The Gateway to Machu Picchu
Aguas Calientes Aguas Calientes, also known as Machu Picchu Town, is a small town tucked into the Urubamba River valley that serves as the chief gateway to Machu-Picchu. Tourists and locals alike take the train here from Cuzco or Ollantaytambo before proceeding to the ruins, which are a 30-minute bus ride away.
Not surprisingly, the economy of this former railroad worker's camp is grounded in tourism and visitors will find plenty of hotels and restaurants to choose from, not to mention souvenir shops. Staying overnight in Aguas Calientes gives you the advantage of getting to Machu Picchu before the trainloads of tourists arrive, and in your time away from the ruins you can soak in natural thermal baths or hike up to Putucusi.
The outdoor thermal baths are a 15 minute's walk out of town and are said to have medicinal properties. It is after these natural springs that the town was named (Aguas Calientes is Spanish for hot waters) and they're a wonderful place to relax. There are a few different pools of varied size and temperature and it's best to go earlier in the day when they're at their cleanest.
Further uphill past the baths there are a few beautiful waterfalls for bathing in and fearless climbers can hike the trail to Putucusi, the mountain just across the river from Machu Picchu. This trail was blazed by the Incas and involves scaling some vertical ladders but the breathtaking views of Machu Picchu from the summit are worth the effort.