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Top things to do in Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Pichu, Peru

Written by:
Claire Dean

Published: 23-02-2023

Most people would not visit Aguas Calientes on its own, yet this quirky little town is the main way to enter the wonder of the world, Machu Picchu! Aguas Calientes will show you why the region is the gateway to a number of adventures. Hike Machu Picchu Mountain and Huayna Picchu inside The Machu Picchu site; Explore the Andean landscapes from the comfort of an elegant train. Take part in cultural and mystical activities. Head to a waterfall where the journey is part of the adventure. Raise your adrenaline when you soar on a zipline, then calm yourself with a soak in the towns´ hot springs. Named after these hot springs, Aguas Calientes Peru is the service town for Machu Picchu. There are hotels and restaurants abound to cater to most tastes. The average restaurant is considerably more expensive than Cusco due to its proximity to Machu Picchu, but there is a fun village-style atmosphere that makes this an excellent place to hang out. There is wifi available in most hotels as well as internet cafes, though these are also more expensive than elsewhere. It is also the terminus for trains to Machu Picchu from Cusco, with the tracks running through the main street.


Vilcanota River, Aguas Calientes


Relax in the Hot Springs

Aguas Calientes, the name given to this village, is the name for Hot springs in Spanish, which is the name behind its foundation back in the early 1900s. Due to its proximity to the Inca citadel, it is also called Machu Picchu Pueblo. There is a set of pools that are ideal for taking a dip when you have hiked over mountains, along the  Inca trail, or spent a long day exploring Machu Picchu. If your muscles are sore, you have pools where you can soak in the hot waters and relax for a while. The temperature is around 38 to 42 C° and the pools are just a ten-minute walk from the main plaza of Aguas Calientes.


Thermal Springs Aguas Calientes



Hike To Mandor Waterfall


This peaceful, quiet walk, is recommended if you are spending a night in Aguas Calientes and your return train departs in the afternoon of the next day. Reconnect with nature, the flow of the stream, and birds chirping all around. This outdoor activity is perfect for the mind, body, and soul as you walk through the grounds and the cloud forest. Butterflies are abundant and it may even be possible to spot a Cock of the Rock, the national bird of Peru!


Mandor Waterfall

Visit the Butterfly House 

The fabulous Pillpi Wasi, which means “butterfly pavilion” is where many species of butterflies can be found in Machu Pichu. The butterfly house serves to study and interpret the peculiar behaviors and reproduction cycles of these beautiful creatures.  Here, you will see the process of butterfly metamorphosis, and how they change from caterpillar to adult butterflies.  Enjoy the guided tour with an expert guide for s/.10 soles approx.


Blue Morph Butterfly


Manuel Chavez Ballon Machu Picchu Museum

Manuel Chavez Ballon was a renowned archaeologist from Cusco, and as did Hiram Bingham, he too directed excavations of Machu Picchu. This museum on the road from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu displays interesting artifacts found in Machu Picchu and a brief story of how Hiram Bingham made it all the way to the Inca City. It also hosts old photos and original editions of National Geographic magazines, plus short video clips of the history of the region. Explanations are both in English and Spanish.


Machu Picchu Museum


Shop at The Handicraft Market

Everyone will pass through the middle of artisanal crafts stalls when taking the train station in Aguas Calientes. Thousands of Alpaca sweaters and wall hangings, little whistles and cups with beautiful designs on them, silver jewelry, and Inca trinkets, create a truly colorful scene. Haggle efficiently as prices are generally over-priced compared to other markets in and around Cusco. If you have some spare time before your train departs, a stop-off at the market is the perfect distraction!


Aguas Calientes Market


Stroll around Plaza Manco Capac

This plaza takes the name of the founder of the Inca empire, the legendary Manco Capac. Indeed, there is an iron statue in the center of the square, resembling Manco Capac facing Machu Picchu.  At night-time, enjoy a stroll in the plaza, with reflected water fountains spitting water up the air into the pools, and the narrow streets with Inca replica buildings resembling the real Inca walls, with trapezoidal windows. There are no cars in Aguas Calientes and everyone goes on foot, which adds to the intimate atmosphere of the town.


Plaza Manco Capac

Ask us here for more information if you plan to spend time in Aguas Calientes on your way to Machu Picchu!