Built into a hillside, the ruins at Ollantaytambo was the site of the last Inca victory over the Spanish. Manco Inca defeated a force captained by Hernando (brother of Francisco) Pizarro by diverting the Urubamba River and flooding the battlefield. The thrill of victory didn’t last long, because Manco Inca withdrew his forces to Vilcabamba in the jungle of Espiritu Pampa, where it was lost until rediscovered in the 20th Century.
Most tourists don’t spend much time visiting the Incan sites in the Sacred Valley, preferring instead to either take the train to Machu Picchu or hike the 35 km of the Inca Trail without further delay. (When people asked if I was taking the Inca Trail, I always answered by saying that I was taking the Inca Train.)
Other than Machu Picchu and the sites immediately around Cusco, the main tourist destinations in the valley are Pisac and Ollantaytambo. Pisac is known for its Sunday crafts market and “Ollantay,” as the starting point for most of the trains to Machu Picchu. The ruins at Ollantay are extensive, including temples, terraces for farming, and granaries several hundred feet up in the Andes.
At the ruins, I hired a guide named William who did a good job of explaining, albeit in broken English, the features of the site. In fact, I liked him so much, I hired him for an all-day tour of Moray, Maras, the Salineras, and Chinchero the next day. That trip (about which more later) proved to be one of the highlights of my trip to Peru.