Also known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, this town lies in a deep gorge below the ruins. A virtual island, it’s cut off from all roads and enclosed by stone cliffs, towering cloud forest and two rushing rivers. Despite its gorgeous location, Aguas Calientes has the feel of a gold=rush town, with a large itinerant population, slack services that count on one-time customers and an architectural tradition of rebar and unfinished cement. With merchants pushing the hard sell, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. Your best bet is to go without expectations.
Yet spending the night offers one distinct advantage: early access to Machu Picchu, which turns out to be a pretty good reason to stay.
Note that the footpath from the train station to the Machu Picchu bus stop is stepped. Wheelchairs should be directed across the small bridge to Sinchi Roca and through the center of town.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Aguas Calientes.