Where to stay in Aguas Calientes, the doorway to Machu Picchu
Aguas Calientes is a small village on the Urubamba river, located in the Cusco region of Peru, South America. The village is mainly known as the tourist resting point upon visiting Machu Picchu. Besides the ancient monuments, the area has plenty of other natural beauty and resources to offer.
Source: Instagram @simply.angella
How to get to Aguas Calientes
Getting to the village can be achieved in two ways:
- By direct train from the city of Cusco or village of Ollantaytambo
- By bus to Hidroelectrica, and then on foot or by train to the village
Best areas to stay in Aguas Calientes
The village is small, and wherever you choose to stay, everything you might want to visit should be a maximum of 15 minutes away. The town only has 4,500 residents, but thousands of tourists that come to sightsee are there every day. Here are our favorite neighborhoods:
- Machu Picchu Station
- Ave Pachacutec
- Estación Peru Rail a Hidroeléctrica
Here’s a quick breakdown of why these locations are the best.
|Where to stay in Aguas Calientes|
|Best area for first-timers||Machu Picchu Station|
|Best area to stay on a budget||Ave Pachacutec|
|Best for long-term stay||Estación Peru Rail a Hidroeléctrica|
Best area for first-timers—Machu Picchu Station
Machu Picchu Station is your likeliest point of entry to the village, as it’s done by railway from Cusco. This is where most visitors decide to stay in. The central area around the station is the most developed for tourists since it has the highest circulation of them. It’s also home to plenty of inner-village attractions like the Cancha Football stadium, and there are plenty of shops and restaurants around the area. As the most developed tourist area, it’s the ideal place for first-time visitors.
Best area to stay on a budget—Ave Pachacutec
Ave Pachacutec is a large street connecting a mostly residential area. It is full of local and family-owned businesses, so the prices for food, accommodation, and basic souvenirs may be lower than in the more touristy parts of the city. This makes it the best location if you’re traveling on a budget. The area is also quieter and less crowded with tourists than the rest of the village.
Best area for long-term stay—Estacion Peru Rail a Hidroeléctrica
If you’re entering the village of Aguas Calientes from Hidroelectrica either by foot or train, this is the area you’re going to end up in first. It is close, as well as connected by road, to the most important monuments that everyone comes to see, such as Machu Picchu, Phutuq K’usi, Chávez Ballon Archeological Museum, etc. It’s also the closest area to the two village’s hospitals and the police station if either is necessary. This, along with its location near major tourist attractions, makes it best for a long-term stay.
What to see and do in the village of Aguas Calientes
The village itself is so small that splitting things to do into areas doesn’t make sense. Everything is within walking distance, so here’s a list of 10 attractions nearby. They are in no particular order, so pick and choose what to see and do as you’d like.
If you’ve decided to visit this charming village, there’s a 99% chance Machu Picchu is the #1 reason. Machu Picchu is an ancient settlement of the people known as Inca. The remains of the city are located on the mountain of the same name, at an astounding 2,430m (7,970 ft) above sea level. The city is known as one of the New Seven Wonders of The World and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the main reason for tourists to visit Peru and especially Aguas Calientes. Getting to the ancient site can be done in two ways:
- By bus that runs from the local town, takes about 30 minutes
- By walking from the village, about a 2-hour hike
Those who are physically capable of making the hike are highly recommended to do so, as the scenery and open-air are much better enjoyed that way. Plus, you get to make stops for some epic views and photographs.
Mercado Artesanal is a cool marketplace in the center of the Aguas Calientes. The stands are full of mostly handcrafted items, such as statues, bags, clothing, and more. There are also things like tea, spices, and coffee, although not much food. It’s the ideal place to get a bunch of souvenirs from your Machu Picchu trip. Be prepared to bargain, as similar items may vary in price from shop to shop. Other smaller gift shops around the area are also known for housing the same items at lesser prices, so keep that in mind if you don’t mind waiting.
Source: Instagram @miranda_cairn
What is known as the classic Inca Trail is a set of dirt roads (hiking tracks) that connect most of the ancient Inca sites around the area. Machu Picchu is the most famous, but far from the only monument left by the Incas. Just exploring the dense forests and hilltops in the area is an activity in itself. However, most places are only reachable by foot and recommended to those who can withstand multiple hours of walking through uneven fields. Most sites are a long walking distance away from the village, which is why many tourists go in groups and set up camp to spend the night. If you’re not in the mood for sleeping in a tent, ask for bus tours or bike rides to the locations.
Source: Inca Trail Peru
When translated, the name Patallacta means “Settlement on a platform”. What remains of this ancient village leaves plenty of evidence of it being used for religious and ceremonial purposes. The remains of shrines, temples, and tombs can be found all around the area. Getting to the location from Aguas Calientes may prove difficult on foot unless you’re willing to camp out or settle nearby. If you want to avoid tiring hikes, ask around for sightseeing tours.
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Fearless hikers looking for a thrill should look just south of Aguas Calientes for the Inca Bridge. The trail leading to the area gets narrower as you come closer to the middle. Eventually, you end up walking on a less than a meter wide trail on the hillside. It’s definitely not recommended for people who are afraid of heights, as even experienced climbers are left feeling uneasy. Remember, just don’t look down, and you’ll be fine! Those willing to take this road will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the world.
Source: Instagram @amandagooge
Ollantaytambo is a small village settlement next to an ancient Inca settlement. It served as a royal estate to emperor Pachacuti, who is credited for leading the largest expansion of the Inca empire through his conquests. During the early invasions of the Spanish conquistadores, Ollantaytambo was used as a stronghold and housed the native people’s resistance. Many tourists going to Aguas Calientes will come through Ollantaytambo by train. In case you chose another path, use the same train to visit Ollantaytambo instead. Explore the village to find some local food and souvenirs, then head over to the terraces for a view of the area.
Source: Instagram @renatojaneri
Dead Woman’s Pass
Behind the noticeably sinister name is a rather normal sight to be seen, so to speak. This passageway between two mountain peaks along the Inca Trails got its name because it resembles a typical female body shape when observed from above. The pass is the highest hiking point along the trail, standing at 4,200m (13,780 ft). That’s almost twice as high as Machu Picchu itself! It is a must-see place on all Inca Trails sightseeing tours. Still, it’s a bit far from Aguas Calientes to cover in a single day’s hike, so you will have to settle for camping out or resting at nearby resorts.
Source: Instagram @anitaawu
Putucusi (Phutuq K’usi) is a mountain peak just west of Aguas Calientes. Getting there takes little time, but it’s not nearly as easy to reach as some of the other mountain peaks. This one is an adventurer’s dream. The pathway leading to it is extremely harsh, and there are no beaten paths to follow. Most of the time, you’ll find yourself walking through the forest.
Eventually, once the mountain gets too steep, the only way up is by wooden ladders and ropes that are set up by the locals. No, that is not a joke. This is a seriously risky path for inexperienced climbers and those with low stamina. However, those who make it to the top are rewarded with a 360-degree view of the mountain surroundings. From the top, you will see Machu Picchu as well as the river valley. Those brave enough to climb it will literally find themselves in the clouds. Going up!
Source: Instagram @sweetspottravels
Temple of the Moon
The name itself holds no intrinsic meaning to the Incas. It was given more or less randomly by modern explorers. Although the exact usage of the temple is unknown, it is speculated that it was used for ceremonial purposes. A giant rock carving in the center of the cave is guessed to be a throne. The remains of the site are located inside a narrow, open-face cave. Evidence around the archeological site suggests it could have been used as a place of worship, a royal residence, or even a tomb. Most likely, it served multiple purposes over time.
Los Jardines de Mandor
When translated into English, the name of this site means Mandor gardens. This nature preserve is located about an hour’s walk from Aguas Calientes and can only be accessed by foot for a reason. The land is privately owned, meaning you’ll have to pay to get access to it. There is a reception office along the way. However, by paying to visit the reserve, you aren’t just filling someone’s pockets. The family that lives in and maintains the area has been doing so for three generations and can even be considered single-handedly responsible for the preservation and development of the surrounding flora and fauna. Along the way, you’ll be able to observe many species of plants and animals living peacefully in the gardens. At the end of the hike, you’ll be greeted by a waterfall.
Source: Instagram @jardinesdemandor