Planning your trip to Peru and can’t decide whether or not to visit Aguas Calientes? Known as the gateway to the world-famous Machu Picchu, this quaint town delivers more than just a pitstop.
Our comprehensive guide will highlight everything you need to know about Aguas Calientes: from its top attractions and best times to visit, navigating transport options, dining recommendations, and even unique tips for an unforgettable experience.
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Read on; adventure awaits in Aguas Calientes!
Table of Contents
- Aguas Calientes is a small town in Peru known for its hot springs and as the gateway to Machu Picchu.
- The best time to visit Aguas Calientes is during the dry season from April to October, when there is less rain and clear skies.
- Top activities in include exploring the hot springs, shopping at the handicraft market, visiting the butterfly farm and spectacled bear conservation center, trekking to Mandor Waterfall and climbing Putucusi Mountain.
- You can reach the town by train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo or by walking through the Andean cloud forest.
Understanding Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes is a small town located in Peru, known for its proximity to the famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu and its hot springs.
Location and Weather
Aguas Calientes sits in the jungle eyebrow of Peru’s Sacred Valley. Three rivers flow around it: Urubamba, Alcamayo, and Aguas Calientes. The town rests at 2040 meters above sea level, below Machu Picchu Citadel and Cusco City.
A river splits the town into two parts – north and south. Since Aguas Calientes is in a valley the temperatures can vary, however the town is in the high jungle of the Amazon and average temperatures are warmer than Cusco ranging between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (12 and 24 degrees celsius). Expect wetter weather from November to March.
Best Time to Visit
The dry season runs from April to October in Aguas Calientes, Peru. This is the best time to make a trip. During these months, you will find clear skies and less rain. It’s perfect for sightseeing and trekking around Machu Picchu.
The town has a warm climate all year round with an average temperature of 16 ºC. So, it feels nice outside during the dry season. Always check weather updates while planning your visit.
Brief History of the Town
Aguas Calientes also goes by the name Machu Picchu Town. It sits near the well-known Machu Picchu site. People first knew this town for its hot springs, which gave it its name Aguas Calientes or “Hot Waters”.
You can find these springs in the north eastern part of town. Insider Tip: If you head past the Hot Springs up along Avenida Hermanos Ayer you will arrive at some waterfalls, these are free of charge to enter.
In recent years, leaders of this place chose to change its name. They wanted to clear up any mix-ups and help push their town into fame. So they called it Machu Picchu Town after the famous Inca ruins nearby.
This small jungle town is not very high up like other spots in Peru such as or even Machu Picchu Citadel itself! But still 2040 meters above sea level is quite high indeed! About 3600 people live here today.
Top Activities in Aguas Calientes
Explore the hot springs, shop at the handicraft market, visit the butterfly farm, check out the spectacled bear conservation center, trek to Mandor Waterfall and Garden, climb Putucusi Mountain, visit the Machu Picchu Site Museum, and experience the Allcamayo Waterfalls.
Exploring the Hot Springs
Set near the Vilcanota River, hot springs glow in Aguas Calientes. This spot is loved by many who come to this town. The warm and mild climate adds joy to your time here. Soaking in these springs brings peace and calm.
It’s a must-do while in Aguas Calientes, Peru!
Shopping at the Handicraft Market
The Handicraft Market in Aguas Calientes is a must-visit for travelers looking to bring home unique souvenirs. Here, you can find a wide range of handmade crafts and traditional Peruvian products.
From textiles to pottery, jewelry to artwork, the market showcases the talent and creativity of local artisans.
One of the best things about shopping at the Handicraft Market is that you have the chance to support the local economy. The products sold here are made by skilled craftsmen who rely on tourism for their livelihoods.
By purchasing their items, you are not only taking home a special keepsake but also helping these artists continue their craft.
Don’t forget that bargaining is common at the market! Feel free to negotiate prices and find some great deals. It’s also an opportunity to learn about traditional Peruvian craftsmanship and appreciate the skill that goes into each piece.
Visiting the Butterfly Farm
The Mariposario de Machupicchu is a butterfly farm in Aguas Calientes that offers guided tours for visitors to learn about different species of butterflies. During the tour, you can witness the various stages of butterfly development and discover their unique beauty.
The butterfly farm is a popular attraction in Aguas Calientes and provides an enjoyable experience for nature lovers and those interested in learning about these delicate creatures.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to explore the enchanting world of butterflies while visiting Aguas Calientes.
Checking out the Spectacled Bear Conservation Center
Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Spectacled Bear Conservation Center while you’re in Aguas Calientes. This center is one of the top attractions in town and is associated with preserving and protecting spectacled bears, which are native to this region.
You can learn about these amazing creatures and their habitats through informative exhibits and educational programs. It’s a great way to support conservation efforts and witness these fascinating animals up close.
Trekking to Mandor Waterfall and Garden
The Mandor Waterfall and Garden is a must-visit spot west of Aguas Calientes Along the Urubamba River. This trek offers a chance to explore the beautiful nature and wildlife of the area.
The trail, which takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to complete, is well-marked and easy to follow. Along the way, you’ll be surrounded by lush vegetation and may even spot some native plant species in the botanical garden near the waterfall.
This trek is perfect for nature lovers looking for a peaceful and scenic experience while visiting Aguas Calientes.
Climbing Putucusi Mountain
Climbing Putucusi Mountain is a thrilling adventure that offers breathtaking views of the famous Machu Picchu citadel. It’s important to note that this climb is not for the faint-hearted, as it requires physical fitness and stamina.
The hike to the summit takes around 2-3 hours and includes steep sections with ladders and ropes to help you navigate the challenging terrain. Many adventure enthusiasts visit Aguas Calientes specifically to experience this exhilarating activity.
The visit to the Putucusi mountain is not recommended to the public. This is due to accidents caused due to the steep mountain hike as well as the wet conditions. However many adventure seekers still visit the mountain and take on the challenge. The mountain is currently free to hike but it is unguided and unsupervised so hike at your own risk.
So if you’re up for a challenge and want an unforgettable view of Machu Picchu, don’t miss out on climbing Putucusi Mountain!
Visiting the Machu Picchu Site Museum
The Machu Picchu Site Museum is a must-visit attraction in Aguas Calientes, Peru. Here, you can learn more about the fascinating history and culture of Machu Picchu. The museum houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits that give insights into the Inca civilization and their ancient site.
You can explore displays on construction techniques, agricultural practices, and religious beliefs of the Incas. Guided tours are available to help enhance your understanding and appreciation of this remarkable place.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity to dive deeper into the story behind Machu Picchu!
Experiencing the Alcamayo Waterfalls
The Alcamayo Waterfalls south of Aguas Calientes, Peru are a must-visit for nature lovers. These waterfalls offer a serene and peaceful atmosphere where you can relax and connect with the beauty of Peru.
It’s easy to access the falls from Aguas Calientes, making it a popular day trip for tourists. You can enjoy activities like hiking, swimming, and taking stunning photographs at the waterfalls. Simply head south of town, the trailhead begins opposite the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. The hike is no longer than an hour and you will see ruins and orchids on route.
So don’t miss out on this opportunity to experience the natural wonders of Alcamayo Waterfalls when you visit Aguas Calientes!
Traveling to Aguas Calientes
There are multiple ways to get to Aguas Calientes, including by train, walking, or car.
To get to Aguas Calientes, the closest train station to Machu Picchu, you have a few options. Here are the ways you can travel by train:
- Trains from Cusco: You can catch a train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. The journey takes around 4 hours and offers beautiful views of the Andes Mountains.
- Trains from Ollantaytambo: Another option is to take a train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes. This journey is shorter, lasting about 2 hours, and allows you to continue your journey to Machu Picchu.
- Trains from Poroy: If you’re staying in the Sacred Valley region, you can also take a train from Poroy to Aguas Calientes. This route takes approximately 3 hours.
Insider Tip: As of August 2023, Peru Rail is currently running bimodal trains from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, this means they are using their own bus transports to get to Ollantaytambo from Cusco and Poroy. Check your tickets carefully as this could run through March of 2024.
Walking is a convenient and enjoyable way to travel to Aguas Calientes. Here are some advantages:
- Immerse yourself in the beautiful surroundings as you walk through the Andean cloud forest.
- Experience the tranquility and serenity of nature along the way.
- Take advantage of the opportunity to spot unique flora and fauna, such as orchids and spectacled bears.
- Enjoy the scenic views of the Urubamba River and surrounding mountains.
- Save money by avoiding transportation fees.
- Stay active and improve your fitness while exploring the town.
- Have flexibility in your schedule, as you can start and stop whenever you want.
- Discover hidden gems along the path that may not be accessible by other means of transportation.
To reach Aguas Calientes by car, follow these steps:
- Travel by car from Cusco to the Hydroelectric Zone, which takes about 4 hours.
- From the Hydroelectric Zone, continue your journey to Aguas Calientes by train or on foot.
- The train ride from the Hydroelectric Zone to Aguas Calientes lasts approximately 45 minutes.
- Note that there are no other types of transportation available to reach Aguas Calientes, except by walking or taking the train.
- Keep in mind that once you arrive in Aguas Calientes, there are no vehicles apart from buses to and from Machu Picchu.
Insider Tip: Going to Aguas Calientes by car takes about 8 hours in total and should only be considered if there are no train tickets available or during protests. The road is mostly unpaved, the hike from Hydroelectric to the town takes several hours as well.
Journey from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
Discover the best way to reach this iconic Inca citadel and immerse yourself in its breathtaking beauty.
Taking the CONSETTUR Buses
The CONSETTUR Buses are the main transportation option for traveling from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu.
- The buses are operated by Consettur Machu Picchu.
- Regular bus departures are available throughout the day for the Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu route.
- The bus journey from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu takes approximately 40 minutes.
- The buses provide a convenient and comfortable way to ascend the steep mountain road.
- The bus route offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and landscape.
- These tickets are often labeled the most expensive bus tickets in the world at $12 each way for a 40 minute bus ride.
Walking is a popular way to reach Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes. Here are some important facts about walking to Machu Picchu:
- The distance from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu is 9 kilometers.
- The walk takes approximately 1.5 to 2 hours.
- It is a steep climb, but offers scenic views along the way.
- Walking allows for a more immersive experience and a chance to appreciate the natural beauty of the area.
- Many people choose to walk to challenge themselves physically and enjoy the journey to the ancient ruins.
Accommodations and Dining in Aguas Calientes
Find the top hotels and best restaurants in Aguas Calientes for a comfortable stay and delicious meals during your visit. Read more to discover the perfect accommodations and dining options that will enhance your experience in this charming town.
Finding a suitable place to rest your head after a day of exploring Aguas Calientes is crucial. Here are a few top hotels in the area that you might want to consider:
|Hotel Name||Hotel Description|
|Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel||This highly recommended 5-star hotel offers comfortable bungalows nestled in the cloud forest. Guests can enjoy luxury accommodations and world-class service.|
|Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel||Located on the banks of the Vilcanota River, this upscale hotel offers stunning views and a variety of room options, including some with balconies and Jacuzzis.|
|El MaPi by Inkaterra||A more affordable option from the Inkaterra group, El MaPi offers a blend of classic and contemporary furnishings. The hotel has a lively atmosphere, perfect for social travelers.|
|Casa del Sol Machupicchu||This boutique hotel offers rooms with river views, plush furniture, and a complimentary breakfast. The location is perfect for those wanting to be close to the action.|
These hotels offer a range of options for every type of traveler, whether you’re seeking luxury, comfort, or affordability. Be sure to book in advance to secure your spot!
Aguas Calientes offers a broad selection of restaurants to cater to various tastes and budgets, from local Peruvian fusion to international cuisine. Discover a variety of delectable meals and explore the town’s distinctive culinary scene during your visit.
|Restaurant Name||Cuisine Type||Average Price||Location|
|The Tree House Restaurant||Peruvian Fusion||$$$||Jr. Huanacaure 105|
|Indio Feliz Restaurant Bistro||International & Peruvian||$$$||Lloque Yupanqui 103|
|Chullpi Machupicchu Restaurant||Peruvian||$$||Av Imperio de |
los Incas 140
|Mapacho Craft Beer & Peruvian Cuisine||Peruvian & Craft Beer||$$||Av Imperio de|
los Incas 614
|Full House Peruvian Cuisine||Peruvian||$||Av Imperio de|
los Incas 620
|Salvia||Peruvian, Latin, Pizzas & Pastas||$||Avenida Pachacutec 705|
These restaurants provide a range of choices from casual to fine dining, allowing you to enjoy delightful Peruvian dishes and international flavors right in the heart of Aguas Calientes.
Tips for a Perfect Aguas Calientes Visit
Ready for more tips? Keep reading!
Planning Your Itinerary
To make the most of your visit to Aguas Calientes, it’s important to plan your itinerary in advance. Here are some tips to help you:
- Book your tickets: Make sure to reserve your tickets for Machu Picchu, Huayna Picchu, and the train ride in advance. These tickets can sell out quickly, especially during the high season.
- Allow enough time: Plan to spend at least a full day exploring Machu Picchu. This will give you enough time to explore the ruins and take in the breathtaking views.
- Consider a guided tour: Hiring a knowledgeable guide can enhance your experience at Machu Picchu by providing insights into its history and significance.
- Be prepared for altitude: Aguas Calientes is located at an altitude of 2,040 meters (6,690 feet), so it’s important to acclimatize properly before visiting. Take it easy on your first day and drink plenty of water.
- Pack essentials: Bring comfortable walking shoes, a rain jacket or poncho, sunscreen, insect repellent, and a refillable water bottle. It’s also a good idea to bring some snacks for energy during your visit.
Understanding the Altitude
Aguas Calientes is located at an altitude of 2040 meters above sea level. This means that the air is thinner and there may be less oxygen than what you are used to. It’s important to understand the effects of high altitude and take precautions, especially if you have never been to a high-altitude location before.
Altitude sickness is a common concern, which can cause symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, and shortness of breath. To prevent altitude sickness, it’s recommended to acclimatize slowly by resting for a day or two upon arrival in Aguas Calientes.
Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol can also help your body adjust to the higher altitude.
Enjoying the Local Food and Drinks
Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Town, has a vibrant food scene that offers a variety of culinary options for visitors. You can try delicious seafood dishes like ceviche and grilled fish, or sample local specialties such as alpaca meat and quinoa dishes.
There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in Aguas Calientes where you can enjoy these tasty meals. Additionally, the local markets offer fresh fruits, vegetables, and other local products for you to try.
Don’t forget to indulge in some traditional drinks like pisco sour and various types of coca tea while exploring this beautiful town!
Interesting Facts about Aguas Calientes
Aguas Calientes has some interesting facts that you might find fascinating. First, did you know that Aguas Calientes is the same town as Machu Picchu Town? They are one and the same! The town got its name from the hot springs located north of it.
These hot springs are a popular attraction for visitors seeking relaxation after exploring the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
Another interesting fact is that Aguas Calientes is situated in the Yunga-Fluvial region, also known as the low jungle or jungle eyebrow of the Sacred Valley. This means that it’s surrounded by lush greenery and diverse wildlife.
You can even spot spectacled bears and various bird species while trekking through this area.
Lastly, Aguas Calientes sits at an altitude of 2040 meters above sea level, which may affect some visitors due to altitude sickness. It’s important to take your time acclimating to the altitude and drink plenty of water during your stay in this charming town.
With these unique facts about Aguas Calientes, you’ll have even more reasons to visit and explore this incredible destination before heading up to Machu Picchu!
Exploring the Hikes to Aguas Calientes
There are many hikes you can take to get to Machu Picchu, the majority stop at Aguas Calientes. The Inca Trail is the most famous but gives you limited time in Aguas Calientes. Here are some treks that give you more time to explore the town. For a full list of hikes in and to Machu Picchu read our Ultimate Guide to Machu Picchu Hikes.
The Salkantay Trek
The Salkantay Trek is a scenic trek through the Andes to get to Machu Picchu, out of all the treks it is one of the most scenic. With the Salkantay Trek you hike near the Salkantay Glacier, enjoying the snow-capped mountains of the region.
The Salkantay Trek can be hiked in 4 or days. You arrive in Aguas Calientes the day before your last day and have an evening free to explore Aguas Calientes before going up to Machu Picchu on the final day.
The Inca Jungle Trek
The Inca Jungle Trek is considered the adventure trek to Machu Picchu, as it includes, biking, rafting and zip lining and breaks up the trip from being all hiking. This trek can be done in 3 or 4 days. It takes a different route than the other treks and has you arrive in Aguas Calientes the night before your final day in Machu Picchu.
The 2 Day Short Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The Short Inca Trail is the perfect option for travelers short on time. You hike for the full first day up to the Sun Gate overlooking the site of Machu Picchu. This trek along with the 4 day Inca Trail are the only treks that allow you to visit the Sun Gate and enter the site as the Incas did centuries ago.
At the end of the first day you descend the mountain to Aguas Calientes where you have the evening free to explore the town on your own before going back up to Machu Picchu on day 2.
The Lares Trek
The Lares trek is the cultural trek to Machu Picchu, it has you hike through small andean villages. It’s a great option for trekkers that don’t want a trail congested with travelers. The Lares trek is a 4 day trek and has you arrive in Aguas Calientes on the 3rd evening, as with the other trek you have a free night in the town to explore and go up to Machu Picchu on Day 4.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Aguas Calientes in Peru?
Aguas Calientes, a town in Peru, South America, is a tourism hub known for local restaurants, shops and the UNESCO Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
What can I do at Aguas Calientes?
You can enjoy nature walks or birdwatching. You might take a visit to Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón to learn about Incan building methods. Also, don’t forget to try out Peruvian food at the local restaurants.
How can I get to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes?
You could use services like PeruRail or Inca Rail or even hike up through Carretera Hiram Bingham up to the Sun Gate entrance of Machu Picchu.
Where can I shop in Aguas Calientes?
The Mercado Artesanal and local artisanal markets sell various items including alpaca wool sweaters, stone and wood carvings, silverware and jewelry along with other unique Peruvian souvenirs.
When is it best time to visit Agua calientes?
The shoulder months of April and October are often the low season avoiding the rainy season making them perfect for visits due their mild weather condition.
Are there good places for rest & dining in Agua caliente?
Yes! There are many options like El Indio Feliz, Toto’s House – where you could savour great dishes; Belmond Sanctuary Lodge features some of the best rooms for resting and Gringo Bills & Hotel Wiracocha Inn offers comfortable accommodation too.
In conclusion, Aguas Calientes is a must-visit destination for anyone planning a trip to Machu Picchu. With its hot springs, bustling handicraft market, and fascinating museums, there’s something for everyone.
Whether you arrive by train or on foot, this charming town is the gateway to one of the world’s most iconic archaeological sites. So pack your bags and get ready to explore all that Aguas Calientes has to offer!
Founder of Karikuy, an organization in Peru that brings travelers to visit and explore the country. Julio also runs the Karikuy Volunteer program and is the editor of this blog. Julio likes to write about his adventures in Peru as well as Peruvian folklore, mysteries and secluded locations.