in the middle of the 15th century, the site was never finished and then used as a fortress during the Spanish conquest. A climb up the 200 steps to the top affords sweeping views of the town, as well as temples and terraces which once grew corn and potatoes.
By chance, our visit coincided with the annual Pentecost Festival. According to our host, it’s the biggest festival of the year in Ollantaytambo and it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event to witness. The 4-day-festival honors the patron saint of the city, Señor de Choquekillka. Merging Catholic and Inca religious traditions, this wildly colorful and unique celebration is filled with music, dance, native food and fireworks (or rather, dynamite!)
We arrived on day one of the festival and we were right in the thick of the processions. There are more than 16 unique dances performed by almost 400 people, all dressed in amazing costumes symbolizing a piece of history from the region. Some of the masks and costumes looked scary but the mood and festivities were anything but!
Ollantaytambo Planning & Recommendations
Airline: From Lima, LAN got us to Cusco in one piece for around 60 USD each way.
Local Transport & Tours: Taxidatum provided flawless service. We booked three transfers and one full day tour through their website. Highly recommend.
Lodging: Kamma Guest House was perfect choice for us. A comfortable twin room with a private bath and a host who went above and beyond. A little cold in the winter with no heating (typical for the area) but bundled up with extra blankets. A delicious breakfast was served each morning on the rooftop, with a view overlooking the town and ruins.
Food: Apu Ausangate & Chuncho were my favorites. We liked them so much we ate at each restaurant twice!
More from the Sacred Valley in the next post!