History of Aguas Calientes
The town of Aguas Calientes is located among the lush vegetation and the mountain area close to one of the highest tourist attractions of Peru: Machu Picchu. It’s also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo (Machu Picchu Town) due to the proximity and for being the reference to get to the famous fortress. Its origin goes back to 1911, when took place the begining of the railway line construction, some years after the discovery of the Machu Picchu citadel (in 1901). This populated center is also the last train station from Cusco city. The development of Aguas Calientes has been influenced by the tourism activity, turning the town into a commercial place where you can find from simple accomodations to the most exclusive establishments for the visitors pleasure. At 800 meters from the town there are crowded thermal baths which have a unique medicinal fame (main reason for its name “Aguas Calientes”, which means warm waters).
-The climate in Aguas Calientes is temperate to warm, due to its location at the jungle’s edge.
-The average temperature in Aguas Calientes is 61 °F (16 °C); you should bring warm clothing.
-There are intense rains from November to March (take raincoats and rain boots). From April to May the weather is warm. The rest of the year the days have nice weather.
-The high season goes from June to August. During this period it will be very difficult to find accomodation and tickets to Machu Picchu, due to the high demand, besides that the price will ascend considerably, even in transport (make your bookings in advance, to save money and bad times).
-It’s located at 69 mi (112 kms) from Cusco; you can get there by train (a route of 4 hours), by bus (5 hours of travel) or by foot through the Inca Trail (tours of 4 days and 3 nights).
-The tour of the Inca Trail costs from $300 to $400, the train tickets from $30 to $100 (the low-cost) and the bus, an average of 60 soles.
-Aguas Calientes is located at 9 mi (15 kms) from Machu Picchu, which makes 1h30 min. by foot and 30 min. by bus).
-The entrance to Machu Picchu is from 6:00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. (you should leave early in the morning Aguas Calientes to squeeze Machu Picchu).
-Take your own food and the necessary as water, clothes and medicines, because in Aguas Calientes town the prices are inflated (you will pay the double or triple for essentials).
How to get around in Aguas Calientes?
Aguas Calientes is a little town, but very commercial. You will find restaurants, hotels an shops in every step, all of it very close. You could just go across the town by foot to know all it provides. To get to Machu Picchu you can take a bus in any of the transportation companies which operate very near to the train station.
Risks and Cautions
During the rainy season there is a risk of “huaycos” (landslides of mud and rocks) and gliding of big land pieces. In the past there have been natural accidents due to the negligence of some businessmen who doesn’t consider danger, locating their shop in high risk areas. During the rainy season don’t you take risks in areas near the river.
Getting to Aguas Calientes town
The craft market
Location: close to the train station
Hours: from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
In this market you will find handicrafts representative of the region, made by the inhabitants of Aguas Calientes or coming from the Cusco districts. It’s, doubtless, the place where you will find the ideal souuvenir, but we must advice you that the prices are high (as all in Aguas Calientes).
Location: at the end of Av. Pachacútec, at 15 min from the Plaza de Armas of the town
Hours: from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Price: 10 soles for foreigners, 5 soles for Peruvian people and 3 soles for locals
Those waters, whose temperature goes from 100 °F (38 °C) to 114 °F (46 °C), is believed have healing properties that help on the treatment of rheumatic illnesses, ease stress and eliminate toxins, among others. The only bad thing is that they are crowded, what does not guarantee the hygiene of the waters.
Around Aguas Calientes
Museo de sitio Manuel Chavez Ballon
Location: Puentes Ruinas, at the foot of Machu Picchu citadel, at 1 mi (1.7 kms) from Aguas Calientes (22 min. by foot)
Hours: from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Monday to Saturday)
Price: 20 soles foreigners, 10 soles Peruvian people and minors below 12 years old for free
There are remains of the inca citadel, historic pictures and archaeological collections; you can also visit a bothanic garden with a sample of the main regional flower species.
Location: at 1.8 mi (3 kms) from Aguas Calientes; it takes about 1h 30min. by foot following the railway
Hours: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Price: 10 soles for foreigners and 5 soles for Peruvian people
If you are a lover of nature, the waterfalls and the thick vegetation of Mandor is the ideal place for you. The view of the more than 30 meters waterfall will worth the route.
Climb the Putucusi mountain
Location: to the North of Aguas Calientes, following the railway
Hours: unknown information
Price: free entrance
This activity is only recommended for the reckless travelers and with great physical conditions. The ascent to the mountain is vertical and you go through 7 wood stairs (one of them makes 4 to 5 floors of height). The peak is located at 2560 meters above the sea level, from where you can appreciate the unique view of the Machu Picchu citadel. Its name comes from the quechua word “Phutuq K'usi”, which mean “happy mountain”, a curious detail if you consider that the climb is one of the most dangerous.
Restaurants in Aguas Calientes
Mercado Central de Aguas Calientes
Location: close to the train station
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Price: 5 to 10 soles
It’s one of the few places where you can find a low-cost menu, served by the merchants of the local. You can find it just by going to the second level of the market.
Location: 105, Av. Contisuyo (Plaza de Armas)
Hours: open from 8:00 a.m.
Price: an average of 24 soles
The Yakumama II offers to the dinners a variety of Peruvian cooking and the best in pizzas, portions that will leave you satisfied. The place is decorated in a strange way that will be entertaining for you and propitious to have a quiet meal.
Location: Av. Imperio de los Incas
Hours: 12:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Price: an average of 22 soles
The menu of this restaurant is assorted, as you can find from the most delicious peruvian cooking to the most exquisite of the traditional flavour. Besides that, yo have pizzas as in most of the restaurants in Aguas Calientes. On the local you can enjoy live Andean musical shows and a privilege view over the river and the mountains. If you like tasting everything, we recommend you to taste the “buffet para almuerzo”, buffet for lunch (the cost is 70 soles).
Casa Machu Picchu Hostel
Location: 636, Av. Imperio de los Incas (in front of the railway)
Price: from $12 per night
This simply hotel has shared rooms and individual lockers so as to keep safe your belongings. The breakfast is served from 4:30 a.m., they have wi-fi and a good service.
Location: Urb. Las Orquidias M-D-1 Av. Wakanky
Price: 125 to 152 soles (breakfast included)
The category of 2.5 stars is much lower the service level and the kindness of the owners and the staff. It includes comforts for the current traveller as high speed wi-fi, cable TV, hot water bathroom, among others.
Tierra Viva Machu Picchu
Location: Puente Ruinas Highway Mz 4
Price from 357 soles to 748 soles
At this 3.5 stars hotel you will find an excellent service and attention. The staff will pick you up from the train station to bring your luggage and they worry about every detail. The breakfast is assorted, delicius and consistent. The rooms have all the comfort, LCD TV, well implemented bathrooms, relaxing beds. It is worth the price!
To have a drink in Aguas Calientes
Café Bar Restaurante Kintu
Location: 150, Av. Pachacuteq
Hours: unknown information
Prices: unknown infromation
At this cafe you won’t only find hamburguers and pizzas that fill up the most demanding dinners, but also you can have drinks with friends or partners. Take advantage of the Happy Hour time, it’s nothing special, but it’s not too bad for passing a quiet evening time, before the ascent of Machu Picchu or the following day.
Going out in Aguas Calientes
Location: Lloque Yupanqui (no number)
Hours: 7:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
Price: unknown information
Since it’s a little, expensive and passing town, the night activity is limited. This is a nightclub where you can enjoy with modern music, dancing and drinking with your friends until early morning. We recommend you to go after your Machu Picchu visit, when you go back to Cusco.
We already mentioned the ways to get to Aguas Calientes by train, the Inca Trail and by bus. Now we explain the route you must follow in a more detailed way.
You have the following options:
-Take a bus in Cusco city to Ollantaytambo, a beautiful town from where trains leave direction Aguas Calientes. There are also trains from Cusco, but from Ollantaytambo they have less expensive trains. You can take trains is Poroy station.
-You can do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, leaving from the 20 mi (km. 82) of the railway.
-You can take the bus that leaves from Portal de Harinas in Cusco to the Santa Teresa town or the Hidroeléctrica and make the alternative inca trail to Aguas Calientes (1h 30min. to 2 hours of trekking).