Aguas Calientes: A Paradise for Nature Lovers
Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, is a small town located at the base of the famous Machu Picchu Citadel in Peru. It serves as the main gateway for tourists visiting this ancient Inca citadel. Aguas Calientes offers a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and modern amenities, making it an essential stop for anyone planning a trip to Machu Picchu.
Despite its small size, Aguas Calientes has a rich history closely tied to the Inca civilization and the discovery of Machu Picchu. The town was originally a small settlement for workers involved in the construction of the railway line between Cusco and Quillabamba. Today, it has grown into a bustling tourist hub, thanks to its strategic location at the foot of Machu Picchu.
Nestled in a deep gorge below the Machu Picchu ruins, Aguas Calientes is surrounded by towering green mountains and bisected by the roaring Urubamba River. The town's unique geography, with its steep, narrow streets and hot springs, adds to its charm and appeal. Despite its remote location, Aguas Calientes is easily accessible by train, bus, or on foot, making it a convenient base for exploring the surrounding area.
Getting to Aguas Calientes
One of the most popular ways to reach Aguas Calientes is by train. The journey from Cusco to Aguas Calientes takes approximately four hours and offers breathtaking views of the Andean mountains and lush valleys. Several train companies operate on this route, including PeruRail and Inca Rail, offering different classes and services to suit various budgets. It is advisable to book train tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure your preferred departure time.
The train services to Aguas Calientes are known for their comfort and convenience. Depending on your budget, you can choose from a variety of classes, ranging from standard to luxury. Most trains offer onboard meals and panoramic windows, allowing you to enjoy the stunning scenery along the way. Some even offer entertainment and guided tours, making the journey to Aguas Calientes an experience in itself.
Another option to reach Aguas Calientes is by bus. Many travelers choose this mode of transportation as it is more budget-friendly compared to the train. Buses depart from Cusco and follow a scenic route through the Sacred Valley before reaching Aguas Hidroelectrica. The journey takes around six to seven hours by bus to Hidroelectrica, plus 3 hours of hiking along the railways to reach Aguas Calientes. It is important to note that the bus ride involves winding mountain roads, so if you are prone to motion sickness, it is recommended to take necessary precautions.
Hiking to Machu Picchu
For adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers, hiking to Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes can be an unforgettable experience. The most famous hiking trail is the Classic Inca Trail hike, a four-day trek that takes you through stunning landscapes, ancient ruins, and diverse ecosystems. This trail requires a permit and should be booked well in advance due to its popularity. Alternatively, other hiking routes are available, such as the Salkantay Trek and the Lares Trek, which offer different levels of difficulty and duration.
Exploring Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes, which translates to "hot waters" in English, is named after its natural hot springs. These thermal baths are a popular attraction for visitors looking to relax and rejuvenate after a long day of exploring Machu Picchu. The hot springs are located within walking distance of the town center and offer a soothing experience amidst the beautiful natural surroundings. It is recommended to bring your own towel and bathing suit, although rentals are available nearby.
The hot springs in Aguas Calientes are well-maintained and offer a range of facilities for visitors. There are several pools of varying temperatures, allowing you to find the perfect spot to unwind. The site also features changing rooms, lockers, and a small café where you can grab a bite to eat or a refreshing drink. The hot springs are open daily, and there is a small entrance fee.
Machu Picchu Museum
Visiting Machu Picchu Museum in Aguas Calientes is highly recommended. This museum provides valuable insights into the ancient Inca civilization's history, culture, and significance. It houses a collection of artifacts, including pottery, tools, and textiles, discovered during the region's archaeological excavations. The museum also offers interactive exhibits and multimedia presentations, making it an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages.
The Machu Picchu Museum features a variety of exhibits that delve into the rich history and culture of the Inca civilization. The museum's collection includes a range of artifacts, from everyday items like pottery and tools to ceremonial objects and textiles. Each exhibit is accompanied by informative descriptions and multimedia presentations, providing a comprehensive understanding of the Inca civilization and the significance of Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes is home to vibrant craft markets where you can find a wide range of traditional Peruvian handicrafts. These markets are perfect for souvenir shopping, with vendors selling colorful textiles, handmade jewelry, ceramics, and more. Bargaining is common in these markets, so don't be afraid to negotiate for a better price. Additionally, the markets are a great place to immerse yourself in the local culture and interact with the friendly artisans.
Market Shopping Tips
When shopping at the craft markets in Aguas Calientes, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, don't be afraid to bargain. It's a common practice in Peru and can help you get a better price. Second, take your time to explore the different stalls and compare prices before making a purchase. Finally, remember that buying from these markets supports the local artisans and contributes to the local economy.
Aguas Calientes offers various dining options catering to different tastes and budgets. You can find everything from traditional Peruvian dishes to international cuisine in this small town. Be sure to try the local specialty, cuy al horno (roasted guinea pig), which is a delicacy in the region. For those seeking a unique culinary experience, there are also restaurants that offer fusion cuisine, blending traditional Peruvian flavors with international influences. Don't forget to sample the famous Peruvian drink, Pisco Sour, while enjoying the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.
The dining scene in Aguas Calientes is surprisingly diverse for a small town. You can find everything from cozy cafés and casual eateries to upscale restaurants. Traditional Peruvian cuisine is a highlight, with dishes like cuy al horno (roasted guinea pig), lomo saltado (stir-fried beef), and ceviche. For a unique dining experience, try one of the restaurants that offer fusion cuisine, combining Peruvian flavors with international influences.
Accommodations in Aguas Calientes
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel
Located just a 5-minute walk from the train station, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel offers a luxurious and eco-friendly stay. The hotel is surrounded by 12 acres of lush gardens and has its own orchid garden, making it a peaceful and serene escape from the bustling town.
The rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated, with traditional Andean textiles and local artwork. The hotel also offers a variety of activities, including birdwatching, cooking classes, and a visit to their tea plantation.
Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel
Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel is a 5-star hotel located just steps away from the train station. The hotel offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and a luxurious spa for guests to relax after a day of exploring.
The rooms are elegantly decorated with traditional Peruvian textiles and feature modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs and minibars. The hotel also has a restaurant that serves traditional Peruvian cuisine and a bar with a variety of cocktails and local spirits.
El MaPi Hotel by Inkaterra
El MaPi Hotel by Inkaterra is a modern and stylish hotel located in the heart of Machu Picchu Pueblo. The hotel offers comfortable and spacious rooms and a variety of amenities, including a spa, restaurant, and bar.
The hotel also offers a variety of activities, such as a visit to their tea plantation and a cooking class where you can learn to make traditional Peruvian dishes. El MaPi Hotel is a great option for those looking for a mid-range hotel with a touch of luxury.
Tierra Viva Machu Picchu
Tierra Viva Machu Picchu is a modern and stylish hotel located just a 5-minute walk from the train station. The hotel offers comfortable and spacious rooms with modern amenities and a restaurant and bar.
The hotel also has a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, making it the perfect spot to relax after a day of exploring. Tierra Viva Machu Picchu is a great option for those looking for a mid-range hotel with a central location.
Gringo Bill's Boutique Hotel
Gringo Bill's Boutique Hotel is a charming and budget-friendly option located in the heart of Machu Picchu Pueblo. The hotel offers comfortable and colorful rooms and a restaurant and bar.
The hotel also has a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, making it the perfect spot to relax after a day of exploring. Gringo Bill's Boutique Hotel is a great option for those looking for a budget-friendly hotel with a central location.
Hotel La Cabaña Machu Picchu
Hotel La Cabaña Machu Picchu is a cozy and budget-friendly hotel located just a 5-minute walk from the train station. The hotel offers comfortable and simple rooms and a restaurant and bar.
The hotel also has a rooftop terrace with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, making it the perfect spot to relax after a day of exploring. Hotel La Cabaña Machu Picchu is a great option for those looking for a budget-friendly hotel with a central location.