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Machu Picchu Town
The small town of Aguas Calientes sits in the valley below the Machu Picchu ruins. The town is located in an incredibly beautiful area, surrounded by jungle-covered mountains and next to the wonderful Urubamba River. The town itself is not particularly attractive, although it is quite interesting, mainly due to the railway line. There are no cars in the town, apart from the buses to shuttle visitors up to the ruins, and so the ‘main street', as it were, is in fact the railway line. People wander up and down the track, jumping across the platform of the station, and there are even a couple of fruit sellers next to the line. When a train comes, the bustle on the platform, which is the main street's pavement, is wonderful. If it were not for tourism, the whole place could almost be out of a Gabriel García Márquez novel. The town also has one main attraction in itself, the thermal baths. These, located at the top of the hill, are open pools with a stunning view. Many walkers like to come here and rest their weary bones after the Inca Trail. The hot waters are reputedly medicinal. Walking up past the hot baths there is a very pretty waterfall.
The ruins of Machu Picchu are the reason visitors come here, and most people spend only one night in the town, or even visit on a day trip from Cusco. However, the whole area is very beautiful, and there are many wonderful walks in the area passing many waterfalls are streams. There is also some good wildlife that can be seen, with many birds, including the cock-of-the-rock, and many, many orchids. The Mandor Waterfall can be reached in a couple of hours, and it is also possible to climb to the top of Putucusi, the peak opposite Machu Picchu on the other side of the Urubamba River.
The town is the location of most of the hotels in the area (only the Hotel Sanctuary Lodge is located next to the ruins themselves). To get to the ruins from the town there is a 20 minute shuttle bus ride. This leaves approximately every 20 minutes from 5.30am, so you can be in the ruins for when they open. The last bus back down from the ruins leaves at around 5.30pm.