Ollantaytambo: Awesome Things to Do Off-the-Beaten Path
I stayed in Ollantaytambo for over a month and completely loved the experience. I spent every single day waking up to mountains surrounding me, looking out at the Sacred Valley of Peru (rumoured to be the most picturesque and fertile of all Peru). I spent my time volunteering at the local chocolate museum, wandering old Incan pathways and painstakingly hand-washing all my clothes.
When I travel, I like to do things myself. I avoid tours because I like to do things at my own pace and also because I ain't got the cash for that. So if you like to do things on your own when travelling, definitely check out the highlights below from my time in Ollantaytambo! :)
Time required: Full day activity including hike there, lunch, time spent in ruins and making your way back
This is a 2.5 hour hike from Ollantaytambo to the secluded Pumamarca Incan ruins, which is free (free!!) to enter and is well away from all the tourists. When we were there, we had the entire ruins to ourselves so you can bet your butt I took the biggest nap in the middle of it all. Certainly a pleasure one cannot find so easily!
It's a beautiful and relaxing way to get a glimpse into Peruvian culture and their Incan history. You're surrounded by mountains all day, walking along Incan pathways and terraces and passing by traditional Peruvian communities with pigs squealing around.
TIP: Pack a lunch and snacks to give yourself a well-deserved picnic after the hike! If you can't be bothered doing the 2.5 hour return hike to Ollantaytambo, simply catch a collectivo van back.
Time required: 1 hour ride there, 1 - 2 hours in the village and weaving co-operative, 1 hour ride back
Patacancha is a traditional weaving village nestled in the Sacred Valley. The people here dress in their traditional clothing, only recently got electric lights and weaving is still a big part of their livelihood. In fact, Patacancha is so off-the-beaten-path that the locals there will probably look at you a bit weirdly if you go, because you will stand out in your modern-day get up. But if you can get over that and visit the weaving co-operative in Patacancha, you won't regret it. :)
Patacancha is a 1-hour ride from Ollantaytambo, we took the collectivo for 3.5 sols ($1 USD). We visited the ladies at the weaving co-operative there, who were super welcoming (being so remote, they love new visitors, for sure!). We organised a bracelet weaving session with personal instructors for 20 sols ($6 USD). After, we had the opportunity to purchase their beautiful handmade artesanals, getting to actually meet the people who made the products. I think it's undeniably special to buy something and actually know the person who made it. :)
Have lunch in Ollantaytambo's secret ruins
Time required: 7-10 min walk from Town Square
One of the days in Ollantaytambo, we were feeling restless and decided to walk down a random street we hadn't been done before. We ended up coming across some random little ruins very close-by, cozied on all sides by corn crops and a barking dog. (TIP: We were never hurt or threatened by any dogs in South America, which is reknowned for stray dogs, but just pick up a rock if you feel scared and need comfort).
Whilst small, these ruins are just fun because you get to walk on top of the ruins, take a breather from town and just chill surrounded by mountains and little farms.
Where to eat?
Oh man we ate soo much good food in Ollantaytambo. These are our top picks (ranked from least expensive to most):
Sergio - If you're looking for a cheap and hearty meal, Sergio is your main man. The "Menu Del Dia" (Menu of the day) is 6 sols ($1.83 USD) and includes a soup, main and drink. Flavours are good, don't expect it to be gourmet because this is definitely where the locals eat.
Heart's Cafe - Most of the food here is pretty good, but we got the Vegetarian Burger over and over again. Burger is tasty and SUPER good value, you get a huge salad and delicious chips with it too (don't forget to ask for mayo).
Apu Veronica - High quality food. For a good lunch deal, get the "Menu del Dia" here for 15 sols. It's adequate but not super filling, however the quality is top notch. Starter items we loved was the Hummus starter, Causita, Ceviche and the Lomo Saltado main was very delicious. :)
El Albergue - Expensive but very high quality. We came for my birthday and it was an amazing experience. The waiter was super kind and they all even sang happy birthday to me. The highlight for me was the brownie for dessert. If you're poor, definitely skippable, or just come for the brownie.