The chances are that you’ve spent much time, money, and effort getting to the ancient Incan City of Machu Picchu, so why would you spend only a few hours exploring it?
Whether you’ve opted for the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, or you’re hiking the Inca Trail (or taking the less common Inca Jungle Trail), you’ll want to get the most out of your visit to this spectacular ancient site.
After all, it might be a once in a lifetime experience!
We recommend staying a night in Aguas Calientes (or two)
My thoughts: You can’t possibly do justice to Machu Picchu in a few hours. Instead, choose to stay in the village of Aguas Calientes for two or three nights and visit Machu Picchu a couple times, perhaps at different times of the day. Sure, you have to pay for each visit, but think of the expense you’ve already incurred just to get there. Surely, an extra few Sols are worth the sublime experience.
As a photography enthusiast I like to plan my visits to iconic sites according to the direction of the sunlight and time of day. In addition, I have learned through experience to give myself plenty of “wiggle room” for unpredictable happenings, such as bad weather (like rain or fog) or transportation delays. Again, you’ve expended a great deal of money and energy to get there, so take the extra time.
Taking the train to Aguas Calientes
We left Cusco (check out this post on things to do in Cusco) early morning on the PeruRail VistaDome train to Aguas Calientes. After dumping our luggage at our hotel where we were spending the night in Aguas Calientes, and having a bite to eat, we went straight up to Machu Picchu for the rest of the afternoon. We were fortunate to have great weather and I was very pleased to be there for the “golden hour” of sunlight just before sunset. In addition I was able to scout out where I should plant myself on the following morning to photograph Machu Picchu at sunrise.
On the next morning, we were, again blessed with perfect weather. From our reconnaissance the day before, we knew where to go and set up my tripod for that iconic shot of Machu Picchu. Granted, we could also have opted for a guide as many travelers do, but we prefer to wander around, on our own time, with our guidebooks.
We even had time to rest on the grass in the central plaza, munch on some granola bars for energy, and play with the llamas.
By the time we left, mid-afternoon, we felt we had really explored Machu Picchu.
Hotels in Aguas Calientes
If you’re thinking about spending a night in Aguas Calientes, here’s where to stay.