On the way to the Machupicchu sanctuary, in the Urubamba river valley, is the small town of Aguas Calientes. It owes its name to the hot springs located about 800 meters from the main street of the town. Its official name, since 1941, is Machupicchu-Pueblo.
One of the most common routes to reach the Inca city of Machupicchu is that of Cusco-Ollaytambo-Aguas Calientes. From there you can continue to the sanctuary by bus, in a 10 km journey. It takes about 30 minutes. Or you can also follow the famous Inca Trail, which takes around four days.
Life in Aguas Calientes revolves around the arrival of trains, which bring both tourists and supplies. Tourism is the engine of this enclave surrounded by mountains, crossed by the Aguas Calientes, Urubamba, and Alcamayo rivers.
Aguas Calientes, from camp to tourist town
At the beginning of the 20th century, the construction of a railroad between the cities of Cusco and Santa Ana began. The workers set up a camp in the site’s operations center, 110 km from Cusco. Then his relatives would arrive and the camp became permanent.
When the now-famous citadel of Machupicchu was discovered in 1911, the Aguas Calientes camp became permanent. A good part of the estimated million visitors who come to the Inca monument each year pass through Machupicchu-Pueblo.
Something more than a place of passage
Only two avenues cross Aguas Calientes: Imperio de los Incas and Pachacutec. The river divides the town into two parts, linked by three bridges. Along its two avenues, there are all kinds of commercial premises: mostly, hotels, bars, and restaurants. A square offers benches for tourists to rest, and a small church for the faithful.
The town has grown under the protection of tourism, although its mountainous topography has not allowed an orderly growth. Behind the main avenues, there are more or less labyrinthine alleys, also full of services for visitors.
Is eating and sleeping the only thing that travelers waiting for the bus to Machupicchu can do? Although there are not many, there are other entertainment alternatives. You can enjoy its famous thermal baths, visit the site’s historical museum and the butterfly farm. Or immerse yourself in the intact nature of the Mandor Gardens and the Allcamayo Falls.
Warm waters for relaxation
Getting to Machupicchu is a long and tiring journey. For some travelers, the best way to regain strength before continuing to the destination is to eat and sleep well. Others overcome the fatigue of the trip in the hot springs of Aguas Calientes, one of the favorite places for visitors.
It takes ten minutes of walking, going up from the main square, to reach these five deep water pools. The water temperature ranges from 40 to 45 degrees Celsius. These waters of volcanic origin are attributed to medicinal properties.
The thermal baths include a bar, changing rooms and there is a towel rental service and sale of swimsuits.
The Aguas Calientes Butterfly Sanctuary is a research project that was born in 2017. Visitors to the butterfly farm can enjoy watching hundreds of native butterflies fly and collaborate with their protection.
It is also a didactic experience, for adults and children. The volunteer guides offer information about the center’s work and about butterflies and their importance in nature.
The butterfly farm is reached by walking from the municipal camp, in the direction of Machupicchu.
Come to the site museum of Machupicchu-Pueblo
History and nature, archeology and botany merge at the Manuel Chávez Ballón Museum. This place offers an important collection of objects found in the different archaeological excavations carried out in the Inca citadel. In addition to a garden with more than 200 species of orchids, most of them are indigenous.
The exhibited objects show what life was like in times of the empire and help to understand how Machupicchu was built. A series of multimedia resources complement the sample of 250 original archaeological pieces.
The walk from the lower part of Aguas Calientes to the museum is in itself a unique experience. It is about 30 minutes of walking along a path of exuberant vegetation to reach the site, at the foot of Machupicchu mountain.
Birdwatching at Mandor Gardens
Nature lovers will gladly walk the 50 minutes that separate the Jardines de Mandor from Machupicchu-Pueblo. The route, bordering the train tracks, offers a sample of the flora of the place
The gardens are a wooded area in which you can see a variety of orchids, bromeliads, and fruit trees. A narrow bridge allows the passage through the Arroyo de la Quebrada Mandor to the waterfall.
The unspoiled nature of the Jardines de Mandor provides refuge for hundreds of native birds, such as hummingbirds and the cock of the rocks or Tunqui. It is the ideal walk for bird watchers and photographers.
The Allcamayo waterfalls
Behind the Machupicchu-Pueblo train station, there is a path that leads to three waterfalls. After 35 minutes of walking and climbing a long wooden staircase, you will find the Allcamayo Waterfall. With its 30 meters high, it is the largest of the three waterfalls that are in the place.
Access to the falls is protected and requires payment. Due to its humidity characteristics, it is recommended to bring mosquito repellent and a waterproof poncho.
Between Aguas Calientes and Machupicchu mountain: Putucusi
If there is time left before starting the climb to Machupicchu, you can try the ascent to Putucusi Mountain. Called by the locals the Guardian of Machupicchu, it is the only free mountain in the historic complex.
The ascent to Putucusi mountain is not for everyone: it requires excellent physical condition and a willingness to adventure. Those who make it to the top will win a magnificent panoramic view of the sacred citadel.
It is not the destination, it is part of the way
The town of Aguas Calientes is the last leg of the travelers’ journey to Machupicchu. It is the necessary rest before reaching the destination that awaits only 10 km. But, in addition, it can be a pleasant surprise for those visitors who want to know about it.
A comfortable hotel, a pleasant place to eat, a relaxing thermal bath, an invigorating walk through the surrounding forests. All this is part of the adventure of reaching Machupicchu, the most famous tourist destination in Peru and we help you to have the best experience.