Machu Picchu Pueblo (formally known as Aguas Calientes)
Machu Picchu Pueblo is a town in the Urubamba River Valley whose sole purpose is tourism. There are only 2 ways into town: by rail or by foot. It began life early in the 20th century when the railroad was constructed through the mountains. It's known for its thermal baths (Aguas Calientes means Hot Waters in Spanish) and as a gateway to the nearby Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
We were fortunate enough to spend the night at the 5-star Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel and have time to explore the town before heading back to Cusco via the train. The hotel is perched on the side of the mountain just outside the town. Crossing the footbridge to the hotel is like moving into a different world. Very comfortable lodges but of course there are steep steps everywhere being on a mountainside!!
There are only 2 main streets; Avenida Imperio de Los Incas (street with the old train tracks running through) and Avenida Pachacutec which extends up from the Plaza to the thermal springs so it is impossible to get lost. The main square is home to several shops and restaurants, and in the centre is a statue of Inca Pachacutec, the greatest spiritual leader of the Incas and the builder of Machu Picchu. The town church (Virgen del Carmen) is also located at the square.
There must be at least 100 restaurants, bars and cafes in this tiny town all aimed at getting the tourist dollar. They offer everything from traditional Peruvian cuisine to fine dining and anything in between. There are also a multitude of massage places offering an Inka massage for those with aching bodies!!
Close to the railway station is the busy and colourful Mercado (market) where you can buy handicrafts, art work, jewellery and souvenirs. Be prepared to barter hard. Because everything has to be shipped in and because they have a very captive audience, prices for everything here will be the highest you'll find anywhere during your trip around Peru - in some cases double so those bartering skills will need to get a good workout!!!
Perhaps the most interesting is the series of sculptures and statues as you walk from the station along the side of the market. These are carved in the same granite stone that is found in abundance in this area. Whilst there was little to no information available they appear to be a series of different Inca kings as well as sculptures depicting Andean beliefs.
This is really just a tourist town but it is set in a fabulous location. Stunning scenery abounds.
This is really the end of our trip as the next few days are spent in transit as we make our way back to Australia. We have seen so much and been to so many places over the past 30 days. Have ticked several things off my bucket list, seen some unexpected delights and learned some fantastic history.