If you visit Machu Pichu, you will have to pass through Ollantaytambo, if only by train. It is 45 miles by road northwest of the city of Cusco and on the rail line to Machu Pichu. It is located at an altitude of 2,792 metres (9,160 ft) above sea level in the district of Ollantaytambo, province of Urubamba, Cusco region in the Sacred Valley. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Today, located in what is called the Sacred Valley of the Incas, it is an important tourist attraction because of its Inca ruins and its location, which is close to one of the most common starting points for the four-day, three-night hike known as the Inca Trail.
Machu Picchu was built in the middle of the 15th century at the command of Pachacutec, ninth ruler of the Tahuantinsuyo and the one responsible for expanding it into what we call the Incan Empire. He was just twenty years old when he ascended the throne of his father, Viracocha, after he led the Incan armies in their defeat of the warlike Chancas. Wearing a colorful headdress, Pachacutec began his long reign that transformed the Andean world and built Cusco into the amazing city that left the Spanish Conquistadores stupefied. Seen in isolation from Europe or North America, it seems to be a marvelous anomaly, a city built on top of a mountain in a remote cloud forest, for unknown and possibly mysterious reasons. To accomplish this amazing feat, the builders had to remove massive quantities of stone and dirt and to construct enormous terraces, canals, foundations that were several meters deep, and monolithic walls of remarkable polished stones. It is believed that the city may have been used as a hiding place when the Spanish invaded, and despite the efforts made to locate it, Machu Picchu was never discovered by the Spaniards. Still, it is believed that the reason the city fell was due to the smallpox brought over by the Spanish, and that in trade with Cusco, the disease was transmitted. Less than a hundred years after being built it was abandoned.