The town below Machu Picchu, Aguas Calientes, is the last train stop from Cusco. You can take a 20-minute bus up a winding mountain road to the park entrance, a few blocks from the train station. We recommend staying one night in Aguas Calientes and taking the bus to Machu Picchu before the first-morning train arrives to avoid crowds in Machu Picchu.
Aguas Calientes is an uncomplicated town, and you won’t want to spend more than one night there. Still, several international restaurants and tourist hotels live off the crowds at Machu Picchu. There are some excellent walks with decent bird and butterfly watching.
Getting To and Away from Aguas Calientes
No buses or roads are going to Aguas Calientes, the stopping point to access Machu Picchu, at least not all the way. The closest you can get by bus or taxi is Ollantaytambo, and from there, like everyone else, you have to board a train.
Santa Maria-Santa Teresa Road – Route / Inca Jungle Trail
Kondor Path Tours runs a version of this route called the Inca Jungle Trail. This information means descending by mountain bike from Abra Málaga to Santa María and trekking to Santa Teresa and Machu Picchu.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN AGUAS CALIENTES
This mountain is an excellent walk up the hill in front of Machu Picchu, offering stunning views of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. It can be steep, and part of it requires climbing wooden steps that get slippery in the rainy season and tend to put off many hikers. However, the scenery is worth the hike. 250 meters west of Aguas Calientes.
Manuel Chávez Ballón Site Museum
Anyone interested in a fuller appreciation of Machu Picchu should visit this museum on the outskirts of Aguas Calientes, named after the Peruvian archaeologist Manuel Chávez Ballón. Since most of the artifacts from Machu Picchu were removed by the American explorer Hiram Bingham and kept at Yale University, the museum focuses on discovering Machu Picchu and the finds there. Some artifacts remain, as well as maps and video presentations.
The botanical garden across the street showcases some of Peru’s most impressive orchids and other ﬂora. Open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. subway. At 4:00 p.m., Sunday closed—a 25-minute walk from Aguas Calientes towards Puente Ruinas, the entrance to Machu Picchu.
The Thermal Baths of Aguas Calientes
The town of Aguas Calientes derives its name, Hot Waters, from the natural sulfuric waters heated geothermally here, near the base of the world’s most famous lost city. They have long been considered to have medicinal properties. Considering its popularity, the local government has set up changing rooms and a cafeteria to provide all the leisure time you need to unwind and relax, especially if you have just completed the Inca Trail and visited Machu-Picchu. A bathing suit, towels, and sandals are required (the latter can be rented). The cost is six dollars for foreigners.
The Mandor Gardens and Waterfalls
Machu Picchu is the main attraction in the area, but many visitors stop and visit Mandor’s gardens and waterfalls while here. Your access option is to walk for two hours. Admission to the parks is $7, and there are places to eat there. In addition to the waterfall, which includes rare birds,