Aguas Calientes (now officially Machu Picchu Pueblo) is a small town at the bottom of the valley next to Machu Picchu, and the principal access point to the site. Despite its magnificent setting, it's not the most pleasant town, owing to fast and ruthless development to support the huge influx of tourists. Unless you're on a daytrip from Cusco or plan to spend a fortune and stay at the sole lodge in Macchu Picchu itself, you will need to spend at least one night here. Haggle ruthlessly! - everything is overpriced! (But you can still make it relatively cheaply ;) )
The only ways to get to Aguas Calientes are by train or by foot.
Peru Rail. Trains depart from Ollantaytambo, 1hr 45min from Cuzco, several departures daily, varying greatly in price (55-85 USD one way). To get to Ollantaytambo, take a collectivo from Calle Pavitos in Cuzco, 10 soles per person. They start early, around 3am, and run every half hour. Look for a newish van with seatbelts. Ollantaytambo is a lovely town with some ruins of its own, so it is a good idea to take the bus, spend a night in Ollantaytambo, then take the train to Aguas Calientes the next morning. It is also possible to take the train from outside of Cuzco but that is even more expensive.
The scenic train journey through the Sacred Valley takes about 1 hour 45 as well. Tickets should be bought in advance either online or at the Peru Rail office on the Plaze de Armas in Cuzco. Try to book several days in advance if possible, especially in the high season. It´s not possible to select your own seats online, so if you have a preference, buy them at the station. The 'Vistadome' cars are the mid-range cars, with more comfy chairs and meals served. If you prefer to ride in style, opt for the 'Hiram Bingham', complete with gourmet meals and an observation carriage (a few hundred US dollars).
Note - hiking on the train tracks is prohibited, just walk next to it.
It's also possible to hike upstream from Santa Teresa (4 hours) or Hydroelectrica (along the train tracks, 2 hours). From Santa Teresa to Hydroelectrica it is a pretty long uphill dirt road with cars passing by, not a really pleasant walk (consider paying the s5 for a shared car instead). From Hydroelectrica to Aguas Caliente it is an almost flat walk along the train tracks (only a short part at the beginning is steep if you take the shortcut).
To get from Cusco to Hydroelectrica you have 2 options:
- You can take a minibus with any of the tour agencies directly to Hydroelectrica for S/80 return ticket (price they will ask you, Feb 2016, you can negotiate down to s65 or s70. Hostels have arranged return trips for S60, Dec 17). To take the return bus you will just need to keep your ticket and show up in Hydroelectrica on the agreed day (usually 1 or 2 days later) around 2.30pm (confirm time with agency). Some agencies won’t give you a ticket but should have your name on record and will give you a group name to listen out for. The bus takes 7h to Hydroelectrica and usually ~6h to return, with breaks. Note that you could also just get a one way ticket Cusco-Hydroelectrica at an agency; for the return there was a minibuses waiting in Hydroelectrica and asking only s25 pp to return to Cusco (do NOT pay s45 or similar high prices asked by guys waiting on the return path!)
- Or make the journey by public transport: To reach Santa Teresa, take a bus towards Quillabamba from Cusco and get off at Santa Maria. The bus leaves Cusco at 8am (from the Santiago bus depot - S/20) and passes through Ollantaytambo, Urubumba and Santa Maria. It´s an 7 hour journey from Cusco to Santa Maria. You can also take a Minivan (Colectivo) which leaves next to the buses (S/25-30 - 4 hours). At Santa Maria, take a connecting bus to Santa Teresa (S/6, 1.5 hours) or a taxi (S/10, 1 hour). Walk 2 hours or catch a bus (S/5) to the hydro electric plant (planta hidroeléctrica). From there it's two hours of walking to Aguas Calientes, but it's also possible to catch a train for $33.00 US to Machu Picchu Pueblo one way, possibly much cheaper if you are Peruvian (leaves hidroeléctrica at 4 PM). As the tracks are still in use, be careful, especially when crossing bridges and in the tunnels.
There are also hiking paths coming from Mollepata, Cachora and Huanicapa for the extremely adventurous. You will want to get your hands on some topographical maps beforehand, Hiking and Treking around Cusco is available for around S/.25.00 to S/.30.00 and has details on the routes you can take.
Also check out the Salkantay trek that ends in either Santa Teresa or, more recommended, in Hidroelectrica.
The town is compact and walkable, and there are no vehicles apart from the buses to Machu Picchu and a few work vehicles.
- Machu Picchu. This is what most people come to see. The bus from the town Aguas Calientes up to Machu Picchu costs 24 USD round trip per person (12 USD for one way per person). You can walk to the ruins for free, but it's steep uphill and takes about 1h to 1h30. You have to buy your ticket for Machu Picchu either at the Cultural Centre in Aguas Calientes or in Cusco, you CANNOT buy it at the entrance. This ticket costs s152 pp (s75 for students with ISIC card, all other cards with be refused) and is valid only for the specified date. Check out the article on Machu Picchu for the other types of entrance tickets. Be aware that the office will not sell same-day tickets after 2:00PM and that the last entry into Machu Picchu is at 4PM, with visitors herded out by 5PM. Also note that the office will ask for your official passport or a driver's license when buying tickets rather than a photocopy, though agents may be flexible. Remember to take water and snacks with you as the snacks available at the ruins are expensive. WARNING: Cover up by wearing long pants and sleeves, there are sandfly type insects at Machu Picchu and the surrounding area of Aguas Calientes that will leave unsightly bites on your exposed skin. Much of the time you won’t even feel them biting you, you will only be left with a red itchy bite and sometimes they draw blood. Bug spray does not always keep them away so it is best to cover up. S/. 152. edit
Hiking on the train tracks is “prohibited”, although it is not enforced whatsoever and is the only way to reach certain destinations.
- Thermal Baths. 5am - 9.30pm. Soak your weary Inca Trail-beaten muscles in one of the hot springs for which the town was originally named (after taking a thorough shower, of course). The baths can be found by walking up the hill in town. These are not bad, but the feel is much like a public pool and they can be crowded, since everyone wants to get into the hottest pools. Towards the end of the day most of the pools are not so hot anymore and they can be quite dirty. It is probably best to visit in the morning. The cost is S/.10.00, you can rent towels or swimming trunks before you go in if need be. edit
- Massage. Dozens of massage parlors abound in town (all legit, although of varying quality). Prices from S/.40.00 for a one-hour massage. edit
- Internet. Internet cafes charge about S/.3.00 to S/.4.00 per hour and there are also CD and DVD burning facilities to store your photos. DVD's cost S/.15.00 each to burn. edit
Going downstream towards Santa Teresa;
- Putucusi (Putukusi), (13º 09' 26 S 72º 32' 10 W). (Highly recommended, but very exhausting track!) Quechua for “Happy Mountain”. Putucusi is on the same side of the river as Machu Picchu Pueblo. Follow the train tracks a very short distance away from town in the direction of Santa Teresa and Machu Picchu (downhill from town) you will shortly come across a trail on your right heading uphill. (If you come to a train tunnel, you've gone too far.) This trail leads to the summit, approximately 2620 meters above sea level. It is the mountain adjacent to Machu Picchu. The trail includes a lot of steps and a steep, near-vertical passage where you have to climb (There were wodden ladders earlier, but the track isn´t kept maintained). Therefore, the track is only doable for physically fit persons! The summit offers amazing views of Machu Picchu if it's a clear day. Always inquire about the condition at the tourist information office in Aguas Calientes before you go, as rain and landslide can damage the path. Allow about 1,5h each way and make sure you'll be out before it gets dark. Wear long pants to avoid insect bites and take enough water. It´s best to arrive there in the morning, as sun set is behind the ruins. (-13.1572,-72.5353) edit
- Butterfly House. You will learn a lot about the 4 different stages - egg, larva, pupa and butterfly. It is amazing see how well they are camouflaged in the plants and forests. Remember to ask why there are so may butterflies at the top of Huayna Picchu. When you pay you are also supporting a valuable resource for all the school children who visit here. Its near the camping ground, if you get to the bridge you've gone too far. edit
- Machu Picchu Museum and Botanical Gardens. officially named the Manuel Chávez Ballón Museum, it is across the bridge on the opposite side from town at the bottom of the path leading up to Machu Picchu is a path leading to the Machu Picchu museum and botanical gardens, also worth checking out if you have the time. 20 soles entry as of summer 2013. edit
- Ecological Centre. Further along the tracks near the bridge to Machu Picchu you will reach an ecological centre with rainforest walks that will consume about one hour of your time. You can reach this by following the road towards Machu Picchu as to avoid walking through the railway tunnel. There is a stair case leading up to the train tracks near the bridge to Machu Picchu. Not so interesting, according to recent reviews. Costs 10 Sol. edit
- Gardens of Mandor, . If you continue further along the tracks towards Hydroelectric at 114.5km you will reach the gardens and waterfall of Mandor, which is private property and requires foreigners to pay S/.10.00 for entry. This is a nice walk with many orchids and some rainforest and trails to a waterfall. edit
Going up stream towards Ollantaytambo;
Following the train tracks upstream from Machu Picchu Pueblo towards Ollantaytambo you will see some other ruins and a waterfall.
Prices on most things are relatively high. If you´re on a very tight budget, bring some snacks from Cuzco. Prices are especially higher on the main street. If you walk up towards the football field (which is the more local part) you will find shops with more reasonable prices. Some people bring water from Cusco but ensure you wanna carry this weight to save 1 or 2 sol on a 2.5l bottle... (sold s5). Overall if you buy around the football field it will be a bit more expensive than Cusco but not ridiculously more. For food most restaurants will have menus for s12-15. At the market you will find menus (soup, main, drink) for s8.
If you´re wanting to use a credit card for hotel or purchases, note that most places only accept Visa.
There is a big market along the road to Machu Picchu, and a big handicraft market in front of the railway station.
Some shops sell hand-painted t-shirts, which are far more expensive than other t-shirts in Peru but are a little more creative.
Warning: Aguas Calientes is in the nastiest tradition of tourist towns. Be prepared for inflated prices, incorrectly calculated bills, and all the rest. A common ploy is to have a 15 sol menu del dia. When your bill is brought, suddenly it is 10-15% more than advertised due to the "tax" and "servicio". This is fairly easy to avoid if you are aware of it - when the tout is inviting you into the restaurant, he or she will name a price. Agree the price with them, and say, "No tax, no servicio, no nada mas." When they bring the bill, you often have to remind them of this agreement, but there is usually no problem if it is agreed up front. The waiter will tell you he earns no wages, and the service charge is his only pay. It is a lie. Only ever pay what is advertised.
The town is full of pizza restaurants, which are a safe option. Menu Hoy or Todays Menu is usually S/.10.00 - S/.15.00 and depending on where you go will be something along the lines of -
Palta Rellena (Stuffed Avocado)
Main Course (generally trout, beef or chicken)
Tea, Coffee, Fruit Juice, Wine or Pisco Sour
Alpaca is definitely worth trying if you get the chance, in my opinion it tastes better than beef or lamb.
The smaller restaurants up the hill will often offer twice the food at half the price than the larger establishments, and the quality is usually the same.
Indio Feliz (Happy Indian) is a nice French restaurant for those willing to spend a bit more than at the other places. Meals will cost about 30 soles here plus drinks but the food is outstanding. There is a also a 70-soles prix fixe menu that provides three courses is good value. The restaurant is owned by a Frenchman and his Peruvian wife, who are both very friendly.
Every restaurant has an advertising guy whom will give you a business card and their name - it can get quite annoying as there are many restaurants who will try to lure you into their establishment. The ad man will take you to the bar/restaurant and seat you and for this they'll get a 10% tax added to your final bill and then if the service was good you'll want to tip the normal 10% of the bill. You'll end up tipping 20%. One could see it as creating jobs... yet annoying. (See solution for it above - agree "no tax, no servicio, no nada mas" when the price is quoted, before sitting down.)
There are Chifas, the Peruvian version of Chinese restaurants, everywhere and make good options after a day of hiking.
- La Boulangerie de Paris, Jr Sinchi Roca, ☎ 00 51 (0)84 797 798, . 7am-9pm. La Boulangerie de Paris is a french bakery / pastry that offers sandwiches baguette (starting at 2 US$), croissants, chocolate croissant, pastries (apple pie, lemon pie, carrot cake...) and cuisine dishes (lasagnas, vegetables quiche...). Run by 3 french guys, it's a lovely place where one can enjoy an excellent pastry before taking the train (good cofee and home made chocolate) or choose a typical french breaded sandwich to take to Machu Picchu (put it in your backpack before entering the site) Everything is home made and cooked by a french Chef and his team in Aguas Calientes. As this cafe is also a bar you can find many drinks including french Ricard. 1 to 6 US$. edit
- Food Market. Upstairs in the food market you can buy a variety of cheap eats not to mention juices (jugos). Great for breakfast, grab a egg roll S/.1.50 and a juice for about S/.2.50. You can get a menu (soup, main, drink) for s8. This is definitely the place to go for budget travellers. edit
- Chaska, Av. Pachacuteq. Avoid this awful place. We went there on January 2017. As mentioned before we agreed on a set menu for s.15 saying "no extra, no service, etc.". The food was terrible. When we had finished we asked for the bill and they brought us one with a s.5 servicio de mesa extra. We told them we had agreed that we wouldn't pay for it, but they insisted. After firmly refusing, we proceeded to pay with our visa debit card. They told us there was a 10% extra for that as every other restaurant in Machu Picchu does. Refuse to pay. It is a lie and a new version of the old scams. edit
- There are two cafes outside the entrance to Machu Picchu that have decent cafe-style food but are quite expensive (from s10 for a coffee. The fancy restaurant has a buffet for usd40!)
Many bars try to lure in customers with 4 for 1 happy hours lasting the whole evening. Beware that the price is fourfold of the normal prices in Cuzco. These "four" cocktails are also each about the size of one normal-priced cocktail. It is often not a terrible deal, but it is not truly four for one.
Signs warn that it is not allowed to sell and/or consume alcoholic beverages after 11pm. However, it's not too hard to find a place to drink some beers after this time.
There are many sleeping options in Aguas Calientes, from decent budget options to ridiculously expensive hotels. There is one very expensive hotel right next to the Machu Picchu entrance. Some locals will come meet you in the streets to sell their accomodation. Haggle! The locals will always try to get more money from you. In many cases it is normal to haggle down by at least 40%.
Don't be too scared by accomodation prices, especially in low season, you can find good cheap options. Prices get lower when you go towards the football field. As of March 2016, to get an idea, a dorm bed can be found from s15 (perhaps s10 by negotiating) at a local place. A double room in a pretty good budget hotel (clean, wifi, hot water, small breakfast) can be found from around 45 soles (they might ask s50 or s60, negotiate). Anything cheaper than that will be hard to find. Note that most "real" hostels charge ridiculous prices for a dorm bed, such as s45, you can get a private room elsewhere for the same price!
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
- Hotel Los Caminantes, Avenida Imperio de los Incas 140, ☎ +51 84 21-1007. Has 28 rooms, doesn't accept credit cards. Good budget option. Located right at town entrance, on the left side when you arrive. Double with private bathroom for s60. Double with shared bathroom for s45, excl breakfast (March 2016). Also has single rooms. edit
- Pirwa Machu Picchu Hostel, Tupac Yupanqui 103, ☎ +51 84 244315 ([email protected]), . checkin: 11am; checkout: 10am. Offers shared dorms and private rooms. Reservations include continental breakfast, internet + Wi-Fi, hot water 24/7, luggage storage, train station pickup. Check the price, dorms are overpriced. edit
- Hostel Amaru. has a large Anaconda skin on the wall in the cafe downstairs, there is also a bar, a billiard table and internet access downstairs, the staff are very friendly and helpful, this hostel is great if you're on a budget and is just meters from the hot springs. edit
- Inca Machay, (up towards the football field, next to the river just after the bridge 'puente patigoso'). Good budget option. Clean rooms, hot water, wifi, TV, small breakfast (coffee, 2 breads, jam) included. Double room with private bathroom for s50 (March 2016). edit
- Camping Municipal, (next to the bridge on the road to Machu Picchu). S/15 per tent. edit
- Hostel Continental. A nice hostel near the end of the train tracks on the far side of the hot springs. Very reasonably priced and quite well kept. edit
- Hostal Joe, (across the street from Hostal John), ☎ +51 84 38-3512. has friendly staff. The street is quiet without bars or major foot traffic. They will keep your bags securely until you take the train at night. Pickup from the train station double/treble rooms for S/60-90. edit
- Hostal John, Calle Chaska T'ika C-7 Urb. Las Orquideas., ☎ +51 84 78-5065, +51 84 974-711-092. Good cheap option. from S/40 per room. edit
- Supertramp Hostel, ☎ +51 84 79-1224 ([email protected]). A welcoming new hostel with comfortable dorms and private rooms. They will meet you at the train station upon arrival. You can hang out in the common areas and use the facilities while you wait for your train, and they will provide early morning wake up calls and breakfasts. Be warned, this hostel is across the street from the local performance/concert space, so there is loud, live music into the night. dorms start at $10. edit
- Gringo Bill's, Colla Raymi 104 (on the Plaza de Armas), ☎ +51 84 21-1046 (+51 84 24-1545 for reservations). edit
- Hotel El Tumi, (a block or two up the hill from Chez Maggy restaurant). nice rooms, good hot showers, friendly staff. A bit pricey during high season, but a bargain if it's low season. edit
- Hostal Varayoc, Imperio de los Incas 114 (above an internet cafe), ([email protected]). basic, clean rooms with hot showers on main drag across bridge from train station. Price includes simple breakfast. Friendly staff. From $20 USD for a single to $45 USD for a triple. edit
- Rupa Wasi (Treehouse), Huanacaure 180 (one block from main plaza), ☎ +51-84-242760 ([email protected]), . Beautiful place on the hill done in tasteful modern woods. Opt for the upper rooms for a nice view. Restaurant on premises serves a fusion of different cuisine styles - Italian, Asian, Andean and Peruvian - using organic ingredients, and offers fun cooking lessons with Bruno, the head chef. $69. edit
- Wiracocha Inn, Calle Wiracocha s/n, ☎ +51 84 21-1088 ([email protected]ú.com), . Clean rooms, friendly owners, fair prices, and the river will lull you to sleep every night. You can also leave bags here while exploring the ruins. [email protected] edit
- Hostal Sol de Oro. More of a hotel than a hostal. Quiet and clean. Private bathrooms with hot showers and good water pressure. USD 40 for a double room. edit
- Inka Terra, ☎ +51 1 610-0410 (+1 800 442-5042 from USA) ([email protected]). It is the money-making branch of the Inkaterra Foundation , a nature and culture preservation organization working since 1975. It is like a small Andean town built into the mountainside and has one of the largest and most varied orchid collections in the world. There are all kinds of small birds. In a very private location, only for registered guests, and has received several international awards. $300 to $700 per night. edit
Internet cafes are spread around the town, and cost around S/3 per hour with slow connections. They offer local and long-distance calls as well.
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!