Discovering upon arrival in Cusco that our baby carrier had been broken during transit was a stressful way to begin our next chapter in Peru. After a couple hours of frustrating dialogue, we finally got a satisfactory resolution to the problem. The airline (LCPeru) was very helpful and responsive to the problem. They gave us cash money and also transported us directly to our hostel in Ollantaytambo (about two hours away from Cusco). Arriving in Ollantaytambo, we knew immediately that we had just entered a special place.
Wandering cobblestone streets and hiking Incan ruins, we soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed the feeling of stepping back in time. If going to Macchu Picchu I highly recommend staying at least a couple nights here and experiencing the old world.
Our hostel, Casa de Wow, was up the cobblestone streets and away from the hustle and bustle of the Macchu Picchu transits. We scored the matrimony room and were much more comfortable here then in our Lima hostel. This time we actually had hot water and eggs for breakfast. It was a great hostel for families or those looking for some quiet away from the party scene. Ollantaytambo is so small though, the excitement is just a five minute walk away.
We did a lot of shopping here for souvenirs. Beware of the art gallery though; she scammed me. Shame on me for being so gullible. If I had spent time in Cusco first, I would have known that what she claimed to be original pieces were actually just run of the mill prints that many will try to hawk to you in the Cusco town square. Oh well. We had a good time chatting with her (as she lied to us), and we have artwork that reminds us of Peru and a funny story to laugh about when we are old (or anytime we look at the print!).
We did the “Pinkuylluna” trail and I recommend it to anyone on a tight budget looking for some amazing ruins to explore. Unlike most of the Ollantaytambo ruins, these are free. It’s not what I expected as a trailhead, and we nearly missed it because of that. See picture of trailhead sign below.
The hike is about two hours total, but steep. If you have walking sticks with you, now is the time to use them. My husband found it using this app: Triposo Peru. Recommend that app too. We used it for general guidance here and there as an alternative to my lonely planet book.
Eating in Ollantaytambo is awesome. Lonely Planet made it seem like (to us at least) there were limited places to eat here. Not the case. The food is amazing and options plentiful. Our first night we went basic with a pizza special. We were not impressed with the service there; I think they forgot about us. I know things are slower in Peru, but this was reeeeaaaallllly slow. We didn’t go back there. (If I could remember the name of the place I would warn you against it, but I can’t. It’s on the corner of the main square on the left hand side as you look down the hill towards the transit area.) We loved a little café where we ate an alpaca lunch after our hike. Alpaca is delicious. We also loved everything about another cafe run by a very nice Peruvian who spoke wonderful English. Again, I can’t remember the name of the place, but it was in the south corner of the plaza. They had scrumptious sandwiches and served Peruvian beer on tap. TIP: get the beer! We were excited to see beer on tap but were not in the mood for a beer at that moment so we didn’t order it. We assumed we could get some another time. Not the case. They only serve that beer in the sacred valley. That was the only time we ever Peruvian Beer on tap, and we never got to try it. So if you find it, have a round for us! Our favorite place was a lonely planet recommendation: Puka Rumi. We ordered the burrito as recommended and just continued to eat there as often as possible. We also followed Lonely Planet’s advice and ate some ice cream from Tutti Amore while we waited for the train, and ordered box lunches to go for our Machu Picchu trip from Hearts Café. The boxed lunches from Hearts Café were delicious and a great value; tons of food. Not really necessary though because we didn’t realize that when the train company says the ticket includes a snack they actually mean a meal plus a couple snacks. Peruvians do like to feed you! If you’re seeking good coffee though the café con leche at Hearts Café was the best coffee we had in Peru.
Our original itinerary was two nights in Ollantaytambo, but Perurail went on strike and we ended up staying a third night. The third night we grabbed the first hostel with a room available, close to the train station. The sign read “Hostel”, the price was right, and we were thankful that with so many stranded travelers we were able to snag a private room. It didn’t include breakfast or anything, but that didn’t matter since our box lunch was pretty much breakfast too. While the strike situation was annoying and frustrating, another night in Ollantaytambo was a good consolation. If I could go back to any of the places we visited in Peru, I would go back there. I’m in love with this little town.