For most travelers to Peru, Agua Caliente is only a quick stopover for a night on their way to visit Machu Picchu. Also known as Machu Picchu Peublo, this small touristy mountain town is not at all what I was expecting. When I booked my trek on the Inca Trail, I thought it might be nice to stay over for a couple of days in Agua Caliente. If for no other reason, it would be good to rest after 4 grueling days hiking through the Andes. Whenever I shared my plan with others, I always got the same question….Why?
Well I’ve been on a bit of a travel schedule for months now trying to make sure that I can get all the destinations I want to visit in before my date with Machu Picchu. Along the way there have been a few places that I really liked and wished I could have stayed longer (Copan, Honduras for Spanish classes, Palenque, Mexico, and San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua to name a few), but my schedule pushed me on. Given the flexibility, I decided to give Agua Caliente a couple of days and see what I thought.
Why You Should Stay a Couple of Days in Agua Caliente
Given the flexibility of time, I definitely recommend spending a couple of days in Agua Caliente, especially if you will be reaching this town via the Inca Trail or any of the other treks to Machu Picchu. There’s good food, though a bit pricey, with a quaint atmosphere and more than a few places to get a massage to wipe away the wear and tear on your muscles from all that hiking.
You also can’t beat the setting. Agua Caliente is nestled between lumpy mountains just below Machu Picchu and lines each side of the Urubamba River as it rushes by. It’s certainly a town that’s easy on the eyes.
The pueblo also boasts a collection of hot springs, which the town name is derived from. They’re located on the outer edge of town only about a 10 minute walk up the hill lined with restaurants and shops. I was hoping for natural thermal pools but instead these have been modernized and are more like individual swimming pools, still good to relax your muscles either way though.
See Machu Picchu Again
If I had Machu Picchu to do over again (and someday I probably will), I would plan to visit the site across two days. Staying in Agua Caliente longer gives you this luxury, though you will have to eat another $50 US for a second day’s pass to the site. Even with the steep price tag, I think it would be worth it because Machu Picchu is just so vast, and then if you arrived from any of the treks you’d have some time to rest over night and then explore Machu Picchu more fully.