Day Trips in Machu PicchuEdit This
When most people think of Peru, they conjure up lush images of jungles, mountains, exotic food, and of course, the famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Now one of the seven new wonders of the world, the lost city is one of the most visited sites in the world. Even more exciting, many other fantastic locations lie close in proximity to this wonder, just waiting to be explored.
Aguas Calientes is the closest town to Machu Picchu, and the starting point for many possible day trips. There are a variety of cheap as well as luxurious hotels and hostels in the area, but avoid the hot springs for which the town is named; they tend to be dirty and packed tightly with tourists. If you insist on visiting hot springs in Peru, travel to the tiny, but charming, village of Santa Teresa. To get there, take the the train for $8 USD, or, if you want a real adventure, opt for the 3 hour hike along the train tracks. Be warned, Santa Teresa is rather rustic; but its little-known, natural hot springs will have you exclaiming in delight. Just don't risk being eaten by mosquitoes by deciding to stay all night! The local cuisine is simple and cheap, but decidedly delicious, and the people are truly friendly.
Sacred Valley of the Inca
If you're an ancient history buff and want to connect with the past even more, make your way over to the Sacred Valley of the Inca. From Aguas Calientes you can take a Perurail train ($30-$60 USD one-way) to the town and ruins of Ollantaytambo. All of the towns between Ollantaytambo and Pisac make up the former heart of the Inca Empire, the Sacred Valley. Each town is unique and offers its own local specialties and crafts; to get the most out of your trip, there are many reasonably-priced bus tours throughout the area which allow you to see some of every town and their respective ruins. There are plenty of hiking opportunities through the hills and ruins, as well as white water rafting in the Urubamba River, which flows rapidly through the valley. Do be careful with the altitude, as this area is a good deal higher than Aguas Calientes, and foreigners unused to it tend to get sick if they ascend too quickly.
A vacation to Machu Picchu and it's surrounding towns and ruins can be a pretty rustic adventure. However, to see a place as beautiful as this is a once in a lifetime experience that you'll probably never forget.