Ollantaytambo is a little village in the Sacred Valley of Peru, an hour and a half from Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. We came here right after Machu Picchu to relax and recuperate, as something about high-altitude hiking combined with party-induced sleep deprivation makes me susceptible to colds. After just a few days here, we were so comfortable that we decided to make Ollantaytambo our home for a few weeks, which quickly became a month.
The town has a few challenges, primarily the fact that you pretty much have to go to an internet cafe to get online, and also the fact that there is a surprising amount of traffic every afternoon, with large trucks squeezing through the cobblestone streets to make their way to some kind of evil industrial complex deep in the jungle.
Beyond that, though, this place is paradise. We negotiated a long-term rate with a hostel that cut down on our living expenses, the market has a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, which run about a dollar or two for more than you can eat in a day (although there was some pretty hinky price-fixing on avocados when we really wanted guacamole), and the restaurants in town are both tasty and economical.
One restaurant in particular, Corazon Cafe, won our hearts on day one with their BLT with guacamole for 14 soles (about $4.50), and we’ve been back at least 20 times to enjoy the rest of their menu.
Also recommended is La Esquina, with delicious salads, grilled vegetable sandwiches, carrot cake, and soups. La Esquina means “the corner”, and it sits on the corner of the main square.
For those wishing to economize, we also found a restaurant on a side street to the right of the main square when walking towards the ruins that has a nice menu for 7 sols a person, including a large bowl of delicious soup, rice, lomo de alpaca and chicha morada. The place is called Restaurant Delicia or something like that, but the sign is tiny anyway, so I’ll just say it’s the one next to the internet cafe right off the square. It’s nice, too, because if you sit outside you can listen to the aqueduct while you eat.
Just walking down the street in town is a real pleasure, as the cobblestones complement the stone buildings, and the hills all around you are topped with incan ruins. Also, there are aqueducts (which I guess would be called gutters if they weren’t spring-fed and babbling) all through the town, which make every walk feel pretty special. Given the altitude, it gets cold at night, but it’s usually nice and sunny every day with crisp blue skies.
The people here in town are kind, and clearly not as jaded from constant tourist exposure as in Aguas Calientes.
From town there are many, many hikes, ranging from easy flat routes following the river to some more challenging routes that I wasn’t able to handle due to what I’m hoping isn’t an exacerbated paragliding injury.
Overall, I recommend checking out Ollantaytambo, whether it’s for a day or two after hiking Machu Picchu, or for a month when you want to relax and enjoy the scenery.