Marvel at Machu Picchu
Of course, no trip to Peru would be complete without a visit to this incredible archeological site, so it stands to reason that if you’ve made it to Aguas Calientes, you should probably go check out Machu Picchu.
Climb Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu mountain
Energetic travelers should definitely consider scaling either of these two adjacent hills, both of which provide unparalleled views of the citadel and the surrounding region. Huayna Picchu is the more demanding of the two, requiring an almost vertical climb up an incredibly steep set of stairs. Both are ticketed and have limited availability, so be sure to book in advance.
A hike up Putucusi is a must for those seeking some real adventure. The trail sees hikers ascend a series of terrifyingly tall wooden ladders before finally arriving at a lookout with breathtaking views of Machu Picchu. The path was closed at the time of publication, so do confirm its status with the tourist office before heading off.
Do some shopping
It’s true, the handicrafts sold in Aguas Calientes are more expensive than elsewhere in the country. However, travelers on a tight schedule would still be wise to take advantage of their downtime to pick up a few souvenirs. Try the local artisans’ market for the best range.
Have a great meal and a drink
Again, the quality-to-price ratio is much worse here than in the rest of Peru. Having said that, those willing to splash some cash will find a few excellent restaurants and watering holes around town. The reasonably priced Mapacho Craft Beer & Peruvian Cuisine establishment ticks all the boxes.
Plaza Manco Capac
Named after the founder of the Inca empire of Cusco, this small central plaza is a pleasant spot to rest those weary legs. Adjacent restaurants and cafés are great for a bite to eat, while the stunning surrounding mountains make it an excellent place to linger.
Soak in some hot springs
It stands to reason that a town called Aguas Calientes would have actual aguas calientes (hot springs). These warm medicinal pools may not be the best ones in Peru, but they are heaven nonetheless after several tough days of hiking through the mountains.
Spot some colorful butterflies
Small but worth it, the tiny butterfly refuge called Mariposario de Machupicchu provides an excellent respite from the tourist crowds. Best of all, the friendly owners are passionate about sharing their love of butterflies with guests.
Mariposario de Machupicchu, Avenida Hermanos Ayar, Perú, +51 973621266
Los Jardines de Mandor
A pleasant three-hour return hike leads to the seldom-visited Los Jardines de Mandor, a beautifully manicured garden with picturesque waterfalls and a swimming hole. With a bit of luck, visitors may even spot the elusive cock of the rock, Peru’s national bird.
Museo de Sitio Manuel Chavez Ballon
Despite its small size, this informative Machu Picchu museum is worth visiting for the detailed information it contains. There aren’t any museums at Machu Picchu itself, so check this out before visiting the sacred site to make sure you get the most out of the experience.