The famous town of Aguas Calientes is the starting point for all Machu Picchu visitors. This tourist town gathers hotels, restaurants, bars, craft markets, and more. It is located 10 kilometers away from the Inca Citadel and serves as a resting point for those who trek or wish to visit this wonder of the world.
Originally, the town was used as a maintenance center for the railway that connected Cusco with Santa Ana in 1901. Eventually, the workers decided to settle in this location creating the town we know today, nonetheless, the city wasn’t intended to have tourism purposes until Hiram Bingham shared Machu Picchu with the rest of the world.
Fun Fact: The small town is widely known as Aguas Calientes though its legal name is Machu Picchu Pueblo. Aguas Calientes is the actual name of the river that crosses the city.
The so-called Machu Picchu Town receives over 1,500 tourists per day, making it one of Peru’s most visited cities, though most of these travelers come to see Machu Picchu. However, Aguas Calientes holds many attractions worth visiting in addition to the famous Inca sanctuary.
The exuberant nature of this region is incomparable since the town sits in the middle of imposing mountains and, as aforementioned, a river divides the city into two parts connected by a system of bridges. Likewise, the jaw-dropping scenery captivates each and everyone who visits it.
What to do in Aguas Calientes?
Although the main attraction here is Machu Picchu, the Aguas Calientes town offers the perfect setting to get in touch with the beautiful natural scenery of the region. Here we have listed a few attractions and you can find more at this travel guide’s menu!
1. Putucusi Mountain
The imposing Putucusi Mountain is located a few minutes away from Aguas Calientes. It sits at an altitude of 2,560 meters above sea level, offering an outstanding view of Machu Picchu and its surroundings. However, the trail to its summit is very challenging, especially since you will have to climb a wooden ladder to reach the top.
It is worth mentioning that there’s no entrance fee to climb this mountain. However, we do not recommend taking this trail during the rainy season nor without a guide. Currently, the mountain remains closed until further notice.
2. Aguas Calientes Thermal Springs
What a better way to end a day of excursions rather than by taking a relaxing bath in Aguas Calientes’ thermal baths. They consist of a group of thermo-medicinal pools located 800 meters away from Machu Picchu Town’s main square.
The temperatures of these mineral-rich ponds range between 38°C and 46°C. They are recognized for its healing properties that help the release of stress and toxins, improves metabolism, and prevents arterial hypertension. This place remains as a paid tourist attraction and is open from 05:00 to 19:30.
3. Machu Picchu Museum
Also known as Museo de Sitio Manuel Chavez Ballon, it is located one kilometer away from Machu Picchu. It was built in the 1960s, with the purpose to exhibit all the cultural details of the Inca Citadel.
The museum has a collection of archeological pieces that were found in the archeological site. Some of these pieces were sent to Yale University to be studied and then later returned to Peru.
Besides, this attraction comprehends beautiful botanical gardens with an exhibition of the local flora of the region, where they have a distinctive collection of orchids.
4. Mariposario de Machu Picchu
Undoubtedly, the extensive biodiversity that surrounds Machu Picchu is like no other since it holds different types of plants, animals, and over 500 butterfly species. Likewise, there is a place located only 15 minutes away from Aguas Calientes, called Wasi Pillpi, which means Butterfly Farm in Quechua.
If you wish to learn more about the natural diversity of this region, this unique place holds over 400 butterfly species, where the volunteers take you on a guided tour through the location, showing you the importance of these beautiful insects within the ecosystem.
5. Jardines de Mandor
For those looking to immerse themselves in the exuberant nature of this authentic region, we highly recommend you pay a visit to this Ecological Reserve. It is located 3,5 km away from Aguas Calientes, right at the foothills of the Huayna Picchu Mountain.
The Jardines de Mandor have been owned by a family since the 1960s, but it wasn’t until the end of the 90s that they decided to open their doors to the public. They look for the preservation of the ecosystem and its surroundings
Weather in Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes is located in the heart of the cloud forest, sitting at an altitude of 2,040 meters above sea level. Therefore, this region has predominant humid subtropical weather which is divided into two well-marked seasons:
- Rainy Season: It starts in November until April. Heavy downpours of rain are expected throughout this period and temperatures range between 20°C and 8°C.
- Dry Season: Takes place during May and October, though occasional rainfall may occur during this particular season.
For more information about when’s the best time to visit Peru, make sure to read our informative guide.
How to Get to Aguas Calientes?
Due to the remote location of this small town, it is currently accessible by train travel or a combination of bus ride and walking. Depending on the experience you’d like to have, here are some recommendations about how to get there:
1. Trains to Aguas Calientes:
Train rides are the most in-demand ways to get to Aguas Calientes due to the time efficiency, but most of all, because they take you through the dream-like scenery of the Peruvian highlands and the cloud forest. However, there are different types of wagons and trains for all tastes, these are the most recognized:
- Expedition Train: This tourist-class carriage is one of the most popular train services to get to Machu Picchu. It departs from Cusco, Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes train stations.
- Vistadome Train: For those looking to experience the exuberant nature of the Cusco countryside, this panoramic train offers floor-to-ceiling windows, on-board service, and typical dance shows. It departs from Cusco, Urubamba, Ollantaytambo, and Aguas Calientes train stations.
- Sacred Valley Train: This is one of the most luxurious train rides to get to Machu Picchu. Travel through time in these 1920s-style wagons and experience the best of the Urubamba valley and the Peruvian high jungle.
2. Bus to Aguas Calientes
Unfortunately there is no direct road to Aguas Calientes, but you can still take a bus ride to the nearest town to later walk to the so-called Machu Picchu Town.
- First, you’ll have to take a bus ride from Cusco to Hidroelectrica, that usually takes about 6 hours.
- Afterwards, take a walk through the rail tracks for around 3 hours until you reach your destination.
However, it is not advisable to take this transport option during the rainy season due to the instability of the road prone to landslides.
While planning a trip to Peru, knowing the transport options is a way to start. Therefore, we encourage you to know everything about it while you’re here!
Would you like to know more about Peru? Here you’ll find all the information you need for your trip. Our local expert team has prepared the most complete informative guides for you! Also, if you’re eager to know Peru at its fullest, check our travel packages and live an authentic experience with Viagens Machu Picchu.