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 is also located at the square. We tried to visit the church, but it was occupied by a school class (confirmation preparation?) and we only had a glance of the church from the entrance.
The Hot Springs are – besides Machu Picchu – the main attraction of Aquas Calientes, and the town is named after the springs. They are located about 15-20 minutes walk from the town centre, a nice walk along the Rio Aquas Calientes and with the high mountains on each side... At the Hot Springs complex, you find the changing room, bathrooms, and some small pools with a water temperature between 38 ºC and 46 ºC. There are sulfurs in the water and it is said to be good for the bones - at least that’s what the locals say... The water temperature sounded nice, but the water looked a little murky and brown - and I didn’t swim at the springs. I just visited the small snack bar at the Hot Springs, it was packed with all kind of strange Indian stuff...
We took one of the first buses from Aquas Calientes, and arrived very early to Machu Picchu. At the entrance waited a long line of official guides, and we decided to book a 2-hour tour in order not to miss any of the main attractions. It was quite expensive, but some things you are willing to pay a little extra for… The first stop was at the famous view of the ruins and the Wayna Picchu ('Young Peak'), a view that has been reproduced on countless postcards and in books… We visited many of the 150-200 houses, temples, and shrines around Machu Picchu, and it was a great experience! And the location of the ancient city is so unique, set in one of the most beautiful sceneries I have ever seen... Our guide was good and professional, she spoke fluent English and knew all the facts and stories about Machu Picchu. I still think the guided tour was a good investment... There is a luxury hotel (Hotel Machu Picchu Ruinas), a restaurant, a snack bar, baggage lockers, and a few souvenir stalls at the entrance/exit – all very expensive...
Machu Picchu is an impressive Inca citadel. It was built around 1430, directly on the mountain side of Machu Picchu (meaning 'Old Peak' in the local Quechua language). The purpose of the site is a little insecure, but some people believe it was a country retreat town for the Incan nobility and/or a holy city to the Incas. Machu Picchu was abandoned in the middle of the 16th century, at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. However, the Spaniards never found Machu Picchu, and therefore it is also called 'the Lost City of the Incas'. In 1911, the amazing ancient city was rediscovered by Hiram Bingham, an American archaeologist and historian. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, and in 1983 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Machu Picchu would arguably be the most popular of all 'things to do' in Peru, if not all of South America. Translated as 'Ancient Mountain' it is a 15th century Inca site located at 2430 metres on a mountain ridge overlooking the Urubamba Valley.
The significance of the site is not exactly known but most archaeologists believe it was built as an estate for the ninth Inca Pachacutec. Construction started aound the turn of the 15th century but was abandoned at the time of the Spanish conquest about 100 years later. It is clearly divided into two halves - terraces (probably agricultural) and buildings (probably residential).
It was unknown to the Spanish and therefore remained relatively intact until it was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. Artefacts were taken to Yale University and after years of negotiation the university has agreed to return them. Many of the buildings have been partially restored to give visitors an idea of the original construction. By 1976 up to 30% had been restored and restoration works continues.
In 1981 Machu Picchu was made a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary; in 1983 declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. In 2007 an internet poll voted the site as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Machu Picchu is in danger of environmentql degradation and has consequently been placed on The World Monuments Fund Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites. As visitors we must take care of this amazing place.
The best andean band in Machu Picchu Pueblo is Kuntur Taky. They have been playing in Mapi since 1999 and are excellent. You can catch their show in the evening usually starting at 7 pm in Pueblo Viejo on the main drag of Mapi (Avenida Pachacuteq) or in the Inca Wasi.
A massage, after a physically exhausting trek, is a wonderful way to rejuvenate, to unwind and to heal your aching body. I felt like a completely brand new person after the massage-- physically rehabilitated, agile and ready to take on another adventure.
There are many massage operators in town, so you have a myriad of options to choose from. We picked one from the center of town since they were the most visible and had a big sign--we were not disappointed. The services were excellent, staff members were great and friendly, and the prices were reasonable. I'm sure you'll just be fine with whoever you decide to choose for your massage.
Definitely go to the famous hot springs when you are in town. It is a soothing experience especially right after a grueling 4-day Inca Trail trek. The entrance fee is a GREAT deal at about 10 soles ($3) per person.
This is a well-managed operation with changing facilities and toilets. So, just bring your changing clothes with you, and don't forget to bring a towel or rent one en route to the hot springs.
Unfortuneately I don't have a picture of this but it is kind of cool so it is worth mentioning. There is a building on the site that is believed to be some sort of temple for performing chants. This building was constructed to amplify the sound of the chanting priests.
Our guide had us all stand in front of a niche, facing the niche. At the same time she has us all hum a sound. The niches all deflected the sound and amplified in enourmously! In fact, another tourist about 50 ft away came and told us he heard us chanting!
I can't find any mention of this in a guide book, so I would guess you just have to ask around.
A prison complex stands directly behind the Temple of the Condor, and is comprised of human-sized niches and an underground maze of dungeons. According to historical chronicles that documented similar Inca prison sites, an accused citizen would be shackled into the niches for up to 3 days to await the deliberation of his fate. He could be put to death for such sins as laziness, lust, or theft.
On the floor of the temple is a rock carved in the shape of the condor's head and neck feathers, completing the figure of the sacred bird.
Historians hypothesize that the head of the condor was used as a sacrificial altar. Under the temple is a small cave that contained a mummy. One of only a few found at the site.
Our guide as she was passing through left an offering at the temple. Her offering was some of the water from her water bottle. She told us that the Incans believe in offering back to nature what nature has provided for us.
This cave-like area of Machu Picchu sits underneath the temple of the sun and contains ceremonial niches and an Inca cross carved from one wall.
The cross resembles aseries of steps, and represents the three levels of existence in the world of the Inca. The first step, symbolized by the snake, represents the underworld or death. The second step represents the present, human life, and is symbolized by the jaguar. The highest step represents the celestial/spiritual plane of the gods, and is symbolized by the condor.
The Incans were masters of what is called "ashlar". This technique contructs blocks of stone which are made specifically to fit one another and does not employ the use of mortar.
There were three levels of block carving. The most crude, was reserved for housing of the common folk. The mid-level reserved for the nobility and the finest most time consuming level of black carving for the sacred buildings.
This picture here demonstrates this. The blocks on the left is the outer wall of the Sun Temple while the blocks on the right was the hosing for the High Priests. The second picture that is attached shows a builing that is very crude in comparison. It was probably a farmers or warriors hut.
The temple of the Sun is Machu Picchu's only round building. It is constructed of some of the finest examples of Incan stonework. It is believed that this building had an astrological purpose and was used as a solar observatory. Also known as the Torreón, access inside the temple is not permitted.
The trtapezoidal window, also called the serpent window is important. During the June solstice sunrise and constellation of Pleides can be observed. In Andean culture the Pleiades continues to be an important astronomical symbol, and the locals use the constellation to calculate the arrival of the rains. There was probably at one time some sort of golden disk hanging in the window.
When you enter the main gate through the south side of the grounds there is a path about a 100 meters in. The path zig-zags up the hill. The apex of the path leads to the best and most complete view of the grounds. The site for the classic photograph of MAchu Picchu.