Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes
While I was dying to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, unfortunately I didn’t have enough vacation days from work, so in order to fit in all the sights I wanted to see, I had to figure out the quickest transportation. My second morning in Cusco, I caught a 4am shuttle to the Ollantaytambo train station (about 2 hours outside of Cusco), hopped on the 6:40 train to Aguas Calientes, and bussed up to Machu Picchu. While I didn’t get to see the sunrise (which is supposed to be amazing), I still arrived early enough to beat most of the crowds, which was definitely a plus. I joined a 2.5 hour tour of the ruins, which were absolutely incredible!! (Muy picchuresque, might I add). It’s literally a city in the clouds. In person it was a thousand times better than what I remembered from middle school history books. Sometimes you really have to see something for yourself to fully comprehend it… By joining a guided tour, I learned from a native Peruvian about the history of Machu Picchu and the Incan people, and I have to admit, history is actually pretty fun when you learn it OUT of the classroom!
(Note: If you have time, I’d recommend climbing Huayna Picchu (the neighboring mountain) for a bird’s eye view of Machu Picchu. This climb is restricted to 400 people per day, so if you’re interested book your tickets in advance.)
After exploring Machu Picchu, I walked back down the 1772 steps to Aguas Calientes, the little feeder town closest to Machu Picchu. It’s basically an island — very remote and cut off from the rest of the world — and despite the gorgeous location, it’s a place you’d probably only want to stay for a maximum of one night (the advantage to this being that you can make it up to Machu Picchu as early as possible). The name Aguas Calientes translates to “hot waters,” and is named so because of the hot springs, which are welcomed after a long hike up to Machu Picchu. Just don’t expect a luxurious spa. One thing to expect when you visit this town is that the residents’ main income comes from tourists, so all of the merchants will be pushing sales on you like it’s life or death. Walking around the town, you’ll get people offering you souvenirs, meal deals, cheap drinks, massages, and even drugs. A word of advice: know how to politely decline sales people before you head here… you will do it often. All-in-all, Aguas Calientes is a cute town in a beautiful location, but don’t set your expectations too high, as it’s mainly just the gateway to Machu Picchu.
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌