Deep in the Andes just below Machu Picchu lies the small town of Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo) known as the closest access point to the Inca Citadel. Although tiny in population, Aguas Calientes hosts millions of travelers in search of one of the Seven Wonders of the World: Machu Picchu.
Founded in 1901 as a camp for local railroad workers, Aguas Calientes now thrives as a bustling tourism hub. The small town is only accessible by train (or by walking the train tracks) and offers exhausted travelers the perfect rest they need. Local shops, restaurants, hotels and even hot springs all serve one-time customers before (or after) their journey to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
The thousands of travelers of different ages, backgrounds and ideas pack the town daily with joy and excitement like any other touristic city. It’s more than likely that you will see crowded restaurants and bars, making you want to join in on the fun before getting ready for Machu Picchu.
Since the town is not connected by any paved roads to Cusco, it really leaves you with not that many options to choose from. Like previously mentioned, the only ways to get there are either by train or trekking.
Usually the preferred method for many travelers, the scenic and relaxing train ride is the easiest and fastest way to reach Aguas Calientes before visiting Machu Picchu. You’ll pass through breathtaking views of the Sacred Valley and its lush vegetation. There are a variety of options ranging from first-class to more budget-friendly tickets.
To take the train from Cusco, you’ll have to make your way to either Poroy or Ollantaytambo. From there, it’s a 3-hour ride from Poroy or a 1 hour and 50 minute ride from Ollantaytambo. Although ticket offices are available at the train stations, it’s recommended to purchase a ticket well in advance as there are possibilities of them selling out.
Alternatively, you can book a Machu Picchu Tour by Train which already includes the train ride which fits your needs and private transport to the train station.
All treks to Machu Picchu have a final stop in Aguas Calientes (except for the Inca Trail that takes you straight to the ruins). The Salkantay Trek, Inca Jungle Trek and Lares Trek will spend the last night of the journey resting in one of the hotels of the town. To reach the town, you’ll walk the train tracks from Hidroelectrica, which roughly takes 2 hours.
Located in the heart of the town, this colorful local market offers a great variety of souvenirs and handicrafts. Perfect to buy any last-minute gifts to your loved ones or yourself, which will always remind you of the small town of Aguas Calientes.
Perfect for all those travelers looking to loosen their muscles after their treks to Machu Picchu. The hot springs can be found just a short walk out of town and offers all the necessary facilities to have a relaxing time. There are several pools of varying size and temperature, even one filled with ice cold water! Entry costs $3 USD (11 soles) per person.
Dozens of restaurants, bars and coffee shops fill the town of Aguas Calientes, offering different options for all types of tastes. You’ll more than likely find the food of your liking, so make sure to have a break and have a meal in Machu Picchu Pueblo.
Once in town, and with your tour (or just Machu Picchu ticket) ready, there are only two ways to get from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu:
There are official buses that take passengers from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu (and back). Departures start at 05:30 AM, leaving every 15 minutes. You can buy both ways or just one, and each way costs $12 USD per person. The buses do tend to fill up quickly so you might have a bit of a wait time depending when you go.
The hike consists of a steep stone stepped pathway from the bottom of the mountain to the top. It’s a moderately challenging climb which takes around 1 hour and a half, but does offer nice views. Walking down the path is a much more relaxing option!
Although not in the minds of many who are coming to Peru, Aguas Calientes warmly serves all those who are visiting Machu Picchu. Make sure to make the most of this small town, and enjoy what it has to offer!