5th leg of my Brazil/Peru trip
Type : Rural Mountainous
Best Date : Apr – Oct
Expense : Medium
Things to do :Hiking
Points of Interest: Machu Pichu, Huayna Pichu, Putucusi, Inca Bridge, Temple of the moon, ect
The Good: Excellent scenery
The Bad: Very small village
Aguas Calientes is the village nearest to the famous Incan ruin of Machu Pichu, also in the Urabamba province within the Cusco region. The village has an altitude of 2,040m and is only 6km away from the Machu Pichu site.
Like Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes is a small rural village which has its own unique charm. Although its attractions nearby are the main reason for the influx of tourists, the architecture and scenery is just something out of the ordinary. People who stay in this village may only be staying to acclimatize to the altitude or maybe to get some rest before or after their visit to Machu Picchu. In my opinion this small village is a great place and to stay here for one or 2 nights is a privilege.
Aguas Calientes has a handful of magical attractions to visit, most notable is ‘Machu Picchu’ the Incan citadel on top of the Andes Mountain. In order to reach this attraction from Aguas Calientes you would either need to hike 1.5 hour up the mountain or take a shuttle ride up. Although very expensive I do advise to take the shuttle ride up as Machu Pichu itself has plenty of long walks. Once in Machu Picchu there will be a couple of private tour guides if you want to take them (for a price), I definitely do regret not taking one of them as I learnt very little about the site itself. Once entering, there is plenty of different routes within Machu Picchu itself, all showing the different angles of the Incan ruin. I didn’t plan a specific route but me and my brother opted to just go higher and higher. Once committing to a route its a little hard to go back or do another route as there are plenty of ups and downs.
Behind Machu Pichu is ‘Huayna Picchu’ or ‘Wayna Picchu’ which is the higher mountain that the more adventurous travellers hike up for a better view and a higher adrenaline rush. The lower levels of the mountain is easy however as you go higher the ancient steps get steeper and much narrower with not much to hold onto. I would like to stress that the mountain is a little dangerous with full view of the heights above and the drop below, there is also very little barriers and although marshals are said to roam the mountain I did only see one. Only a total of 400 people are allowed up this mountain a day, 200 on the morning (07:00 – 10:00) and another 200 in the afternoon (11:00-14:00) because of its popularity I highly advise to book in advance.
Puntucusi is another mountain opposite Machu Picchu on the other side of the vilcanota river, which is free to hike with a challenge. The good thing about this mountain is that it is relatively unknown to the masses of tourists. However this is ungoverned and there are no wardens so care is required.
One way to relax in Aguas Calientes is their hot spring baths which is a nice way to relax if you have done the 4 day trail. This hot spring have strict rules and require full swimming attire, towels and sandals. It is complete with showers, changing rooms and a snack bar.
There are other attractions such as the ‘Temple of the moon’, ‘Sayacmara’, ‘Puyutamarca’ and many more which makes Aguas Calientes very attractive as a place to stay for a little longer than people plan.
Overall Aguas Calientes for me was a marvellous place to be in, the rail tracks and old rustic structures were a pleasure although many aspects such as food and drinks in the village were expensive as it would be more profitable from tourists. The traditional markets also have nice souvenirs which are again pricey at first but easy to haggle for a good and cheap price. Finally again the same as Ollantaytambo the scenery is majestic a wonderful panoramic place to be around, if I had the chance I would have stayed longer.