(note: this trip took place on Sunday, August 9th, 2015)
That day we dedicate one day as travelling time from Lima to Agua Calientes, a small city where regular bus will take us to hike up Machu Picchu. From Lima, we took flight to Cuzco. There are around 40ish flight to Cuzco daily, and it takes 1 hour flight to go there. From Cuzco, we booked transfer that took us from Alejandro Velasco Astete International Airport to Ollantaytambo Train Station. And from Ollantaytambo, we continued our journey to Aguas Calientes by Train.
Lima and cuzco has around 1800 m altitude difference. And during our flight, we passed mountain range and highlands that offer stunning view from above. It was the only thing that kept me awake during the flight.
From Cuzco Airport to Ollantaytambo
We arrived at Cuzco around 7 am in the morning. And our pick-up to Ollantaytambo had waited us outside the airport. Since it was a private pickup, the driver let us stopping by on any spots with beautiful landscape (Yayy!!)
We took the highway and stopped by some highlands with the stunning view. This is the first time I got excited by a landscape in Peru (and we hadn’t arrived at the Machu Picchu yet!). All the way to Ollantaytambo, we passed vast plain with yellow color in Urumbamba District. It was a sight to behold (so far :) )
We arrived at Ollayntaytambo Train station around 9:30 am and since our scheduled Inca Rail Train depart at 11:15, we used our time to have a brunch on a nearby café and had a coca tea. It is commonly known that Coca Tea is very effective to help you with acclimatization process. I’m not sure if it’s true, but all of my friend drank it very frequently. I only drank it twice and decided that I didn’t like the taste. I drank water and juice most of the time, and it worked well with me. When I googled the effect of Coca Tea, there’s no valid proof as to whether it can cure the altitude sickness. But it worth trying.
From Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (Machupicchu Pueblo)
Back to the train station, there are several train carriages over there, so be sure that you get on board on the correct carriage. If you decide to useInca Rail just like us, make sure that your print copy of the ticket is shown or exchanged in the Inca Rail office.
We pick the executive carriage with spacious seats, glass-ceiling coach, and three meals are served during the journey. Wow! It was one of my-all-time-favourite having a train ride (well, I’ve only been on a scenic train ride twice, one was from Greymouth to San Josef New Zealand and the other is this one ;) – and both of them are my favorites, Ha!). The view was great, the meal was delicious, the coach was really, really cozy. So undoubtedly it was one of the best 1,5 hours in Peru, and probably in my life (a little exaggeration here).
Around 1 pm, we arrived at Aguas Calientes Train Station. Aguas Calientes is a small (but modern) village. It is situated right below a giant rocks, and it’s basically have to main road with Willkanuta River flows in between. There are not much to see, since it is a transit place for people who will continue their journey to The Machu Picchu Site.
Where we stay
Since Aguas Calientes is very small village, every places are close to each other. We picked Hotel Flower’s House. It has 6 or 7 floor, modern building and very clean. It has a free luggage storage, great breakfast, and the owner was also very kind and helpful.
What to see on Aguas Calientes
I spent most of my time on it’s market. It’s traditional market has a lot to offer from poncho, table cover, t-shirt, and many other typical souvenir.
Many have said that the price for souvenir are mostly overrated, and it’s true for woven clothing or Peruvian wears. But for magnet, keychain, or small things, you can get a good price if you can bargain. Since I planned to buy in a large amount (hey, my mom was the 11th child in the family and my dad was the third child out of six. When I buy souvenir, I’m almost always give my aunts and uncles something), I can get a cheaper price.
So the tip here is to buy more to get a cheaper discount for each. Not everything is sold in aguas Calientes are sold anywhere else in Peru, but most of them are! So it is also good strategy to buy a few and buy more outside Aguas Calientes.
We booked through Majestic Tour the pickup transfer from Cuzco to Ollantaytambo and vice versa, as well as the train ticket and entrance to Macchu Picchu. The Inca Rail Executive Class Cost US$ 57/pax from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu Pueblo), and US $ 60/pax from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo.