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Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo)

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Aguas Calientes - The Gateway to Machu Picchu


Aguas Calientes Seen From Above

Aguas Calientes, as seen from higher ground



The small town of Aguas Calientes, otherwise known as Machu Picchu Pueblo is the village/town in the Urubamba, northeast of ruins of Machu Picchu.

This is where trains come in from Cuzco and from where buses take tourists all the way up to the famous archaeological site.


Nowadays the town is more often called Machu Picchu Pueblo (meaning Machu Picchu Village), rather than on its original name, Aguas Calientes. But if you see the names, be certain that it is the same little town.


The name of Aguas Calientes in Spanish literally means Warm Waters. There are hot springs, thermal baths in the town, therefore the name.


For the visitors of Machu Picchu, the town of Aguas Calientes is the main gateway to the ancient Inca ruins. On the road it is located at 8-9 km (5.5 mi) from Machu Picchu.

There are hotels in Aguas Calientes and most trains don't go further from here.

Thousands arrive every day, some spend 2-3 nights in Aguas Calientes.

Most visitors arrive with the train from Cuzco, then they continue with the bus to the archaeological site. The trip back is done exactly the same way.


The Vilcanota River rapidly rushes near the town. It is potentially dangerous river that sometimes turns its anger on the town, as it did in January 2010. Then it has brought massive rocks and created mudflows in the city.

Thousands remained stranded in Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes until helicopters brought them out by air.


The town is located in a deep valley that is perpendicular to the Urubamba Valley. Part of Aguas Calientes stretches in the Urubamba, the other part northwards through the narrower, smaller valley.


The primary gateway to Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes has been evolving intensively. But the great flood combined with landslides that has occurred in January 2010 has opened out eyes: the buildings of Aguas Calientes were constructed irresponsibly, almost in the way of the Vilcanota.

It is a known fact that during the rainy season, the waters from the Andes accumulate and the river's debit grows.

The 2010 catastrophe has left behind destroyed buildings, bent and broken railway lines.




The History of Aguas Calientes


Initially Aguas Calientes was inhabited by several families who had settled in the valley in 1901.

Following the construction of a railway line linking it to the big city of Cuzco (finished in 1931) and the explosion of tourism (especially in the 1990s and afterwards), Aguas Calientes has started to grow both in population, dwellings and has flourished economically as well.


Until becoming the tourist hub that we know today, Aguas Calientes was rather a worker's hub. Railway line builders and miners stopped over here. The first inns, lodges were constructed to them.


A hydroelectric plant was constructed between 1958 and 1965 on the Vilcanota River. The power plant was expanded between 1981 and 1985. Today it generates 90 MW of electric power, serving the Cuzco, Puno and Apurímac regions.

On February 28th, 1998 it was severely damaged following a landslide and has paused operations until July 13th, 2001.


Today, Aguas Calientes or Machu Picchu Pueblo is rapidly evolving: hotels, whole blocks of apartments have appeared. Restaurants and bars are almost everywhere. It looks better and better as years go by.


Aguas Calientes: New Buildings With Old Looks

Aguas Calientes: new buildings with old looks



Attractions and Activities in Aguas Calientes


Aguas Calientes actually has more tourists per year than many countries. There are many estimates, these may not be all exact, but if we calculate an average 3.000 visitors to Machu Picchu per day, then there Aguas Calientes receives approximately 1 million visitors every year!

Of course, there are further numbers of workers, employees of various firms, local Peruvians who travel in and out of the town.

Most travelers don't take the time to walk around and explore Aguas Calientes. It has its own attractions and it might be interesting for you to check them out, if you have the time.


There are many hotels and restaurants in the town, which lives primarily out of the travel industry. From cheap hotels to expensive ones in the luxury segment, you will find almost anything here.

Pizzerias are numerous as well.


The second place where the train stops (the one westwards, closer to Machu Picchu) is a peculiar place.

A market is held when the trains aren't operating. Then, when the train arrives, the merchants gather everything and walk away, leaving the rail tracks clear for the train. Might seem funny to a westerner.


Aguas Calientes Street at Night

Aguas Calientes at night: a dynamic little town



The Thermal Baths


Aguas Calientes' primary attractions are the thermal baths that have curative effects. Recommended for people who have bone and joins-related health problems, muscle pain, even for those who suffer from kidney problems.

The hot spring waters of Aguas Calientes are sulphurous and they come from deep underground.

Countries like Iceland, Japan, Hungary and New Zealand are famous for their thermal baths, spas. This little Peruvian town also boasts such facilities, even though, they are not fully exploited and the facilities are still rather rudimentary.

With the economical development of the little town, services will improve.

The thermal baths are 800 m away north from the center of Aguas Calientes. This may change with time as the town grows.


The Handicraft Market


Travelers flock here to buy hand-made products... Items might cost more than in the Sacred Valley or Cuzco.

If you're looking for traditional art products, then we recommend you other towns for shopping (wider selection, locally made products, cheaper prices, periodically-held markets): Urubamba town, Písac, Ollantaytambo.


The Statue of Inca Ruler Pachacútec


One of the greatest Inca emperors is Pachacútec, the one who had ordered the construction of Machu Picchu (specialists say).


The Aguas Calientes Church


A rather modern building resembling the old colonial churches in the rest of Peru.

It is located just behind the statue of Pachacútec.


Nearby Mount Putucusi


This steep high mountain can be climbed too.

But it's only recommended to the experienced hikers, strong people, young people.

Putucusi is somewhat similar to the Huayna Picchu (Waynapicchu) peak in Machu Picchu.




Advice on Visiting Machu Picchu Through Aguas Calientes


If you want to visit in just 1 day, it is doable!

Take the train in the morning from Cuzco and arrive to Aguas Calientes from where you will continue with the bus and then up to the mountain on which Machu Picchu is located.

Then, same way back. This would be a total of about 244 km (150 mi) in 1 day.

If you start early from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes and you spend a few hours in Machu Picchu, then you might have the evening free in Cuzco. But that's not what we recommend. Take your time to explore Machu Picchu thoroughly!


Perhaps it would be better for you if you took 2-3 days for visiting the region.

If you are a healthy energy-full person and enthusiastic, then you might want to walk your way up to Machu Picchu, then to Huayna Picchu and Mount Putucusi as well.

You should also take your time and enjoy the attractions of Aguas Calientes.


Be careful when walking around rail lines. The travelers often cross the rail lines and trains operate frequently.

For your safety, avoid walking around trains and railway lines for too long.




Getting to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo)


Aguas Calientes is about 112 km (68 - 69) mi from Cuzco and 8-9 km (5.5 mi) from Machu Picchu.


If you hike the Inca trail, then you will reach Aguas Calientes after having visited Machu Picchu or, like most travelers, you can arrive in here by train or, if you are a rich person, then you can also fly in by helicopter. Sometimes the helicopter trips are under "pause" due to protests.


The most popular and cheapest, easiest way is by train. And there are 3 train types to choose from. Certainly, you will find the most adequate category that suits your needs and wallet!


Aguas Calientes Train Station

One of the trains that bring tourists to Aguas Calientes



Getting From Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu


There are 2 ways for reaching Machu Picchu from here:


By bus

Positive Aspects: the most comfortable way to get to Machu Picchu; certainly the fastest too

Negative Aspects: you get "packed in" with other passengers and don't get to see much scenery through windows


On foot, with the help of a local guide

Positive Aspects: the path is shorter than the bus road; the scenery is beautiful, the hike is fun!

Negative Aspects: costs money; risky, because you get to hike through unknown forests with unknown guides


You can buy bus tickets to Machu Picchu from the booth in Aguas Calientes or, you can buy a package in advance, which contains multiple services, including the bus ticket.


The trains arriving to the town will stop at 2 locations: at the Machu Picchu Pueblo Train Station, which is in the center of the town and at a second location, closer to the ruin. The second location is not actually a real train station, but is best getting off there if you want to catch a bus.


Bus tickets to Machu Picchu are sold at a booth close to the second train stopping location.



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