Ollantaytambo, between Cusco and Machu Picchu, is the site of one of the Inca kings’ few victories against the marauding Spanish in the 1500s. Manco Inca, who had been appointed a puppet king by the invaders aged 18 or so, saw the error of his ways (and the devastation of his people and culture) and holed up in the town, trying to gain local support to fight the Spanish. He did send them packing in one battle, in January 1537, partly by damming the river and flooding the entrance to the town. But the Spanish were soon back with a bigger force. One of the advantages the Spanish had was that the Incas, invaders themselves, weren’t universally popular among the tribes they had previously conquered. And by promising freedom from the Inca rulers, the Spanish were able to get a lot of locals on their side. In the end, of course, the Spanish just gave them smallpox, Catholicism, and far less freedom than they had previously enjoyed.
But Ollantaytambo is a lovely town, still Inca at heart, with Spanish additions, and some very fine Inca (and older) ruins behind. The Incas quarried their stones six kilometres away, on the other side of the valley, bringing the stones - some of the HUGE - down one very steep slope, across a river, through fields and up another steep bank to build their temple complex, which was 80 years in the making and never finished. Archaeologists estimate some of the biggest stones took over 1000 people to move.
The Spanish looted anything precious (gold and silver mostly) and then dismantled some of the ruins to use the stones for their own building. But it’s still a fine place to spend a couple of days exploring. So we did.