Ancient ruins from a magnificent kingdom. Mountains rising over a lush, fertile valley. Colorfully dressed llamas. Welcome to tiny Ollantaytambo, Peru, a mouthful of a town with its own enormous archaeological site, but forever overlooked next to nearby Machu Picchu. Ollantaytambo offers ancient culture and fascinating history that dates back to the pre-Columbian era, a place to respectfully learn about and support the lives of the local Quechua Indigenous people, and a jumping-off point to explore the Sacred Valley. Here are all the best things to do in Ollantaytambo!
We’re sitting in a restaurant in Aguas Calientes. Around us are five couples, two solo travelers, and two tour guides. All fourteen of them are tired, dirty, and covered in dried sweat. They just finished the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and experienced a life changing experience, one that brought them together as a family to experience a once in a lifetime physical and mental challenge. As we watch them drinking celebratory beer, retelling stories, and soaking it all in, I’m reminded: this was supposed to be us. But instead of having a spiritual pilgrimage to Machu Picchu, we had an expensive failure on the Inca Trail.
Jeremy and I are less than a week away from the biggest challenge of our entire trip: hiking the 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. It’s not just the lack of Netflix and Instagram for four days that scares us (although … shudder) but the incredibly difficult high-altitude hike. This morning I walked down the street in Cusco and it felt like walking through sand… on the moon. Yikes. We’ve been searching high and low for tips about visiting Machu Picchu that will help us to feel less terrified and more excited. And one of my amazing friends went above and beyond! Angela is a brilliant lawyer who also happens to be Peruvian, and she’s been visiting Peru regularly for years. Who could be better to get Machu Picchu tips from??