Cusco Stories and Tips

Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo Photo, Ollantaytambo, Peru

Ollantaytambo is a town which is in the western part of the sacred valley. It takes about 2.5 hours to get here by bus from Cusco.


What is amazing is that some of the Incan structures in town are still used today by people. You can see houses built on top of dark pink Incan rock walls. The town itself is a great surviving example of how the Incans arranged their towns. The towns are divided into blocks called cunchas. Each block has a large stone doorway that leads to a courtyard. Houses surround this central courtyard.


The fortress at Ollantaytambo is magnificent. It was built into a mountainside to be used for defense and religious purposes. The fortress itself is made up of stepped terraces made of massive stone. Climbing about 200 steps up you get a nice view and a sense of breathlessness if you are not used to the altitude. Our guide said these huge stone were moved from quarries from the opposite hillside. To get the rock to the final site, workers used a system of rollers, ramps and slopes. In addition, they used rocks to divert the river to help with the transport of the stone.


The history of the place is fascinating. This fortress we were told served as a place where Manco Inca gathered his forces after the fall of Cusco to conquistadors from Spain. When Spanish forces attacked the site the Incans forced them to retreat and enjoyed a short lived victory. Shortly after, the Spanish returned with four times the number of troops that they had previously and took over the site.


Our guide told us of a beautiful Quencha legend that surrounds the site, which is put on as a play in Peru. As the story goes, a general of the army named Ollanta fell in love with the rulers daughter Kusi. After winning numerous battles, the ruler Pachacutec offered the general anything he wanted. Ollanta asked for Kusi’s hand in marriage. It was sacrilegious for people in different casts to marry. Ollanta was forced to leave and Kusi was jailed with her son. Ollanta gathered forces and started a rebellion which lasted 10 years. Ollanta was eventually defeated and enslaved. When Ollanta was taken, Pachacutec had just died and Pachacutec’s son took over. Pachacutec’s son listened to the story of the two lovers and granted a pardon and allowed their marriage. The two lovers then lived happily with their child.

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