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OLLANTAYTAMBO, The Living Inca Town & Fortress

Ollantaytambo was a royal state located in in the idyllic Sacred Valley of the Incas, which was flanked by the magnificent Andean mountains, the Sacred Valley, and the Urubamba and Patakancha rivers. Ollantaytambo is known as a living Inca town, because of its narrow cobblestone street, terraces, storehouses, baths, fountains, fast-flowing irrigation channels, and its native inhabitants, many of whom can trace their ancestry back to Inca times.

The town offers a unique and intimate glimpse into what life must have been in pre-Hispanic times when it was inhabited by the Inca elite. However, the town also stands as a testament to the might of the Inca Empire and what happened to those who dared to challenge its rule: According to some accounts, at the command of the Inca Emperor Pachacuti (1438-1471), the original town was completely destroyed to give way to the town that we now know as Ollantaytambo.

The site in the hills above the town is known as the Fortress of Ollantaytambo, though evidence suggests it was originally built for religious purposes. The site is yet another example of the exquisite masonry and enigmatic architectural feats of the Incas. Terraces, fountains, temples, monoliths, gates are all part of this imposing site. One of the most impressive structures in the fortress is the Wall of the Six Monoliths, carved with mysterious engravings and enigmatic iconography and each of them weighing over fifty tons and brought to the site from a quarry 2.5 miles away.

What makes the fortress even more impressive is that its construction was carried out without iron tools or wheels. So though the method by which the stones used to build the town and the fortress were quarried, transported, and so precisely fitted together may forever remain a mystery, one thing is for certain: Ollantaytambo is the best-preserved Inca town in Peru and its fortress played a vital role in the only victory that the Inca resistance, led by the Emperor Manco Inca, had over the Spanish forces in January of 1537.

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