All visitors to Peru’s famous Machu Picchu must pass through the small town of Aguas Calientes. Although over-priced and run down, visitors can still appreciate the surrounding scenery and the marvel of how this severely inclined town with no vehicles manages to serve thousands of tourists weekly. Enjoy the amazing culture and scenery.
Hostels and Hotels in Aguas Calientes
Tourists of every status can find accommodations near Machu Picchu. No matter what you pay, it will likely not be great value for the money.
Expensive – Machu Picchu Santuary Lodge is the only hotel on the grounds of the ruin site. This luxury facility has rooms starting at $700. Inkaterra Machu Picchu is a luxury hotel in a beautiful setting with rooms starting at $350.
Midrange – There are plenty of options available in the $70-$110 range. They are really basic rooms that provide a room and shower for the necessary over-nighter in Aguas Calientes. Wiracocha Inn and Rupa Wasi Eco Lodge are popular choices.
Budget – Rooms can be acquired for backpackers at a low rate of $5 to $15 a night in hostels throughout town. Hostal El Inka and Hostal John (51-84 211 022) offer some of the lowest rates.
Restaurants, particularly pizzarias are plentiful and waiters are eager to woo patrons. Prices tend to decrease the farther up the hill you go. For a nicer meal, try Indio Feliz but make reservations. For a bargain at most restaurants, ask for the “touristico” which is the three course menu of the day and should cost around $5US.
Getting to Machu Picchu
The only way to get to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu is by foot or train. A train from Cuzco takes 4 hours. Alternatively, one can take a bus to Ollantaytambo and then the train ride is 75 minutes from there. There are three classes of trains and the prices vary so it is best to consult the Perurail website. Prices start at $31, but be sure to reserve in advance.
Once in Aguas Calientes, it is a 20 minute, $6 bus ride along switch backs to the famous Inca ruin site of Machu Picchu. The buses start running at 5:20 am so that visitors can catch the sunrise at Machu Picchu. Only 400 climbers are allowed to hike Huayna Picchu Mountain per day, so hikers will need to acquire a number on site, at 6 am during the busy season. Entrance tickets for Machu Picchu must be purchased in Aguas Calientes.
Machu Picchu – Aguas Calientes Activities
Visit the magnificent Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. It costs around $65 for entrance and 2 hour guided tour. Fit travelers who can spare 2 to 3 hours can hike Huayna Picchu.
Hike to Garden of Mandor enjoying lush vegetation, waterfalls and small ruins. The entrance to the gardens can be found by following the road downhill out of town and then walk on the train tracks until you see the sign. 3 hour hike round trip and $1.50 US entrance fee.
Soak in the Aguas Calientes which means Hot Springs in Spanish. The hot springs may not be as spectacular as other springs in the world, but after hiking the Inca Trail, they feel great.
People-watch from an outdoor cafe. Aguas Calientes is a flurry of activity with construction and the tourism industry. There is no end to interesting people-watching and photo opportunities from an outdoor restaurant. Entertainers often add to the ambiance with live music.
Shop at the craft markets in town. Support the locals and buy souvenirs, since there are no shops on site at Machu Picchu.
Although many tourists leave Aguas Calientes unimpressed, this town is a great place to watch Peruvian culture and scenery. The hotel and restaurant owners are generally very helpful and friendly and Aguas Calientes is surrounded by gorgeous scenery.