Last Updated on January 18, 2024 by Kelly
If you’re planning to visit Machu Picchu in Peru, you’ll definitely pass through the city of Aguas Calientes. (The city is also known as Machu Picchutown or Machu Picchu Pueblo.) Aguas Calientes is the last train stop on the journey to Machu Picchu, so anyone that uses the train will definitely walk through Aguas Calientes.
The town of Aguas Calientes is located at the base of Machu Picchu mountain. It serves as a hub for tourists as they seek lodging and dining. The name Aguas Calientes means Hot Waters in Spanish, due to the natural hot springs located in town. (A soak in the hot springs is the perfect way to end the day after hiking the Inca Trail!)
We spent a couple of nights in Aguas Calientes, and we’ll share all about our trip! We will cover 10 things to do in Aguas Calientes.
10 Things to Do in Aguas Calientes
1. Hike Up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes
One of the most popular things to do in Aguas Calientes is to hike up to Machu Picchu instead of taking the bus. To see the ruins of Machu Picchu when you arrive, be sure to have an entrance ticket. (Otherwise you will have hiked for nothing!)
To reach the trailhead, walk to the Manuel Chávez Ballón Museum. Just a minute further down the road is a sign clearly indicating the start of the trail. Once you reach the trailhead, it will take about an hour to hike to the top. You’ll walk along the switchbacks that the buses use, so be vigilant. The total elevation gain is about 1,758 feet and the trail is 2.1 miles long (one-way). See the full trail details for a map and directions.
|See our post on 23 things to do in Cusco!
2. Visit the Hot Springs in Aguas Calientes (Baños Termales)
One of the main attractions in Aguas Calientes is the hot springs. Whether you hiked the Inca Trail or not, your feet will be tired after a full day exploring Machu Picchu regardless. A great way to practice some self-care is to soak in the hot springs.
To reach the hot springs, follow the river to the northeast. It’s about a 13-minute walk from the main square in Aguas Calinetes (Plaza Manco Capac).
The hot springs lie beneath the ground and the water is collected into small pools. The water is a yellowish color. The water isn’t dirty, but it’s colored that way because of the sulfur. Lush green mountains surround the pools.
The hot springs contain five separate pools, each with varying temperatures. Some of them are warmer than others. There are bathroom and changing facilities on-site, as well as a bar. There’s a small fee to access the hot springs. You’ll just need to be sure to bring a swimsuit and towel. (As well as any personal items for showering afterwards.)
3. Walk Through Plaza Manco Cápac
The main square in Aguas Calientes is Plaza Manco Cápac. The plaza is named after Manco Cápac, who was an Inca leader in Cusco that lived during the 13th century. There’s a statue of Manco Cápac in the center of the square. Overall, it’s a nice place to rest and take some photos. There’s also a small church located to the side of the square called Parroquia Virgen del Carmen Church.
4. See the Butterfly House (Mariposario of Machu Picchu)
If you leave Aguas Calientes and head towards the road up to Machu Picchu, you’ll see the butterfly house at the base of the mountain. If you visit the Butterfly House, your contributions will be used for further butterfly conservation. When you visit, you’ll be able to see butterflies and caterpillars, and you’ll be able to learn about their role in the ecology of Peru.
|Planning a trip to Peru? See our guide to planning the best Peru itinerary!
5. Visit Manuel Chávez Ballón Museum (Museo de Sitio “Manuel Chávez Ballón”)
The Manuel Chávez Ballón Museum is also located at the base of Machu Picchu’s mountain. The museum is named after its founder. We didn’t visit this museum personally, but folks online have said that the entrance is free if you show proof of your Machu Picchu ticket. The museum will provide archaeological and cultural information about Machu Picchu and the Inca.
6. Stroll Through the Mandor Gardens
Mandor Gardens is located about 2 kilometers away from Aguas Calientes. It takes about an hour to reach teh Mandor Gardens from Aguas Calientes. The protected land is filled with trails and gardens. There’s also a very picturesque waterfall (Mandor Falls). There’s a small fee to access the property.
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7. Relax at the Unu Spa
The Unu Spa is located at the 5-star hotel Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. Guests staying in a suite are provided complimentary access to the day use portion of the spa. (If you’re not a guest of the hotel, call to see if you can make a reservation to book a spa service.) The spa has a sauna that’s the perfect place to unwind after a busy day hiking.
8. Hike to Allcamayo Falls
Allcamayo Falls is about a 30-minute walk way from Aguas Calientes. There is a small fee to access the trail. This website provides a good overview of how to access the waterfalls.
9. Hike up Putucusi Mountain
Putucusi Mountain is located across the river from Machu Picchu. When you reach the summit, you’ll be able to see a side view of Machu Picchu (including its many terraces) from across the river. There are no Inca ruins on this mountain. The hike up the mountain is difficult, and it’s recommend that you hire a guide so that you don’t lose the trail. There’s also a portion of the hike where you need to climb up a ladder. Some reports of the hike have stated that rain water has damaged some of the stairs, and so climbing is necessary. For these reasons, we think it would be a good idea to do this trail with someone who has done it before.
10. Visit the Artisan Market (Mercado de Artesanias)
When you’re in Aguas Calientes, you won’t be able to miss the Artisan Market in the central area. The market is filled with stalls and booths. If you’re looking for souvenirs, you’ll be able to find a wide variety at the market. We stopped by the market on our way to the train station.
How to Get to Aguas Calientes in Peru
To reach the town of Aguas Calientes, take the train. You can book train tickets through PeruRail, or there are a number of tour operators that will organize your transportation to Aguas Calientes.
When we visited Aguas Calientes, we first flew to Cusco, Peru. After several days exploring Cusco, we booked a tour through Llama Path for a 2-day trek to Machu Picchu along the Inca Trail. We took the train from Ollantaytambo, and we exited the train at the start of the short trail to Machu Picchu. We hiked for a full day and we reached Machu Picchu in the late afternoon. We then took the bus from Machu Picchu to Aguas Calientes. We spent the night in Aguas Calientes, and then we went back up to Machu Picchu the next day to hike Huayna Picchu.
How Far is Aguas Calientes From Machu Picchu?
The town of Aguas Calientes is approximately 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from Machu Picchu. Most visitors take the bus from Aguas Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu. The bus stop is located at Avenida Hermanos Ayar.
The bus stop is pretty easy to find, because you’ll just follow the crowds of tourists. Of course, you can also ask for directions from your hotel staff. You can purchase bus tickets at the office, which is located near the bus stop. It’s a very easy process.
The bus ride from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu takes approximately 30 minutes. Most of the route from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu consists of a switchbacks up a steep hill. There are approximately 7 switchbacks in total. If you are sensitive to motion sickness, you may want to take that into account as you prepare for the journey up the mountain.
If you choose to walk from Aguas Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu, it will take about 2 hours to reach the top.
What to Pack for a Trip to Aguas Calientes
- Power Bank Phone Charger: Before we leave home, we have at least one (if not two) power banks fully charged. That way we can charge our phones on the go while we’re traveling. Because we use our phones for navigation and for photography, it’s really important that we don’t run out of battery.
- Passport Holder: We like to use a passport holder or wallet to keep all of our important documentation in one place.
- Power Adapter/Voltage Converter: Whenever traveling internationally, it’s important to be able to charge your electronics safely. We’re recommending this power adapter and voltage converter because it can be used globally. It’s a little more expensive than some basic products you can find, but this one has a multi-protection safety system. It also lets you charge up to 7 devices simultaneously. (You don’t need to fight with anyone in your travel party about access to outlets.) It works in over 150 countries.
- First Aid Kit: Whenever you travel, be sure to have some basic first aid items on hand. We most commonly like to have an assortment of bandages in case we get a blister or cut.
- Anti-Theft Travel Backpack: Having an anti-theft travel backpack can give you peace of mind as you explore any large city. The one we linked here has lockable zippers, and RFID-blocking pocket, and cut-proof material. This backpack is also extremely light to carry. If you plan on carrying valuables such as a camera, cell phone, and wallet with you, we recommend considering a backpack such as this one.
- Packable Rain Jacket: This rain jacket folds up small and can be easily placed in your backpack. You’ll be prepared for rain just in case!
How Much Time Should You Spend in Aguas Calientes?
Most tourists plan on spending one day at Machu Picchu, and then taking the next available train out. However, we think it’s a good idea to spend at least one night in Aguas Calientes. The reason for this is that you’ll want to spend as much time at Machu Picchu as possible. If you traveled halfway across the world to see Machu Picchu, this is even more true.
If you spend one night in Aguas Calientes, you can then book tickets to see Machu Picchu on two days in a row. That will give you additional flexibility if you encounter rain, crowds, illness, or if you’re feeling tired. If you want to hike Huayna Picchu, it’s really great to have a separate day to thoroughly explore Machu Picchu. (Your legs will thank you!)
Plus, there’s plenty of things to do in Aguas Calientes. For that reason, we recommend spending one night and two days in Aguas Calientes.
Hotels in Aguas Calientes (Peru)
If you’re hiking the Inca Trail with a tour company, a night in Aguas Calientes might be included in your tour package.
If you’re booking your own lodging, here’s a few hotels in Aguas Calientes to consider:
- Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel: This 5-star hotel is arguably the nicest hotel in Aguas Calientes. The hotel features a restaurant for dining as well as a spa.
- Casa del Sol Machupicchu: This is a 4-star boutique hotel that is located in the center of Aguas Calientes. The hotel is located near the Vilcanota River.
- Ferré Machu Picchu Hotel: This 3-star hotel has a restaurant with beautiful views of the river.
- Hatun Inti Boutique by DOT Boutique: This hotel is located adjacent to the river and has charming wooden decor.
- SuperTramp Eco Hostel: This hostel is conveniently located in Aguas Calientes and features colorful rooms.
Restaurants in Aguas Calientes
I compiled this list of restaurants based on reviews and recommendations. I spent a lot of time researching this section to hopefully save you some time! I was so tired after hiking the Inca Trail, I wish I would have had my meals planned out in advance. It’s worth taking note so that you have a plan after you visit Machu Picchu!
- Indio Feliz: This is a French-Peruvian fusion restaurant. Try the crepes!
- Mapacho Craft Beer and Peruvian Cuisine: If you’re looking for authentic Peruvian cuisine and a cold craft beer, this is the place to go.
- Cafe Inkaterra: One of the nicest restaurants in town is located at the 5-star Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. The restaurant serves contemporary Andean cuisine.
- Tampu Restaurant: To reach Tampu Restaurant, you’ll need to travel up the mountain by the entrance to Machu Picchu. Tampu Restaurant is located within The Sanctuary Lodge, a luxury resort. The restaurant features local ingredients and excellent service. If you are looking for a fancy meal, this is a great restaurant choice.
The town of Aguas Calientes is over-shadowed by Machu Picchu, but chances are, you’ll spend some time there before or after your visit. We hope this post was helpful in planning activities for your downtime in Aguas Calientes!
Disclaimer: We always strive for content accuracy. Since the time of publishing, travel-related information regarding pricing, schedules, and hours may have changed. Please look up such information directly from each vendor or institution for the most current information.