Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Peruvian Highlands - Aguas Calientes

Back to the travelogue of my Peruvian adventures.

Having spent two nights in Ollantaytambo (see Ollantaytambo), it was time to embark on the next leg of the journey.  That next leg of the journey would be traveled by train since the journey to Aguas Calientes and the citadel of Machu Picchu is accessible by rail only.  Boarding the train, we set off down the gorge for the 90 minute journey to Aguas Calientes.  
Peru Rail
After viewing miles of beautiful scenery as the train descended the gorge and a light lunch, we arrived at the train station and disembarked.  Our innkeeper had arranged to meet us as we disembarked and he was there waiting when the train rolled in.  Perfect!  

Aguas Calientes lies at the base of the mountains and provides an ideal base camp for Machu Picchu and the terminus of the Inca Trail.  Currently, Aguas Calientes is having somewhat of an identity crisis as it is actively transforming itself to be known as Machu Picchu Pueblo.  I suppose the name "Aguas Calientes" is confusing for many tourists wanting to go to Machu Picchu and there is more than one town named Aguas Calientes in Peru.

Aguas Calientes is essentially a tourist town with tourism seemingly the only means of industry.  The town lies in a deep gorge at the base of high mountains, one of which holds the citadel of Machu Picchu high above the town.
View of river from our B&B 
Aguas Calientes is bifurcated by the railroad
Railroad splits Aguas Calientes east to west
and a river.
River splits Aguas Calientes north to south
The railway through town is lined with restaurants waiting for passersby.  Restaurateurs are aggressive towards tourists and employ a variety of tactics to vie for the tourist peso.  Often, a waiter's wage is based solely upon the ability to slip in a Servicio Locale onto the bill.  Fortunately for us, we were warned by our innkeeper of the pitfalls and trickery of Aguas Caliente and did not succumb to many of these practices. 
At least two monuments to the great Incan leader, Pachacutec are scattered in the tourist areas of the small town.  One monument is near the Machu Picchu bus terminal while the other is farther in town among the narrow streets at one of the plazas.

Church and plaza
Pachacutec in plaza
After dinner, my wife and sister headed off for shopping at the large Mercado.  Not interested in shopping, I ventured off to explore the more "local" areas of the small town that our innkeeper had warned us about visiting with caution.

As I wandered the back streets, I heard music and set off to find the source.  What I stumbled upon was a soccer field jammed with processionals, dancers, and spectators.  Spectators crowded onto the pitch as well as roosting on the hillside surrounding two sides of the field.
As we found at Ollantaytambo, Aguas Calientes was celebrating a holiday and several groups performed for the onlookers and local dignitaries.  Great fun for me to watch the cultural event and no one seemed to mind the gringo on the soccer pitch. 

Tired after a long day's journey, I went in search of my wife and sister.  Finding them still in the Mercado, we headed back to the B&B to prepare for our early morning assault on Machu Picchu.

Aguas Calientes, ("hot water"; there is a hot spring on the outskirts of town that is popular with the backpacking crowd), would be our home base for the next three nights as we made two ascents up to Machu Picchu.  Two full days at the famous citadel!  That will be an adventure, for sure.


  1. Looks great; on my to do list for sure!

  2. Its on my list too, Jonathan. Her indoors has been making plans, so I guess some time in the next couple of years....

    1. As you will see coming up, Machu Picchu is really unbelievably beautiful. I had done quite a bit of reading and study before making the trip and photos of the place in books do not prepare one for the "awesomeness" of the place.

      As a fellow traveler, you would enjoy the trip, for sure!

  3. I'm very jealous!!! Have a great time, I'm sure you are already!!

    1. Ray! I made this trip back in June. Only now are the photos of the trip dribbling out to the blog.

      We did have a great time and I would go back again!

  4. Wonderful images, Jonathan. Mountainside villages have a special appeal.

    1. Aguas Calientes does little to prepare you for what is ahead at the top of the mountain.

  5. A great looking village tucked into the mountain side!


    1. Yes, it is! Mostly catering to tourists, however.


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