Once you enter the grounds of MP through the main gate on the south side there is a path about a 100 meters in. The path zig zags up to the left. As yo approach the top of the hill you will see The Hut of the Caretaker of the Funerary Rock. This will be you first taste of what is to come.
The hut is one of the only buildings which has been restored with a thatched roof. The Inca Trail enters just below this hut. They believe the rock just behind the hut was used to mummify the nobilty which gives the hut it's name
It is believed to be an astronomic clock built by the Incas.Shamanic legends say that if you're a sensitive person and you rub your forehead against the stone you will see the spirit world. The Intihuatana stone is one of the many ritual stones in South America. They are arranged so they point directly at the sun during the winter solstice. The Spanish did not find Machu Picchu until the 20th century so the Intihuatana Stone was not destroyed like many other ritual stones. It is also called "The Hitching Point of the Sun" because it was supposed to hold the sun in its place. At midday on March 21st and September 21st the sun stands almost above the pillar creating no shadow at all. It is believed to be an astronomic clock built by the Incas.
If you want a real challenge and hiking up Weinupichu (the famous mountain) wasn't enough, why not try mountain number 2 called Putucuzi. Entrance is free but don't let that fool you. It is a real workout and is not for the faint of heart. I am not going to lie and tell you that it is an easy climb. But it is an exhilerating way to push yourself, your fears, your entire being to its very limit. All that is required is an hour of climbing up ladders and stairs.
Of course, the most important thing to do in Aguas Calientes is to catch a bus to Machu Picchu. This is why you are there, after all. I arrived at the station at 6AM, which I believe was in time for the second bus up the hill.
I think it was a good idea to spend the night in AC, because Machu Picchu is best in the early morning, before the tour buses have arrived to fill up the place. Also, the early morning fog lent a misty air of mystery to the place, especially when the clouds parted to reveal that picture perfect MP scene just as we reached the top of the viewing area.
See my Machu Picchu page for more details on MP itself.
There's a few stray dogs that run around Aguas Calientes. They are very cute if you are a sucker for mangey looking dogs. They are very quiet and polite and don't encroach in your space in any way. There was one that I called "Tour Dog" because he would run a few feet in front of you and look back to see if you were following, as if he as giving you a tour of the town and you were lagging behind. He was cute, despite being very un-neutered. His girlfriend was another mangey looking dog with very very saggy nipples. Can I say that on VT?
We went to MP in the early morning and got back to the entrance of MP before noon. Who should be waiting for us but Tour Dog and his girlfriend, who had treked all the way up the hill to greet us.
I didn't get a picture of the Aguas Calientes dogs, but here is a picture of a cute stray at Pachacamac near Lima. Same idea, different ruins.
Yes, Aguas Calientes is uber touristy, but make the best of it and people watch!
Some things we saw while sipping our sangrias in the square:
-- Hefty American sitting on a bench with tiny Peruvian man like ethnic-mismatched-Laruel-and-Hardy
-- Cute Japanese couple wearing nothing but souvenirs (Lima hat, Peru shirt, Cusco scarf, etc, etc) playing with the local children
-- Idiot sleazebag Gringo whistling at girls and trying to get the local men to join in, to no avail
-- The guy from above said Japanese couple running through the square, followed by a long line of Peruvian children who now won't stop following him ("Where... is your mama?")
-- My friend JP trying to attract the attention of some cute British boys by writing "Free Sangrias for los Gringos" on a giant napkin... which obviously didn't work
Happy hour is eternal in Aguas Calientes. There's restaurant/bars all over the place selling XX-for-the-price-of-1 drinks. First we saw 2-for-1, then 3-for-1, 4-for-1 and I think one place had 6-for-1. Of course, it's all marketing as they are all very small drinks and pretty much equal 1 or 2 big drinks. That said, it still makes for some pretty awesome pictures of your friends with 18 different glasses in front of them, and 4 straws in their mouths at the same time.
Cheap Tip: At 10PM, the restaurant we were at slashed its entire menu price in half, and then kept bargaining with us further when we said we weren't that hungry. We finally walked away with some huge $3 dishes that we couldn't eat and fed the leftovers to the cute stray dogs.
The best area to eat in Aguas Calientes is by the train tracks. There's stairs leading down near the area where you enter the town. The area is a bit hidden as it is lower than the rest of the town, so you get a much different vibe than the uber-touristy areas on the hill.
There's no street, just the tracks and dusty road around it. Across the tracks, some Incan ladies chatted while manning their snack stands. The locals waved and talked to each other. Every once in a while, the train whisked by, super close to our seats.
We relaxed for hours at a nice little restuarant, waiting for our train. The food was excellent and cheap, but I still spent way too much because we kept ordering more stuff that sounded so good. I had a stuffed avocado salad, fresh fish, coffee, and we finished with a round of Peruvian desserts. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant because the food was great, the lady was very nice, and there was a private bathroom in the back that was better than the one at the hostel.
There's a hotsprings at the top of the hill (you can't miss it, just keep walking up). The entrance fee is cheap, but my friend JP, a hottubbing enthusiast, reported the quality as rather underwhelming.
Atousa and I chose to wait for outside for JP by gawking at the bathing suit rentals. Yikes! I hope they douse those in bleach!
The Peruvian music has been advertised aggressively by numerous bands (they all look like the same bunch of people to me) all over North America and Europe. It does not appear to be a small business enterprise. Rather the big bucks of the big boys seem to be the only inspiration on earth for an endeavour on such a scale. All this is very nice but the music reaches this high overindulged note where the listener has a need of a break. Exactly at this moment he happens to realise his lifetime dream of visiting the Andes and the natural outcome is to be carried away by the whistle of pipes on their own turf; does not look as if this is the moment to fall in love once and for all.
Similar preconception is doomed once the musically inclined explorer sets foot on the Machu escarpment, looks at the beyond-your-imagination scenery and suddenly comes this familiar tune as if whispered by God himself; the Condor pasa! Chances are that Goosebumps are going to engulf your frail body and whenever you remember of this location again you will be in the same situation: Eros (not Ramazzoti) piercing you with an arrow straight in your heart (it is a bloodless operation).
r&r is a good thing and you will get it at the hot springs. its location is secluded, nestled between mountains. the pools get progressively warmer as the first one is quite cold. there is also a bar where you can get drinky drinks if you would like. check out the photographs.....
From Machu Picchu you can do a small walk to the inca bridge. The walk itself is very beautifull. And the at the site of the inca bridge aren't too many people, which was nice because at noon there are many people at Machu Picchu.
You can't get on the bridge anymore. If you see it you probably don't want to anyway.
the big hill behind the ruins is called Wayna Picchu. It's possible to climb this one. You have to sign in at the beginning of the stairs and then get going.
The stairs are very rough on this altitude. Bring a bit of water.
The view on top is worth it though. Keep in mind that everything is pretty clouded early in the day. When we reached the top it was still cloudy and we didn't see anything (quite frustrating), but after waiting a while it cleared.
This magical place on top of a hill is the place where inca priests did the ceremony of "tying the sun". Every year the sunny hours of the day became shorter (as the winter was approaching) and, by this ceremony, they "held" the sun here in earth so it wouldn't keep disappearing... After this ceremony, the days were slowly longer and longer, beacuse the sun was "tied" by the priests...
It seems religions have always played with people ignorance, since the very beginning...
It is nowadays considered an "energy source" and many believers come here to touch the stone and "recharge" their souls or something like that...
This is the main entrance to Machu Picchu. As it opens later than you arrive if you do the Inca Trail, you might have to wait a bit here in that case. But if you come by train, it will be already open when you come.
It costs 26 USD for foreigners to enter for a day. You may get a stamp in your passport at the entrance in case you want. I did :-)))
This is the place where you have to take the bus back to Aguas Calientes too.