|This is a bath, still with running water, dating to the Inca era.|
In the background you can see the beginning of terraces that
rise high above the town of Ollantaytambo.
This small town (population 3,000) is more or less the end of the road for people traveling from Cusco to Machu Picchu. If you make it to Ollantaytambo by car or bus, this is where you transfer to a train because there is no road connection to Machu Picchu. Oddly, hiking from here isn't an official option. None of the established trails -- the classic Inca trail, the Salcantay trail and the Inca jungle trail -- go through Ollantaytambo, and simply walking along the railroad track isn't an approved route.
Many visitors take a train all the way from Cusco to Aguas Calientes (the town at the foot of Machu Picchu), giving them at best a quick glimpse at this town's Inca-era ruins, which are considered second only to Machu Picchu in grandeur and have more historic significance. Ollantaytambo is worth much more than a glance from a moving train.
The town, pronounced oh-yay-tay-TAHM-bo, predates the Inca culture. Some of the ruins that overlook the town were built by the Quillques, who were living here in 1440 when the great Inca empire-builder Pachacutec conquered it and started building a ceremonial center and a royal compound with an estimated 1,000 workers. Others may have been built by the Colla people of Lake Titicaca, brought here to work by Pachacutec. Time ran out on the Inca's rule before his buildings were complete. In the mid-1530s, the ruling Inca, Manco Inca, transformed Pachacutec's incomplete temple complex into a fortress and from it was able to defeat a 100-strong Spanish force led by the Pizzaro brothers, Hernando, Juan and Francisco. It was their last victory.
In addition to the ruins, the town itself provides testimony to the past. Many buildings consist of adobe, brick or stone walls built atop lower walls dating to the Inca era or earlier. Ancient water channels still provide drainage, testimony to the native peoples' genius in managing water.