Ollantaytambo is surrounded by stunning countryside and skyscraping mountain peaks, and offers a wealth of interesting day-trip options.
It’s easy enough just to choose a path leading up into the hills to the east and see where you get to, remembering, of course, that you will need a tent or have to get back to town by nightfall. Any route will provide a good hike, bringing you into close contact with local people in their gardens. There are also a number of organized tours, available from Ollantaytambo as well as from agents in Cusco. The local Museo CATCCO (204024 or 204034, [email protected]) provide information on the Rutas Ancestrales de Ollantaytambo – Ancestral Routes of Ollantaytambo. This is an entire list of walking circuits that link important points relating to the archeology or history of the area (a large map of this route can also be found at the entry to the Inca fortress).
The area around Ollantaytambo is an excellent spot to begin trekking into the hills. One possibility is to head along the main down-valley road to Km 82, where a bridge over the Río Urubamba is becoming an increasingly popular starting point for both the Inca Trail and Salcantay. Alternatives are the hard-going two-day trail to the beautiful and remote lake of Yanacocha, or travel up the Río Patacancha to the little-visited Inca ruins of Pumamarca, on the left of the river where the Río Yuramayu merges with the Patacancha under the shadows of the Nevada Helancoma. From here the main track carries on along the right bank of the Río Patacancha through various small peasant hamlets – Pullata, Colqueracay, Maracocha and Huilloc – before crossing the pass, with the Nevada Colque Cruz on the right-hand side. It then follows the ríos Huacahuasi and Tropoche down to the valley and community of Lares, just before which are some Inca baths. Beyond the village are several more ruins en route to Ampares, from where you can either walk back to Urubamba, travel by road back to Cusco, or head down towards Quillabamba. It’s at least a two-day walk one way, and you’ll need camping equipment and food, as there are no facilities at all on the route.
The Inca quarries of Cachiqata can be reached in four hours on horseback with a Cusco or Ollantaytambo tour company. It’s also possible to camp here and visit the site of an Inca gateway or Intihuatana. There are also the nearer ruins of Pinkuylluna, less than an hour away by horse, or the Pumamarca Inca ruins about half a day away.
Ollantaytambo is a centre for river rafting, organized largely by KB Tours on the main plaza (204133, kbperu.com), who also offer lodging, mountain-biking and trekking tours; all activities start from around $45/day. Alternatively, arrange a rafting trip with one of the Cusco-based tour companies. The river around Ollantaytambo is class 2–3 in the dry season and 3–4 during the rainy period (Nov–March).