Ollantaytambo, one of the most impressive architectural complexes in the Inca Empire, can only be called "Fortress" due to its magnificent walls. It was actually a Tambo or shelter located in a strategic place in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
The architectural work as well as the quality of each stone, individually carved, make Ollantaytambo one of the most peculiar and amazing works of art made by the incas.
Ollantaytambo is located in the district of Urubamba, approximately 60 km. northeast of the city of Cusco and at a height of 2,792 masl. It was built on the side of the Bandolista hill.
Its name means "Tambo de Ollanta". "Tambo" or "Tampu", is a city with the capacity to shelter thousands of people. During Inca times, there were many tambos in different areas with no special name, the people simply called the town in their area a tambo.
Throughout the colony, it was called Tambo. It was later called Ollantay in memory of a commander from the Antisuyo who helped Huayna Capac conquer the province of Chinchaysuyo.
The Fortitude of Ollantaytambo
Gigantic monoliths of the Temple of the Sun.
Victor Angles explains the origin of the name Ollantaytambo, saying that towards the end of the eighteenth century, a play was staged whose principal character was General Ollanta and the place where all this took place -according to the literary piece- was in the Tambo right below Yucay, which from then on was called Ollantaytambo.
Inca Garcilaso de la Vega wrote that, after enhancing the Tambo forts built by Inca Huiracocha, other great buildings were put up in the area.
Alfonsiva Barrionuevo describes the monument: "A stone work with a thick base which filters the waters of a river channeled by rocks, which guard the entrance of Ollantaytambo, the legendary town of Ollanta, the Indian warrior who dared to conquer the heart of a princess".
Present Day Ollantaytambo
Alfonsina Barrionuevo wrote: "Ollantaytambo is the only inca city which is still inhabited. Impoverished descendants of nobles now live in its dull palaces. The patios are now barnyards but still maintain their architecture..."
This is true: the current houses were renovated and the pre-Hispanic walls were used. The only buildings not used are the Fortress, the forts, and the buildings on the Pinkuylluna hill. The streets now form 15 blocks of houses north of the main plaza, which are a historic legacy. Some colonial houses are built over Inca walls.
Barrionuevo also adds: "the narrow, gracious streets have the beauty of its finely polished walls. The shades of the stones are lively, the color of a petrified flower, dark red. In the main plaza, occupied by street merchants, while a block of perfect edges fits in a double line with its a fifteen angles of an earthly star".