Pumamarca Ruins: Day Hike from Ollantaytambo
During the month we lived in Ollantaytambo, this day hike was a highlight that took me by surprise.
Scene: I start the day full of energy, preparing a delicious quinoa salad to take for our lunch. Then, we start on the hike. It is uphill. Uphill. We pass by homes with Incan terraces as their backyard. 2 hours in, I'm fading. I manage a whisper to Mr. Human. "I'm fading," I whisper. And then, somehow, we're there! That wasn't so bad. We have the entire ruins to ourselves. I take a giant well-deserved nap in the middle of the ruins. We have our picnic. All about that siesta and feista life, baby! We wander around the ruins with llamas for company. End scene.
What makes the Pumamarca Ruins awesome?
Because not that many tourists go here so you'll be able to do the hike and wander the ruins in peace, taking in the beautiful stones and mountains surrounding you. Plus, it's free! :)
How to get there
Hike: The walk from Ollantaytambo to the Pumamarca Ruins takes about 2.5 hours and is a moderate, steadily uphill hike. I have average fitness and completed this hike with only one or two whines to Mr. Human. This is a pretty good whine rate, especially compared to how much complaining I did on the Salkantay Trek haha.
Plus, the trail takes you along Incan trails and gives you a sweet little look into the culture of the Sacred Valley, away from the tourist path.
To find the trail, here are the directions from Ollantaytambo, provided by Moon Guides:
Follow Patacalle out of town. Shortly after the first bridge, a large path leaves the main road to the right and follows the river. Follow this path for about 15 minutes until it rejoins the main road at the small town of Munaypata. Just up the road you will see an electrical pole on the left labeled 2224 and a path leading behind the adjacent house. Follow this path uphill for 15 more minutes to a blue archaeological marker for the Media Luna terraces in front of you. At this point, follow the switchback up the hill to your right (and not the path in front of you toward the terraces). The trail continues to climb steeply but soon becomes more gradual.
Once you are on the trail, it remains quite clear and even has a few sign-posts letting you know how you are tracking. Tip: The trail route is on Google Maps and the offline mapping app 'maps.me'. Maps.me is a great app to have as it has many hiking routes and useful points on it, just remember to download the map of the area BEFOREHAND.
Note: When you reach the entrance of Pumamarca Ruins, if the gate is closed, simply open it. Remember to close it after you go in and out, to keep the llamas from getting out! :)
Entry into the ruins is free (whooo!). The Pumamarca ruins are not the most complex ruins you will see, but the beauty of them is in the solitude. When we went, we were the only ones there and it was so relaxing to enjoy all these mountains and ruins in peace. Pumamarca still remains a little gem away from the beaten path.
For me (a big fan of napping), it was incredibly amazing to be able to lie down in the middle of ancient ruins and take a powerful and sweet siesta. Can we hear it for Siesta and Fiesta life, people!
If you're lucky, there should also be some llamas wandering around the ruins! You've probably been wondering... Wow, how do they all Peruvian Incan sites keep their lawns so neat and dandy? Masters of lawn-mowers, are they?
The answer is this.
What to bring
We brought one small backpack between the two of us. Don't forget to bring enough water and a yummy lunch (there is no restaurants or food for purchase at the ruins). Plus, it makes it a lot more lovely to have your own little picnic in the grass, after all that hiking.
Returning to Ollantaytambo
You can do the return hike to Ollantaytambo, tracing back through the farmers' fields and back to the path. It should take between 2 - 2.5 hours as it will all be downhill.
However, our recommendation would be to hike down to the tiny village of Pallata (viewable from the ruins, facing the main road). From Pallata, you can flag down a 'collectivo' van (Peruvian public transport) back to Ollantaytambo. It's a quick ride, about 20 minutes and should cost less than 3 sols. However, there is no schedule, the collectivo vans just keep going back and forth this road as their passengers fill up. If you don't know what a collectivo van looks like, just flag down any van (or any vehicle you see, really) because Peruvians are very friendly and will likely give you a lift if you ask kindly. :)
We really enjoyed the short hike down to Pallata because it gives you a look into traditional Peruvian life in these secluded and peaceful mountains.
Let me know how you go, if you do this incredibly worthwhile and fun day trip from Ollantaytambo! :)