Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu town

Aguas Calientes is the famous town located at the foot of Machu Picchu. All the tourists who visit the Inca city arrive there because that is where the final train station is and also the bus station that leaves for the wonder of the world. But this peculiar town is not only a place of passage, it also offers many tourist attractions such as: thermal baths, Mandor waterfalls, Putucusi mountain and many hotels, restaurants, cafes and more. Because the town is packed with tourists, being there is a magical experience, full of good energy and smiles.

Explore Aguas Calientes

The town of Aguas Calientes is famous for being located close to Machu Picchu. However, this small town offers other tourist attractions that few know.

What is Aguas Calientes?

Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu town, is the closest town to the Inca city. Its name is due to the existence of thermal waters. It receives thousands of tourists every day. Therefore, it is equipped with hotels, restaurants, bars and many other tourist services. There the train trip from Cusco ends. And from there the buses depart that take visitors to the door of Machupicchu in 30 minutes. The village is small. There are no taxis or cars, except for the tourist buses that go to the archaeological site. Its enormous mountains and thick vegetation stand out. For many, it is a unique place. The perfect prelude to the long-awaited visit to Machu Picchu.

Where is? How high is it?

The town of Aguas Calientes is located 73.5 kilometers in a straight line from the city of Cusco, in Peru. It is located at an elevation of 2,040 meters above sea level (6,692 feet of altitude). It belongs to the province of Urubamba. It is located next to the Vilcanota river, between mountains of the high jungle of Cusco. Just 10 kilometers by road is the Inca city of Machu Picchu.

Map of the historic center Aguas Calientes


The territory in which the town of Aguas Calientes settled shows evidence of the Inca presence in the area. Nearby are important Inca sites such as the Putucusi mountain, the Vilcanota River and even the Inca city of Machu Picchu. In 1901, the 'Maquinachayoq' camp was established in the area for the construction of the train tracks that linked Cusco with the town of Santa Ana in the province of La Convencion. In that camp, some workers were established to take care of the machinery necessary for the railway works.

In 1911 the American explorer Hiram Bingham arrived at Machu Picchu, who requested the help of the local population to locate the Inca city. The farmers of the area already knew of the existence of this Inca construction, but they did not have an accurate idea of its real value. In 1931 the construction of the railway ended. However, the population that inhabited this area ended up staying in the place. In 1941 the town of Machu Picchu was created, also known as Aguas Calientes for its hot springs. For this reason, excavation work continued at Machu Picchu.

Slowly, in the town of Aguas Calientes, people from all parts of Cusco and other regions of Peru settled. Meanwhile, the fame of Machu Picchu was growing and attracting more and more tourists. In 2007, with the declaration of Machu Picchu as one of the new 7 wonders of the modern world; tourism began to grow at an accelerated rate. So, the town adapts to tourism offering all kinds of services such as restaurants, hotels, bars, craft shops and more. It currently has approximately 4,500 inhabitants. It is one of the most unique places in Cusco, where tourism is breathed in every corner.

How to get there?

Train route through Ollantaytambo – The vast majority of people reach Aguas Calientes through this route, which begins in the city of Cusco with a trip by minivan to the town of Ollantaytambo (almost 2 hours of travel). In Ollantaytambo you must board one of the train services that, in another 2 hours, will take the visitor to the final station, in the town of Aguas Calientes. This route can be modified with a direct train ride from Cusco or some of its other stations.

Alternative route by Hydroelectric – This route is longer but less expensive than the classic train trip through Ollantaytambo. It starts in the city of Cusco with a trip of approximately 6 hours to the Hidroeléctrica train station, located in the tropical region of Cusco. From there you can take a short train trip (30 minutes), but most people prefer to walk for about 2 hours to reach the town of Aguas Calientes. This route is preferred by young adventurers.

What attractions are there in Aguas Calientes?

Machu Picchu – The ancient Inca city whose beauty attracts more than 1.5 million tourists each year. The perfection of its temples, its challenging mountains and its cloudy landscapes are the great attraction of this place, which was chosen as one of the new 7 wonders of the modern world in 2007. Aguas Calientes is the closest town, so it is benefited with the arrival of thousands of tourists every day.

The hot springs – In the highest part of the town of Aguas Calientes flows a spring of hot springs. These waters offer a pleasant rest to tourists before or after visiting Machu Picchu. The waters have a temperature that varies between 38ºC. and 46ºC. The cost of entry is 20 soles per foreign tourist (6 US dollars approximately).

Putucusi Mountain – One of the mountains that surrounds Machu Picchu is the 'Putucusi', a Quechua word that means 'Happy Mountain'. From the town of Aguas Calientes the difficult walk begins to the top of this summit. The route includes very steep and slippery sections. However, the most difficult section is the climb up a very steep rope and wooden ladder. Visiting this mountain is free.

Mandor Falls – The Mandor Falls are one of the best kept secrets in Aguas Calientes. It is a natural environment of thick vegetation where you can see a waterfall of up to 30 meters. To get there you must take a walk of approximately 40 minutes. The entrance to this route costs 10 Peruvian soles per person (3 US dollars). There are not many tourists who dare to go there, so the visitor can enjoy the place for himself.

The Machu Picchu Site Museum – The Machu Picchu site museum is called 'Manuel Chávez Ballón' in homage to the Peruvian explorer who worked there. It has some ceramic and lithic pieces and tools found in the excavations of Machu Picchu. The entrance is included in all tickets to Machu Picchu. The hours of operation are every day from 8 am to 4 pm. It is located in the middle of the road from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu. You can get there walking (30 minutes) or taking the bus (5 minutes).

Where to eat?

In the town of Aguas Calientes there are many restaurants of varying quality and prices. The cheapest of all are the food stalls in the village food market (located a few steps from the main square). Tourists can also choose to taste exquisite dishes in some of the following restaurants: El Indio feliz, Cala Tratoria, Café de Paris, Ylla Fusion, Dulce Gourmet Grill, Café Bar Bijao, El Mapi Restaurant or the Tinkuy Buffet (the only one located next to Macchu Picchu).

Where to stay?

In Aguas Calientes there are many hotels and lodgings, from shared services for 'backpackers' to 5-star hotels with all the comforts. The most economical service is to choose to spend the night in the 'municipal camping site, which allows a green area to set up a camping tent. It also includes showers and toilets. The cost of this service is 15 Peruvian soles per night (5 US dollars). There are also basic lodgings that cost 40 or 50 soles per night (from 13 to 16 US dollars). The most luxurious hotels are: the Sanctuary Lodge, the Sumaq Hotel, the Inkaterra Hotel, the Casa del Sol hotel, among others. Prices per night for the most luxurious hotels range from $ 300 to $ 600 per night.

Aguas Calientes train station

The Aguas Calientes train station receives services from Cusco. It is estimated that it receives more than 3,000 tourists per day. It is located within the town's artisan market. Once there, you must walk outside the market to take one of the buses that take the visitor to Machu Picchu. To return to Cusco, you must take the trains at this station. The Peru Rail and Inca Rail train companies offer different types of services for the trip to Cusco. The station also has ticket offices, a departure lounge and a waiting room.

The bus station

The bus station of the town of Aguas Calientes is located in the middle of Hermanos Ayar Avenue, in the middle of the town. The buses that leave from there are ecological (they do not harm the environment). They leave every 10 minutes. The trip to the archaeological site of Machu Picchu takes only 30 minutes. One option is to walk up (2 hours of walking uphill). On one side of the bus stop is the ticket office where you can buy tickets. These buses are the only vehicles you will see in town, since there are no taxis or other types of cars.

The artisan market

The artisan market is a very popular place among tourists who visit Aguas Calientes. It is a comfortable space for the sale of handicrafts such as: polo shirts, ceramics, jewelry, alpaca clothing, musical instruments, masks, paintings and others. The market is located next to the train station, near the Vilcanota river. Most people decide to make their purchases, after the visit to Machu Picchu, and before boarding the train that will return them to Cusco.

The food market

The food market offers different types of groceries, utensils and groceries, not only to local people, but also to tourists. There the visitor can stock up on fruits, drinks and snacks at a good price. But above all, you can enjoy typical Peruvian dishes at affordable prices, if we compare it with tourist restaurants. For example, a menu (starter and main course) costs only 8 Peruvian soles (3 US dollars, approximately). It is located a few steps from the main square of the town. The food court is on the second floor.

How's the weather?

Aguas Calientes has a warm temperate climate, pleasant for the visitor. The highest temperature during the day can reach 24ºC. (75.2 ° F). At night, the temperature can drop to 8ºC. (46.4 ° F). The rains are more constant in the months of January, February and March. The rest of the year, it is less likely to rain. According to the people who have visited the town, the best time to go is in May, June, July and August.

Images of Aguas Calientes

Bus en Aguas Calientes
Primeros buses de la madrugada en Aguas Calientes
Estación de buses en Aguas Calientes
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Some things you should know

Aguas Calientes has a ticket sales office to Machu Picchu. However, due to the limited availability of tickets, the best option is to purchase tickets online in advance. There were cases of tourists who wanted to buy their ticket in Aguas Calientes, one day before their visit, and did not find availability.

Aguas Calientes is located just 2,040 meters above sea level (6,692 feet). At this altitude the visitor is less likely to feel the symptoms of altitude sickness (headache, fatigue, nausea). It is also recommended to drink plenty of water, avoid alcoholic beverages and fatty foods. This is how mountain sickness is better fought.

Because the train trip is the only way to supply products to the town of Aguas Calientes, the prices of groceries are usually a little more expensive than the city of Cusco. A good option is to go to this town with the necessary utensils and groceries bought in Cusco. For example, in the city a bottle of natural water costs 1 sol, while in Aguas Calientes it costs 2 soles.

Tips for your visit

Many tourists take only 1-day trips to Machu Picchu. Therefore, they do not have time to get to know Aguas Calientes better. Therefore, it is recommended to use at least 2 days to visit Machu Picchu and, incidentally, get to know this town well.

If you have more than 1 day to visit Machu Picchu, go ahead and visit the thermal baths. The best thing to do is to do it after visiting the Inca city, either at night or the next day in the morning. The thermal baths are open to the public from 5 in the morning until 7:30 at night.

Take a photographic camera to portray the beautiful landscapes, not only of Machu Picchu, but also of Aguas Calientes. The town has impressive mountainous landscapes. In addition, throughout the town, you can see sculptures with Inca and Andean motifs, made by Cusco artists.

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