The settlement of Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, sits in a deep valley below Peru’s most famous tourist attraction – the legendary Machu Picchu. Its setting couldn’t be more picturesque with stone walls towering above the town, often shrouded with clouds of high-altitude mist. All travellers going to Machu Picchu must pass through here and accordingly, Aguas Calientes has a decent selection of accommodation, restaurants and shops. The town’s biggest draw is the natural thermal baths located above the town’s small plaza. Many travellers soak their tired muscles in the hot springs before returning to Cusco and the communal baths provide the ideal way to end a trek to Machu Picchu.
Although most visitors only briefly stop in Aguas Calientes, there’s one very good reason to spend the night – get up early, refreshed after a good night’s sleep, and avoid the swarms of day-trippers that arrive in Machu Picchu by train from Cusco each morning. Staying in Aguas Calientes gives you the exclusive opportunity of getting the first bus to the Inca ruins, with the option to stay there until the tour crowds magically disappear in the late afternoon.
Those spending the night in Aguas Calientes or waiting to catch a train back to Cusco could spend their free time hanging out with the locals in the many pool halls in town. A convivial place where all types get involved with bets and brags, the pool halls are an excellent opportunity to experience how Peruvians socialise with one another. Alternatively, overnighters can hike the 90min trail up the sacred mountain of Putukusi to be rewarded with breathtaking views over the town and across to Machu Picchu.