Poll visitors for their favorite Sacred Valley community, and the answer will likely be Ollantaytambo—endearingly nicknamed Olly or Ollanta—which lies at the valley's northwestern entrance. Ollantaytambo's traditional air has not been stifled by the invasion of tourists. As you walk around, you'll see walls, doors, and water-drainage systems dating from Inca times and still in use today. You can even step into a working Inca-era home, learn about the ancient way of life, and see the guinea pigs, still a delicacy today, running around the kitchen floor. Ask around for the local mercado, just off the Plaza de Armas, close to the pickup point for collectivos and taxis. This busy marketplace quietly evades tourism's grasp and offers a behind-the-scenes peek at life beyond the ruins. The juice stations on the second floor, toward the back, might just be the town's best-kept secret. Ollantaytambo makes a superb base for exploring the Sacred Valley and has convenient rail connections to Machu Picchu.
Ollantaytambo is also the kickoff point for the Inca Trail. You'll start here at nearby Km 82 if you wish to hike to the Lost City, and lodging here will give you a bit more time to sleep in before hiking. Walk up to discover the Fortress of Ollantaytambo, one of the most fantastic ruins in the Sacred Valley.