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Aquas Calientes, Peru


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 A land of llamas, rainforests, and ancient Incan ruins, Peru lies in the Andes Mountains of South America. The tiny railroad town of Aquas Calientes sits at the foot of Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, nestled between two valleys. Known as “Machu Picchu Village,” it’s the gateway to the ancient Incan ruins.

 The Incan engineering of Machu Picchu is almost impossible to comprehend. High in the Peruvian Andes, the Incas built this “world wonder” of dry stone (no mortar was used), cutting and piecing together rocks and stones into a giant puzzle that has withstood centuries of time and weather.

 They developed this elaborate city by hand, without the use of the wheel, and devised aqueducts and irrigation systems to move water, most of which still function today. The “Sacred Valley of the Incas” is Peru’s most agriculturally productive area, providing water during times of drought.

 The only way into Aquas Calientes is by train or on foot from Cusco. There are no roads. Aquas Calientes is 839 km (5.5 miles) from Machu Picchu. Visitors get to the ruins by bus or a 1 ½ hour trek up the mountain. The ruins receive about 3,000 visitors a day, bringing the tally of yearly visitors to Aquas Calientes close to one million.

 Aquas Calientes was settled in 1901. The railway, finished in 1931, became a stopping point for miners and railway workers before the boom of tourism took over. Of course, the town’s biggest draw is Machu Picchu, but Aquas Calientes has treasures of its own to discover.

Tiny and intimate, Aquas Calientes is a trekking town. There are very few vehicles. Exploring by foot gives one the chance to stroll down narrow streets and sidewalks, enjoy botanical gardens, and discover out-of-the-way craft markets in this quaint mountain village.

 Dine at one of the many pizzerias, visit the statue of the Inca Ruler Pachacutec (the emperor experts believe ordered the construction of Machu Picchu), or soak in a hot spring. The name “Aquas Calientes” means “warm waters” in Spanish. Filled with sulfurous water, the hot springs have healing effects for muscle, bone, and joint related issues.


 Accommodations in Aquas Calientes range from hostels, inns, and campgrounds to five star luxury hotels. Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel, with cottages set on 12-acres of gardens along the Vilanota River. Part of the Inkaterra Foundation, a nature and culture preservation organization, it has one of the largest orchid collections in the world. Built in the form of an Andean style village, stone pathways lead to charming guest cottages.

 Tour a misty cloud forest or walk through a rainforest, where green and white hummingbirds flutter and Andean Condors soar through the treetops. Llamas, alpacas, mountain lions, and chinchillas roam the mountains. Full of natural beauty, it is not unusual to see exotic orchids, bromeliads, and other plant life growing along the trails and forests of this incredibly mysterious and diverse country.


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