Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo (2,800m)

 

 (Peru Highlights - Category: Best Small Town or Village - Editors Pick)

 

Ollantaytambo is an attractive little town located at the western end of the Sacred Valley (about two and a half hours by bus from Cusco).  The town has been built on top of original Inca foundations and is the best surviving example of Inca town planning. The town is divided in canchas (blocks) which are almost entirely intact. Each cancha has only one entrance (usually a huge stone doorway) which leads into a central courtyard. The houses surround the courtyard. Good examples of this construction can be found behind the main plaza.

The town is located at the foot of some spectacular Inca ruins (entrance with the Tourist Ticket 'Boleto Turistico') which protected the strategic entrance to the lower Urubamba Valley. The temple area is at the top of steep terracing which helped to provide excellent defences. Stone used for these buildings was brought from a quarry high up on the opposite side of the Urubamba river - an incredible feat involving the efforts of thousands of workers. The complex was still under construction at the time of the conquest and was never completed.

After Manco Inca was defeated by the Spanish at Sacsayhuaman following the unsuccessful siege of Cusco (1536) he retreated to Ollantaytambo. Francisco Pizarro's younger brother Hernando led a force of 70 cavalry, 30 foot soldiers and a large contingent of natives to capture Manco Inca. The Inca's forces, joined by neighbouring jungle tribes, rained down showers of arrows, spears and rocks upon the unfortunate Spanish troops. In an intelligent move the Inca's flooded the plains below their stronghold making it difficult for the horses to manoeuvre. Hernando, uncharacteristically, ordered a hasty retreat. Ollantaytambo became the only place ever to have resisted attacks from the Spanish.

However, their victory was short-lived when the Spanish returned with four times their previous force. Manco Inca retreated to his jungle stronghold in Vilcabamba and Ollantaytambo fell into the hands of the Spanish.

 

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