Ollantaytambo is the last town in the Sacred Valley  before the Río Urubamba plunges through steep gorges toward Machu Picchu . It is the best-preserved Inca village in Peru, with its narrow alleys, street water canals, and trapezoidal doorways.
The Inca temple and fortress above town is second in beauty only to Machu Picchu. In the terraced fields above town, men still use foot plows, or chaquitacllas, to till fields and plant potatoes. There are endless things to explore in and around Ollantaytambo, which is framed by snowcapped Verónica mountain and surrounded on all sides by Inca ruins, highways, and terraces.
Whisking through Ollantaytambo, as most travelers do, is a great shame. Stay and get to know the place.
Ollantaytambo is also in the throes of a tremendous struggle to save its way of life against the mass forces of tourism and development. Trinket sellers have crowded the areas in front of the Inca temple  and the train station. Nondescript pizzerias are creeping onto the main square, which is continually shaken by the passing of massive trucks bound for the Camisea pipeline in the jungle around Quillabamba. One solution to these problems, as resident Wendy Weeks suggests, is to move the train station outside of town and have visitors enter as the Inca did—through the main gate and on foot.
The town’s saving grace, and what should carry it through its present crisis, is the tremendous sense of community that is palpable to anyone who pauses here. A cadre of researchers, led by English archaeologist Anne Kendall, have spent considerable time researching Inca farming technology and have restored hundreds of farming terraces and aqueducts.
To get to Ollantaytambo from Cusco  by bus, take the bus from the first block of Grau near the bridge (US$1.50, 90 minutes) to Urubamba  and then hop another combi for the 20-minute, US$1 ride to Ollantaytambo. However, the most convenient option to get to Ollantaytambo from Cusco is to take a car or colectivo from the Paradero Pavitos (US$3.50, 90 minutes) to Ollantaytambo.
The station where you catch the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes  is a 10- or 15-minute walk from the main square along the Río Patacancha. From Ollantaytambo, various trains leave for Machu Picchu. For up-to-date prices and times, see www.perurail.com . Two new train companies started in 2010 and will be operating from Ollantaytambo—Inca Rail (www.inkarail.com ) and Andean Rail (www.andeanrailways.com ). Visit the websites for updated schedules and prices.
Reaching Cusco  from Ollantaytambo is easy. Combis leave Ollantaytambo’s main square for Urubamba, where another combi can be taken to Cusco. Direct buses for Cusco (US$1.75, 80 minutes) leave from Ollantaytambo when the evening trains arrive. The most convenient option is taking a car or colectivo from the train station or the main plaza (US$3.50).
Buses from Cusco also pass through Ollantaytambo on their way up-and-over the high pass at Abra Málaga and on to the jungle city of Quillabamba, which is the gateway to the biodiverse lower Urubamba basin. Trucks and a few buses headed in this direction stop in Ollantaytambo’s main square in the morning and at 8 p.m. Ask local combi drivers for more details.