Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru some 72 kilometres by road northwest of the city of Cusco. It is located at an altitude of 2,792 metres above sea level in the district of Ollantaytambo, province of Urubamba, during the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, around the mid-15th century, the Inca emperor Pachacuti conquered and razed Ollantaytambo, the town and the nearby region were incorporated into his personal estate. After Pachacutis death, the estate came under the administration of his panaqa, during the Spanish conquest of Peru Ollantaytambo served as a temporary capital for Manco Inca, leader of the native resistance against the conquistadors. He fortified the town and its approaches in the direction of the former Inca capital of Cusco, in 1536, on the plain of Mascabamba, near Ollantaytambo, Manco Inca defeated a Spanish expedition, blocking their advance from a set of high terraces and flooding the plain. Despite his victory, however, Manco Inca did not consider his position tenable, so the year he withdrew to the heavily forested site of Vilcabamba. In 1540, the population of Ollantaytambo was assigned in encomienda to Hernando Pizarro. The town of Ollantaytambo is located along the Patakancha River, close to the point where it joins the Willkanuta River, the main settlement is located on the left margin of the Patakancha with a smaller compound called Araqhama on the right margin. The main Inca ceremonial center is located beyond Araqhama on a hill called Cerro Bandolista, there are several Inca structures on the surroundings, what follows is a brief description of the main sites. The main settlement at Ollantaytambo has a layout with four longitudinal streets crossed by seven parallel streets. At the center of grid, the Incas built a large plaza that may have been up to four blocks large, it was open to the east and surrounded by halls. All blocks on the half of the town were built to the same design. Buildings in the northern half are more varied in design, however, Ollantaytambo dates from the late 15th century and has some of the oldest continuously occupied dwellings in South America. The plaza at the center of the town also disappeared as several buildings were built over it in colonial times. Araqhama is a prolongation of the main settlement, across the Patakancha River, it features a large plaza, called Manyaraki, surrounded by constructions made out of adobe. These buildings have a larger area than their counterparts in the main settlement, they also have very tall walls. To the south there are structures, but smaller and built out of fieldstones. Araqhama has been occupied since Inca times, as evidenced by the Roman Catholic church on the eastern side of the plaza
Image: Ollantaytambo, Peru
Araqhama and the plaza of Manyaraki
A typical Inca doorway still used in the town. Note the single stone lintel, a sign of importance.