In this article, we’ll give you all the information you need to take a day trip from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, one of our favorite small towns in the Sacred Valley of Peru! Most people who pass through Ollantaytambo are on their way to or from Machu Picchu, and barely spend anytime exploring the quaint town of Ollantaytambo. One of the best decisions we made during our trip to Peru was to spend a day exploring this picturesque little town with tons of character and well-preserved ruins. We’ve outlined everything you need to know to take a day trip from Cusco to Ollantaytambo!

Ruins perched on the side of the mountain at Ollantaytambo

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Cusco to Ollantaytambo: Our Experience

In the spring of 2022, we spent 2 weeks exploring Cusco and the Sacred Valley in the heart of Peru. Nestled high in the Andes mountains, with glacier-capped peaks towering above the remnants of ancient Incan ruins, there is no place on earth quite like the Sacred Valley.

During our trip to Peru, we spent a day exploring the charming little town of Ollantaytambo on our way to see the world renowned Machu Picchu. In fact, most people making the journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu will pass through Ollantaytambo.

However, the tour companies typically don’t give you enough time in Ollantaytambo to explore everything the small town has to offer before shuttling you onto the next train to reach Aguas Calientes, where you’ll begin your journey to Machu Picchu.

We decided to give ourselves a day in Ollantaytambo, and we are so glad we did!

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About Ollantaytambo

Ollantaytambo is a small town located between Cusco and Machu Picchu, in the southern part of Peru. Like most other towns in the Sacred Valley, it sits at over 9,000 feet above sea level and has a long history going back centuries.

In fact, in the mid-15th century, Ollantaytambo was conquered by the Incan emperor Pachacuti, who incorporated the town into his personal estate. It was during this time that many of the ruins that still stand today were built.

A bit later, in the mid-16th century, Ollantaytambo served as the capital of the Incan resistance against the Spanish conquistadors who had taken over Cusco, and was the site of the Battle of Ollantaytambo, an important Incan victory against the invading Spaniards!

Today, Ollantaytambo is probably best known as the small town that serves as a brief stopping point between Cusco and Machu Picchu with a funny name. It’s also where you’ll begin your trek along the Inca Trail, if you plan to hike up to Machu Picchu.

But there is so much more to Ollantaytambo to explore and it’s the perfect spot to spend a day on your way from Cusco to Machu Picchu!

How do you pronounce Ollantaytambo

Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room. How in the world do you pronounce Ollantaytambo!? It’s actually easier than you think!

In fact, it’s pronounced exactly as it’s spelled, remembering your Spanish pronunciation! It’s pronounced Oy-on-tay-tambo (we know that isn’t the official way to do pronunciations but hopefully you can get the point).

Clearly Ollantaytambo is quite the mouthful but luckily most locals simply call it “Ollanta” so you’re off the hook!

Why you should take a day trip from Cusco to Ollantaytambo

If you’re visiting the Sacred Valley in Peru, you’ll be basing your travel in Cusco, the bustling, chaotic capital of the area, and you’re almost assuredly planning to visit Machu Picchu.

There are a number of ways you can get from Cusco to Machu Picchu, but the most popular option is to take a bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo, where you then pick up a train to take you to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.

But, we think that Ollantaytambo is worth more time than just a short stopover on your way to Machu Picchu. We loved exploring the ruins clinging to the mountains around town, shopping in the town market, enjoying a coffee on the town square, and eating lomo saltado overlooking the cobblestone streets.

We visited a few other, more popular places in the Sacred Valley, such as Pisac, Maras, and Moray, but Ollantaytambo was still one of our favorites spots in the Sacred Valley!

P.S.: We know that getting from Cusco to Machu Picchu can be very confusing so we’ve outlined all of the options in the article below!

How to get from Cusco to Ollantaytambo

To get to Ollantaytambo from Cusco, you have a three options – train, bus, or private taxi, each with different pros and cons. We’ll outline all the info you need for each option in the sections below.

Cusco to Ollantaytambo by train

  • Time | About 1.5 hours
  • Cost | about 200 soles per person
  • Book tickets | PeruRail or IncaRail

Traveling from Cusco to Ollantaytambo by train is the most expensive option and our least preferred means of travel. While you’d typically think taking the train would be less expensive than hiring a taxi, in this case, it isn’t.

The problem with taking the train to from Cusco to Ollantaytambo is that you’d need to book a ticket that will take you all the way to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of Machu Picchu.

Remember that Ollantaytambo is the midpoint on the journey between Cusco and Aguas Calientes so the trains are set up to shuttle you from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, with just a brief stop in Ollantaytambo.

If you want to spend some time in Ollantaytambo, you’d essentially need to pay for a ticket all the way through to Aguas Calientes, but hop off in Ollantaytambo.

Because the train companies offer multiple trains each day from Cusco to Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, we asked if we could take an early train from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and then catch a different, later train to Aguas Calientes, so we could spend a few hours in Ollantaytambo and they were not able to accommodate us.

Bus or Colectivo from Cusco to Ollantaytambo

  • Price | 10-15 soles
  • Time | 2 hours

One of our favorite things about traveling in South America is the informal but efficient network of mini-buses or colectivos that can take you pretty much anywhere you want for a low price. This is the cheapest way to travel from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and is our recommended option if you are on a budget.

You can pick up a colectivo from the colectivo station on the corner of Calle Pavitos and Ave. Puente Grau, near the historic Old Town area of Cusco. Always confirm with your driver beforehand, but these colectivos will take you through Chinchero to Urubamba.

You’ll then need to get another colectivo (or stay on the same colectivo if it’s continuing on) or private taxi to take you the final 30 minutes from Urubamba to Ollantaytambo.

We didn’t take this route so can’t speak from experience but we did take our fair share of colectivos during our time in Peru and highly recommend them!

Again, the whole colectivo system is very informal but drivers are usually helpful and don’t be afraid to ask for directions or help. And definitely confirm the destination and price before you get in.

Private Taxi from Cusco to Ollantaytambo

  • Price | 100-200 soles (we paid 200 to bring us to Maras and Moray in addition to Ollantaytambo)
  • Time | 1 hour 30 minutes with no stops

The last option for traveling from Cusco to Ollantaytambo is hiring a private taxi to drive you. This is how we travelled from Cusco to Ollantaytambo and was perfect for what we wanted to do!

We recommend hiring a private taxi for a few reasons. Primarily, traveling from Cusco to Ollantaytambo with a private taxi allows you to completely customize your trip, meaning you can stop wherever you’d like along the way.

Customizing your route from Cusco to Ollantaytambo by taxi

We decided to travel from Cusco to Ollantaytambo via taxi because we wanted to stop at the Maras Salt Mines and Moray Ruins along the way, and everything worked out perfectly! If you take a colectivo or train, you don’t have this freedom and flexibility.

If you’re a little apprehensive about the cost and logistics of finding your own taxi, rest assured that it’s both easier and cheaper than you’d expect!

There are tons of taxis zipping around Cusco. Most of them won’t take you much beyond the city limits. But if you head you to the Pavitos area, just outside Old Town, there will be plenty of taxis lined up who will be happy to take you all the way to Ollantaytambo.

We paid 200 soles for a private taxi to takes us from Cusco to Ollantaytambo with stops at Maras and Moray along the way. Our driver waited for us at each stop and ended up driving us around for about 4 hours.

All in all, we think it was definitely worth the money, as we were able to do exactly what we wanted and squeeze in two additional stops that we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise.

Maras salt mines, an awesome stop on the drive from Cusco to Machu Picchu
Salt mines at Maras

A few notes about getting a taxi in Cusco:

When we were planning our trip to Cusco, we kept reading about how easy it was to get taxis in Cusco to bring you to all these places far outside the city and we were definitely a little nervous.

But it really is super easy to get a taxi! That being said, here are a few tips about getting a taxi in Cusco:

  • Most importantly, make sure you agree on a price with your taxi driver before you get in the car. Every taxi driver we had gave us the price right up front so it was never something we needed to worry about but it’s very important to make sure you know what you’re going to pay before you get in.
  • Make sure you have plenty of cash. Taxis are a cash only operation so make sure you have enough money to pay your fare.
  • Knowing a little bit of Spanish will definitely help. Some of the drivers may know a little bit of broken English but don’t bank on it.

Cusco to Ollantaytambo with a tour

Alright, we understand that the logistics of getting from Cusco to Ollantaytambo may seem complicated. Hailing a taxi or squeezing into a crowded van full of busy locals can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know any Spanish!

Your final option to visit Ollantaytambo from Cusco is with a guided your group. Your tour company will take care of all transportation logistics for you, so all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the trip.

There are several different guided tour options which include a visit to Ollantaytambo in addition to a few other incredible sites in the Sacred Valley:

Things to do in Ollantaytambo

With all the logistics of getting from Cusco to Ollantaytambo out of the way, here are our favorite things to do in Ollantaytambo!

  1. Explore the immaculately preserved Ollantaytambo Ruins
  2. Purchase a souvenir in the Ollantaytambo market
  3. Wander the cobblestone streets
  4. Indulge your sweet tooth at a chocolate making class
  5. Enjoy some lomo saltado and a pisco sour with mountain views
  6. Get your caffeine fix at the Plaza de Armas
  7. Stretch your legs with a hike
  8. Enjoy a cold craft beer at Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado

Map of things to do in Ollantaytambo

The map below displays the locations of a few of our favorite things to do in Ollantaytambo, as well as key landmarks in Cusco to help you make the journey.

  • To view more details about each location, click on the marker on the map.
  • To save this map for future use, click the star next to the title. From your phone, open the Google Maps app and click the “saved” tab, followed by the “Maps” icon. From your Gmail account, navigate to Maps –> “Saved” –> “My Maps” –> “Maps” tab.
  • To email this map to yourself, click the three dots in the upper right corner.

Explore the immaculately preserved Ollantaytambo Ruins

Without a doubt, the biggest draw to Ollantaytambo and the most popular attraction in the area (besides Machu Picchu of course) are the immaculately preserved Ollantaytambo ruins. Climbing up the mountains surrounding the town, you can see the ruins in almost every direction!

The Main Ollantaytambo Archeological Park is home to the largest complex of ruins and the most-visited site in town. These ruins are open from 7:00am to 5:30pm each day and you’ll need to purchase a Boleto Turistico to enter. The ruins will likely get crowded in the middle of the day during popular seasons so we recommend going early in the morning or later in the afternoon if possible.

If you want to reach the top of the ruins for the best views, you’ll need to climb a decent amount of stairs , as you weave through the lower ruins. We spent about an hour and a half exploring the main archeological park but you could easily spend more time here if you love history.

In addition to the Main Ollantaytambo Archaeological Park, there are a few other smaller ruin sites in the area that are free to visit and almost assuredly have fewer crowds. We didn’t have a chance to check out these ruins but have heard they are worth a stop:

Exploring the ruins in Ollantaytambo
Exploring the ruins in Ollantaytambo

Purchase a souvenir in the Ollantaytambo market

Located just outside the entrance and exit to the Main Ollantaytambo Archaeological Park you’ll find the cutest market with local vendors selling all types of handmade souvenirs, such as leather goods, hats, sweaters, and shawls.

I have a distinct memory of finding a sweater I really liked at the market but decided not to buy it because I thought I could find it cheaper elsewhere in Peru. Come to find out, that was not the case and I ended up paying more for a sweater in Cusco!

Colorful textiles at the market in Ollantaytambo
Colorful textiles at the market in Ollantaytambo

Wander the cobblestone streets

One of the reasons we love Ollantaytambo is that it still feels like an old, cute town, despite the thousands of transient tourists that pass through on their way to Machu Picchu. We loved wandering around the quiet, picturesque cobblestone streets, taking pictures of the sun streaming down on the ubiquitous yellow buildings.

It really feels like a glimpse into the authentic Peru!

Indulge your sweet tooth at a chocolate making class

Did you know that production of chocolate in Peru goes all the way back to the Incas?! Although the exact history is not clear, it is believed that the cacao bean originated in the Amazon Basin, including Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

Today, Peru is the ninth-largest exporter of cocoa and Peruvian chocolate is known to be one of the highest quality in the world.

If you’re a chocolate, taking a chocolate-making class is a great way to spend an afternoon in Ollantaytambo! At ChocoMuseo, the 2-hour Bean to Bar Workshop teaches you the step-by-step process of chocolate production, from roasting and grinding beans to molding chocolate bars.

At the end of the class, you’ll walk away with more freshly made chocolate than you’ll know what to do with!

Enjoy some lomo saltado and a pisco sour with mountain views

One of the great things about Peru is that it is a seriously underrated foodie destination! Lomo saltado, which is basically a steak stir-fry with peppers, onions, and tomatoes with a side of fries all served over rice, is one of the most popular dishes in Peru and is the perfect dinner after a long day of exploring.

Pair your lomo saltado with a pisco sour, the popular Peruvian cocktail and enjoy views of the surrounding mountains for an unforgettable Peruvian meal!

Get your caffeine fix while enjoying the views at the Plaza de Armas

Like most major cities in Peru, the heart of Ollantytambo is the town square, or Plaza de Armas. With quaint cafes, shops, hotels and restaurants surrounding a small park, the Plaze de Armas is a great spot to get a coffee or snack and just enjoy the hustle and bustle of the town center.

And of course, even from the center of town, you’ll still have epic mountain views and be able to see ancient ruins in the distance!

Aerial view of Ollantaytambo’s Plaza del Armas

Enjoy a cold craft beer at Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado

One of our least favorite things about Peru is the all around lack of tasty craft beer. As lovers of a good IPA, we were seriously craving some hops after a few days in the country.

Luckily, the Cerveceria del Valle Sagrado (Sacred Valley Brewery) in Ollantaytambo serves any craft beer you could wish for, including pale ales, wheat ales, hoppy double IPAs, and dark ales. We’ll be honest, the beers we had here weren’t our favorites, but it was certainly a welcome reprieve from Peru’s popular Cusquenas!

Stretch your legs with a hike

Without a doubt one of the best ways to experience all the natural beauty of Ollantaytambo and the Sacred Valley is with a hike! Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to tackle any of the area’s hiking trails but we’ve heard great things about each of the following hikes:

Other Peru resources

Questions about planning your Peru itinerary? Leave us a note in the comments section below and we’ll do our best to help!

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