How did the Incas build the giant steps in the Ollantaytambo Ruins?

Reading : 5 min January 3 2023


Step into a realm where history whispers through ancient stones and Incan mysteries unfold against a breathtaking mountainous backdrop. Our journey through the enigmatic ruins of Ollantaytambo is a riveting exploration of a living archaeological treasure. Nestled in Peru's Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo captivates with its intricate terraces, sacred temples, and a history that echoes through time. Join us as we unravel the tales woven into these sacred stones, discovering the secrets and significance that make Ollantaytambo an unparalleled destination for history enthusiasts and curious travelers alike.

What will you find here?

  1. A Glimpse into the History of Ollantaytambo Ruins
  2. How did the Incas built Ollantaytambo?
  3. What is “ashlar” and how did the Incas use it?
  4. Planning Your Visit: How to Explore the Ollantaytambo Ruins
  5. Ollantaytambo Ruins Entrance Fee
  6. Beyond Ollantaytambo: Exploring Other Remarkable Ruins in Peru

A Glimpse into the History of Ollantaytambo Ruins


The Ollantaytambo ruins are located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, near the town of Ollantaytambo, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) northwest of the city of Cusco. The site was originally a fortified Inca town, and later became a sanctuary for the sun god Inti. The name Ollantaytambo comes from the Quechua words meaning "Place of the Rising Sun". The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

The ruins consist of a large complex of terraces, temples, and other stone structures built into the side of a mountain. The most notable feature is the massive stone staircase leading up to the Temple of the Sun, which according to the experts was used for astronomical observations. The staircase is made up of over 150 steps, and is considered to be one of the most impressive feats of Inca engineering and one of the  most well-preserved examples of Inca stonework. 

The Ollantaytambo sanctuary was an important site for Inca rituals and ceremonies. It was built during times of Inca Pachacutec, while the Empire was more powerful than ever. Thanks to its location, Ollantaytambo was a strategic place for fighting against the Spanish conquerors and it was also used as a fortress during this time. 

Even today it looks spectacular with its terraces (andenes) made of stone and its large stone walls up to 13 ft. (4 meters) high. The construction is impressive and is surrounded by a cloak of magic and mystery. The ruins are a popular tourist destination, and a great place to learn about the Inca culture and its history.

How did the Incas built Ollantaytambo?


When the Spanish conquerors arrived in the Andes during the 16th century, they were truly surprised by the engineering and architectural skills of the Inca people. One of the most impressive constructions they found was the city of Ollantaytambo with its terraces and giant stair steps built into the side of the mountain. But how did the Incas build such a massive structure?
When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Andes in the 16th century, they were amazed by the engineering feats of the Inca. One of the most impressive was the Ollantaytambo ruins, with its series of terraces and giant steps built into the side of a mountain. How did the Incas build such a massive structure?

First, they carved the stone into large blocks using only primitive tools. Then they transported the blocks up to the mountain using a system of pulleys and ropes. Finally, they fit the blocks together using a technique called “ashlar,” in which each block is cut to interlock with the ones around it.

The result was an incredibly strong and stable structure that has passed the test of time. Today, Ollantaytambo ruins are a popular tourist destination, and a reminder of the Inca’s engineering achievements.


What is “ashlar” and how did the Incas use it?


Ashlar is a type of stone masonry in which each stone is carefully cut and fitted to create a smooth, level surface. It is often used on outer walls of buildings, where it creates a clean and classic look.

Ashlar dates back to ancient times, and can be seen in many famous buildings from that era. The ancient Citadel of Machu Picchu is a perfect example of the best of what they achieved, engineeringly speaking. The stones were cut so precisely that, even today, the joints between them are barely visible.

Ashlar is also used extensively in modern architecture. It is a popular choice for office buildings, hotels, and other commercial structures. Its clean lines and classic look give these buildings a sophisticated air. It's a tried and true method that has been used for centuries to create beautiful, long lasting buildings.


Planning Your Visit: How to Explore the Ollantaytambo Ruins

Embarking on a journey to explore the ancient wonders of Ollantaytambo requires thoughtful planning to fully immerse yourself in the historical richness of this Incan site. Begin your day early to absorb the mystical ambiance undisturbed by crowds, allowing for an intimate connection with the ruins. As you ascend the terraces, marvel at the precision with which the Incas crafted these stone structures, each step offering a glimpse into their architectural mastery.

Engage in a comprehensive exploration by hiring a knowledgeable local guide who can unveil the historical narratives embedded in the temples, storehouses, and ceremonial plazas. Traverse the meticulously preserved urban layout and discover the strategic significance of Ollantaytambo as a religious, agricultural, and military complex. Don't forget to carry sufficient water and wear comfortable footwear, as you navigate the stone pathways and staircases that lead to panoramic viewpoints. Strategically planning your visit ensures a profound encounter with the Ollantaytambo ruins, allowing you to appreciate the cultural and historical significance that makes this site a captivating testament to Incan ingenuity.


Ollantaytambo Ruins Entrance Fee

Immersing yourself in the captivating history of Ollantaytambo comes with a modest entrance fee that opens the door to a treasure trove of Incan heritage. As of the latest update, the admission cost for adults is approximately 70 Peruvian Soles, with discounts available for students and children. This fee grants you access to explore the archaeological complex, including the Temple Hill, agricultural terraces, and the Temple of the Sun. The revenue generated contributes to the ongoing preservation efforts, ensuring that future generations can continue to marvel at the architectural marvels and cultural significance embedded in these ancient stones.

Visitors should be aware that the entrance fee is payable in local currency, and it's advisable to carry cash for a seamless transaction. The investment not only provides a gateway to Ollantaytambo's historical wonders but also plays a vital role in sustaining the conservation initiatives that safeguard this invaluable piece of Peruvian history. Understanding the cost of history underscores the importance of responsible tourism, ensuring the continued preservation and accessibility of Ollantaytambo for all those eager to connect with its extraordinary past.


Beyond Ollantaytambo: Exploring Other Remarkable Ruins in Peru

While Ollantaytambo stands as a captivating testament to Incan heritage, Peru is adorned with a plethora of equally remarkable archaeological wonders waiting to be explored. Journey to Machu Picchu, the iconic Incan citadel, to witness the pinnacle of ancient engineering surrounded by breathtaking mountain scenery. Delve into the mystique of the Sacred Valley by visiting Pisac, renowned for its terraced hillside ruins and vibrant artisan market. The enigmatic Nazca Lines, etched into the desert floor, invite speculation about their purpose and origin, providing a unique archaeological puzzle.


Venture to the coastal desert to explore Chan Chan, the largest adobe city in the Americas, once the seat of the Chimu civilization. Marvel at the intricately carved stones of Sacsayhuaman in Cusco, an architectural marvel that continues to puzzle historians with its colossal stones fitting seamlessly together. The ancient city of Caral, considered the oldest civilization in the Americas, offers a glimpse into Peru's pre-Incan past. Each archaeological site unfolds a distinct chapter in Peru's history, showcasing the diverse cultures and advanced civilizations that once thrived across this enchanting land. Embark on a journey beyond Ollantaytambo to unravel the rich tapestry of Peru's archaeological wonders, where every site narrates a compelling story of human ingenuity and cultural legacy.



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