In Tambomachay you can see the Baño del Inca (the Inca’s baths). Three terraces made of huge stones created a kind of falling water where water run until a big pool where Incas and their women took their baths. These place was also used to do some rituals to the water.
Ollayntaytambo was the name of an ancient Inca warrior and was also the name of a fortress that guarded the way to Machu Picchu. During the Spanish conquest Huayna Capac after loosing Sacsahuamán obtained here an important victory. Later, after a second attack by the Spanish troops, he would had to leave and founded another capital in the forest, Vilacabamba. Nowadays Ollayntaytambo is a nice Andean village, with a great archaeological site. In Ollayntaytambo you still can see (well it is the only village where you still can see) the typical Inca general layout and its inhabitants are still the ancient Incas’ descendants. The Inca urbanism was very simple (enlarge picture 1 to see it): an ensemble of narrow streets were organized in a grid (canchas) perfectly delimited by masonry walls. These walls had entrances to big patios with all the houses and other constructions around. The Plaza de las Armas (on the right of the picture) was the main space of the village; then you can see a straight street that connects the plaza with the remains (the big open space in front of you is the entrance to the archaeological site and nowadays is full of stalls selling touristy stuff); behind the Plaza de las Armas there is a long street that goes parallel to the river until the train station, street that local women try to avoid in order not to meet “los condenados de la noche” (the condemned men of the night) a kind of smiling phantoms who are supposed to bring all kind of illnesses. Nice colonial houses have replaced the ancient ones without modifying the general structure. Another freaky detail that you can see on this picture is the smiling image of Tunupa, messenger of Wiracocha and unifier of the Incas, which is sculpted into Pinkuylluna mountain protecting Ollayntaytambo (on the left).
"... al que la ha visto y mirado con atención le hace imaginar y aún creer que son hechos por vía de encantamiento o que las hicieron demonios y no hombres" Garcilaso de la Vega, Comentarios Reales
The fortress of Sacsayhuamán (known by locals as “sexywoman”) guards Cusco from the top. Legend says that Sacsayhuamán is the head of a puma designed by the Inca Pachacutec when he was drawing the general layout of Cusco. Its cyclopean stones follow the mountains doing a zig zag that creates three lines of walls, which is only a small part of the original and huge fortress. After the Spanish conquest most of the stones were used to build the current houses in Cusco. Sacsayhuamán, a fortress between fortress, is a masterwork of civil engineering: built in only 50 years, some of this perfect cut stones weigh more than 100 tones! So it is difficult to imagine how the fortress was constructed especially if we remember that Incas did not know the wheel. Inside the fortress, on the top, you can also see a kind of ceremonial space. A local man told us that in this area some people come with the strangest devices looking for gold ;-))
This archaeological ensemble belongs to the Imperial Inca stage, from the Inca Pachacútec until the Inca Wayna Capac. There are a lot of mysteries about Ollayntaytambo: the little time existed between the design and the construction of the city or the fact that the defences are guided towards Cusco like if Incas wanted to protect the city from the Incas themselves. The mountain is divided up into big terraces very difficult to climb at 2700m :-((( having the ensemble the appearance of a big pyramid. On the top there was the Temple of the Sun, where astrologists and priests calculated the solstices. You also can see some houses and granaries. On the left of the first picture you still can see some of the ramps used to carry the stones up to the mountain. Some stones weight more than 50 tones. The views from the top are great (picture 2). In front of the site there is the Pinkuylluna mountain were you still can see two constructions: the colcas (stores) on the right and the prison on the left (great views also here).
Pisac was one of the biggest Incas’ metropolis and nowadays it is the second most important archaeological site after Machu Picchu. Agricultural terraces, still cultivated following the ancient methods and the huge remains dominate the landscape (picture 1).The paths are well indicated but we were happy to take a local guide: he was the kind of person that has grown between the stones and knew every detail of them. He also told us fantastic stories ;-)). In Pisac there are two main areas: Intiwatana, the sacred area with the temples of Sun, Moon, Storm and Rainbow and the noble suburb of Hanan Pisac with about thirty houses kept in very good conditions. The most interesting point is the solar altar or Intiwatana (picture 2): the shadow casted on it by the sun was used by Incas to calculate the solstices. El Baño del Inca (the Inca’s baths) which is full of cascades that brought water to different levels (picture 3), complete the archaeological site. Consider about 2 hours to visit well the place.
Ollantaytambo is where the train departs to Machu Picchu. From here you can catch the backpaker train and get to Machu Picchu in about two hours. The train is not fancy but its comfortable and drinks are served.
The ruins of Ollantaytambo are almost as spectacular as those of Macchu Picchu. Constructed in the shape of a puma, the ruins consist of a colossal open air amphitheater consisting of steep man-made terraces topped by several temples at the top of a steep hill. A granary sits opposite the amphitheater on a cliff, and it is said that on the summer and winter solstice, sunlight beaming in through the cliff strikes the “eye” of the puma where a temple sits. Climbing up the steep stone steps next to the amphitheater is an aerobic experience, but the views of the valley and terraces from the top is well worth the trek. At the bottom of the ruins lies an elaborate water system of troughs and basins, and our guide demonstrated how the residents shut the water “on” and “off” by running their fingers across the crest of the basin, harnessing water’s natural van der Waal’s forces to regulate the flow of the water as it cascaded down into the basin.
It's amazing what just being, standing, sitting, and observing does to you. All of a sudden, you can see things, your minds becomes curious and wanders a bit further...
The first 3 pictures were just by luck as we arrived in the middle of a city assembly where politicians were talking about their electoral promises.
You can't miss it, if you continue beyond the main square, you will see the Inca ruins. You will need the Boleto Touristico to visit and start climbing the stairs to higher grounds. Your efforts will be rewarded.
In the market by the Ollantaytambo train station, there are a group of local Quechuan women who sell hot corn on the cob ("el chollo", I think...) from big tin pots. You can get it "con queso" (with cheese) or "sin queso" (without cheese). Each cost one sol. It's the best corn I've ever tasted.