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Aguas Calientes: Exploring Machu Picchu's Vibrant Base Town

Aguas Calientes (hot waters) is a small town situated at the base of Machu Picchu, and is a popular destination for tourists from around the world heading to the famous UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come meander with me and I will share some detailed information on travelling to Aguas Calientes from Cusco, including the Inca Rail journey and my stay at the 3-star Inka Wonder Hotel. Let's discover the Stone Chronicles, explore the food specialties of the region, and watch the celebrations during the Virgen del Carmen Festival. I will also offer my advice on visiting the town's hot springs, choosing how you will travel to the Machu Picchu site, as well as some other tips for travellers to make the most of their visit. So, grab a cup of coffee and let's dive into the beauty of Aguas Calientes!

Getting There

There are several ways to travel between Aguas Calientes and the city of Cusco, but the most popular and convenient tourist choice is to take the scenic train trip. The Cusco train station is a fair way from the center of the city so visitors will need to take a taxi or bus to get to the station. The train station arrivals area is quite chaotic with taxis, collectivos, and various souvenir vendors and locals drinking in the parking lot. Inside, the station feels more secure and safe.

I took the Inca Rail train and was awed by the stunning views out the windows. The train offers different classes, but I chose the cheapest economy-class ticket. I was comfortably seated with a family from northern Peru and we enjoyed lively conversation as we travelled. The slow train ride took around 3 hours. There were some snacks and beverages available for sale, but I was invited to share the family's bountiful picnic.

Booking information, including schedules, prices, and ticket levels for the Inca Rail train can be found on the official website.

My Stay

During my stay in Aguas Calientes, I chose the Inka Wonder Hotel. I had a lovely room with a view of the river. The hotel is a short walk from the train station and near the town's main attractions. My room on the side away from the town included everything I needed for a comfortable stay. The view and sound of the river outside my window was very soothing and muffled any party sounds emanating from the noisy bustle in front of the hotel.

The Town

Aguas Calientes has a rich history, dating back to the Inca Empire when it was known as Machu Picchu Pueblo. Today, the town is home to a diverse population of locals and visitors, who come from all over the world.

There are plenty of things to see and do, from exploring the local market to taking a dip in the nearby hot springs. The town is also home to several historical sites, including the Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum, which houses a collection of artifacts and exhibits about the history and culture of Machu Picchu. Other local attractions include Putucusi Mountain, a moderate-level hike with stunning views of the surrounding landscape, and the Mandor Gardens, a beautiful botanical garden located just outside the town with a pretty waterfall.

Aguas Calientes is divided into two main and very distinct areas: the tourist area and the residential area. The tourist area is home to most of the town's hotels, restaurants, and shops, as well as the train station that connects the town to Cusco and Machu Picchu. The residential area, on the other hand, is where most of the locals live and work, and offers a more authentic look at daily life in the town. The football field was in constant use from dawn until darkness with a tournament scheduled to coincide with the Virgen del Carmen festival.