Things To Do
Visit Machu Picchu.
Most travelers arrive in Aguas Calientes with a single objective and that is to see the majestic Inca citadel in the sky. Multiple itineraries are possible for a Machu Picchu tour, ranging from a day-trip to the classic 4-day Inca Trail trek. Your choice will depend on time and budget. For travel during the peak season (June to August), be sure to buy all your tickets and permits as far in advance as possible.
Soak in the hot springs.
Take a dip in the therapeutic thermal waters of Aguas Calientes, located at the very end of Av. Pachacutec.
Hike in the cloud forest.
For hiking around Aguas Calientes, you have two options:
- The 3-hour Putucusi peak with spectacular views to Machu Picchu.
- The Mandor waterfall located about 30 minutes (4 km) down the road from town.
Shop in the market.
If you’re running out of time on your Machu Picchu trip and you’ve still got a few items to check off your souvenir shopping list, head to the Mercado Artesanal next to the train station. You’ll find a mix of standard items like “Peru” t-shirts and alpaca sweaters as well as one-of-kind crafts and jewelry.
Get a massage.
Traveling in Peru can be hard. When you’re ready for some pampering, go to one of the many spas in Aguas Calientes. Some hotels have facilities on site or provide in-room service. In town, the standard price is around S/.40 for 1 hour.
- The majority of travelers get to and from Aguas Calientes by train.
- The second most popular option is hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Some travelers departing to Cusco by train after a tour of the ruins, while others opt to spend the night in Aguas Calientes in order to visit the ruins on the next day.
- The third option, for travelers with more time than money is to travel by bus from Cusco to Santa Teresa and walk 2 hours or take the train from Hydroelectric station. This requires a full day of travel (one-way). The Salkantay trek also ends at Santa Teresa.
Aguas Calientes has just three major streets. Avenida Imperio de los Incas shares space with the railroad tracks past the train station. Avenida Pachacutec connects the main plaza to the Hot Springs. Avenida Hermanos Ayar runs parallel to Av. Pachacutec along the edge of the river, continuing south past the town until it reaches Puente Ruinas and the zigzag road to Machu Picchu. Apart from the shuttle bus to/from the ruins, there are no motor vehicles in Aguas Calientes. Walking is the only way to get around. Be prepared to climb up and down stepped paths.
To/From Machu Picchu
There are two ways to get to/from the ruins: by shuttle bus or on foot.
- Bus: From the bus stop at Av. Hermanos Ayar, buses depart frequently (as soon as a bus is full or every 15 minutes) from 5:30 am to 2:30 pm. The last bus back from the ruins to town is at 5:30 pm.
- Walking: It’s a steep climb (nearly 500 meters of elevation gain) from the river up to the entrance of Machu Picchu ruins. You can walk along the dirt 7.2-km road or take the steeper stepped footpath. However, if your intention is to get a taste of Andean hiking, there are better, more scenic options within Machu Picchu including hiking to Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain (both require additional permits) or the free hikes to the Sun Gate or the Inca Bridge.
Trains to Aguas Calientes
PeruRail operates train service to/from Ollantaytambo, Poroy (20 min from Cusco), and the Hydroelectric (Santa Teresa) station. PeruRail also operates 1 daily train to/from Belmond Hotel Río Sagrado exclusive for hotel guests. Inca Rail operates only between Aguas Calientes and Ollantaytambo.
It is possible to buy tickets at the Machu Picchu train station. However, train tickets can sell out several days in advance. In order to avoid getting stranded, it’s best to secure your train ticket well in advance either online or in person at a ticketing office in Cusco, Ollantatyambo, or Lima (PeruRail only).
Peru Rail http://www.perurail.com
Inca Rail http://incarail.com
There is more frequent service to/from Ollantaytambo both in the morning and the evening. If you only have 1 day at Machu Picchu, departing to/from Ollantaytambo rather than from Cusco will give you more time at the ruins.
Passports and Machu Picchu Tickets
Tickets for Machu Picchu must be purchased in advance. If you’ve waited until the last minute, your final opportunity is at the INC office on the main plaza in Aguas Calientes (open daily 5:00 am – 10:00 pm). No tickets are sold at the ruins. To enter, you are required to present your passport along with your ticket. No exceptions.
PeruRail allows a maximum of 5 kilos (11 pounds) of luggage per passenger. You can leave excess luggage in storage at your hotel in Cusco or the Sacred Valley.
From bottles of water to meals at restaurants, prices for food, goods, and services are a bit higher in Aguas Calientes compared to anywhere else in Peru. This is because tourism is the town’s only industry and everything has to be shipped by train. Be sure to budget accordingly. There are ATMs on the major streets, but these are known to be unreliable. Most hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards.
What To Pack
- Rain jacket or umbrella for day tours
- Jacket or fleece for evenings
- Sun screen
- Insect repellent
- Long pants and long sleeves to protect against mosquitos
- Comfortable shoes for the ruins
As a highly transitory destination, Aguas Calientes is packed with dozens of restaurants serving a standard menu of Peruvian and international dishes, i.e., pizzas, burgers, and Mexican food.
However, Lima’s gastronomical boom has been so far-reaching that its aftershocks are felt even in a relative outpost like Aguas Calientes. If you’re looking for a good meal, there are a few eateries to check out.
A few hotels in Machu Picchu also have great restaurants attached. Be sure to check out the following:
- Inkaterra Cafe at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel, Via Ferrea Km 110
- Restaurant La Cabana at La Cabana Machu Picchu Hotel , Av. Pachacutec 805
- Qunuq Restaurant at Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel, Avenida Hermanos Ayar
El Indio Feliz is a perennial favorite among travelers for its menu of Peruvian classics with a French twist. Try the river trout or the grilled chicken, each prepared with seasonal Andean ingredients. Check out the quirky Captain’s Bar before or after dinner.
Address: Calle Lloque Yupanqui 103, Aguas Calientes
La Boulangerie de Paris
La Boulangerie de Paris is the place to go for sweet and savory treats after a long day of exploring Machu Picchu. Try the croissant, lemon tart, bruschetta or a baguette.
Address: Jr Sinchi Roca (above the bus station)
Toto’s House Restaurant
The Tree House Restaurant is a few steps above the rest, in both the culinary and the literal sense. Located up a steep alleyway on the edge of town, this excellent restaurant serves a menu of Peruvian fusion cuisine shaped by Andean, Italian, Asian, and Latin American influences. Try the salmis de lomo (fettuccine with tender beef), pork ribs in elderberry and tamarind sauce, or alpaca anticuchos (skewers).
Address: Av Imperio de los Incas, Aguas Calientes
Can I get from Cusco to Machu Picchu and back in one-day?
Yes, it’s possible to make a day trip to Machu Picchu from Cusco, but keep in mind that much of your day will be spent in transit. It’s 3.5 hours by train one-way from Poroy to Aguas Calientes station and the same amount of time for the return — a schedule that doesn’t leave much time to explore the ruins themselves. If you only have one day to visit Machu Picchu, it’s a better strategy to spend the night in Ollantaytambo (to catch an early morning train) or in Aguas Calientes.
Are there ATMs in Aguas Calientes? Can I pay with credit card?
Yes, you can find a few ATMs in Machu Picchu Pueblo. However, these are sometimes unreliable and, if possible, you should bring cash with you from Cusco or the Sacred Valley. Note that there are no ATMS at the ruins.
Many hotels and restaurants accept major credit cards. Keep in mind that the vendor will also change an additional fee of 5-10% (that they themselves have to pay to Peruvian banks).