Machu Picchu is on most peoples’ bucket list and over a whopping two million people a year travel to this iconic World Heritage Site. However, most people head straight up to the citadel itself and miss out on some of the other great things to do in the town of Aguas Calientes (also called Machu Picchu Pueblo), the departure point for any visit to Machu Picchu. Take a few extra hours to discover the top 5 things to do in Machu Picchu besides visiting Machu Picchu!
This little-visited gem is a thirty minute walk from the town of Aguas calientes and is one of the must-see attractions in Machu Picchu. Learn about the discovery and history of Machu Picchu and see interesting artefacts like the original edition of the 1913 National Geographic magazine that published and announced Hiram Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu to the world. There is also a nice botanical garden next to the museum with samples of local plants and trees. Our tip: Stop here before you visit the ruins themselves as you will have a much better understanding of the citadel after a visit to the museum. Read more about the museum here
How to get there: The museum is a 30 minute walk from the pedestrian town of Aguas Calientes. Follow the same road as the buses heading up to Machu Picchu. When you cross the bridge, the museum is on the right hand side.
Details: S/.22/€6; drc-cusco.gob.pe
2. Bring the kids to the Butterfly House
There is something about this run-down butterfly farm that charms us every time we visit. Run by Machu Picchu local Leonardo and most definitely off the tourist track, the butterfly farm is a great place to bring the kids and show them the life-cycle of the butterfly and the importance of conserving the 8 species of butterfly found in Machu Picchu. Find out more about the Butterfly House here.
How to get there: The farm is a 25 minute walk from Aguas Calientes. Follow the same road as the buses heading up to Machu Picchu. The farm is located on the right hand side before you arrive at the bridge.
Details: S/.10/€2.75; mariposasdemachupicchu.com
3. Visit the Mandor Gardens & Waterfall
A gentle, 40-minute stroll from Aguas Calientes leads you to this little oasis. explore the tropical rainforest, picnic or take a dip in the cooling waterfall.
How to get there: Follow the train tracks out of Aguas Calientes. Mandor is a 40 minute walk from town and is sign-posted along the train tracks (bring a hat, water and sunscreen as it gets hot… and insect repellent as there can be mosquitoes.)
Details: S/.30/€8.25; jardinesdemandor.com
4. Cocalmayo Hot Springs
Forget the overcrowded baths in Aguas Calientes and instead take a day trip to the nearby town of Santa Teresa to bathe in pools of crystal-clear thermal water.
Each of these natural pools is a different temperature, so a visit is ideal for soothing sore muscles after all that hiking – plus the location is stunning next to the roaring Vilcanota River. The hot springs are open 24/7 – if you like stargazing, head for a stunning night-time experience; otherwise mornings are best.
How to get there: Catch the Peru Rail train from Aguas Calientes to Hidroelectrica (€28 approx.) and get a shared taxi from three to the hot pools.
Details: S/.10/€2.25; mincetur.gob.pe
5. Visit the Orchid Garden
It’s rainy season in Machu Picchu and now is the perfect time to do some orchid spotting. Machu Picchu is famous for its orchids which bloom mainly between November and March and there’s no better place to see 400 orchid species than the slightly ramshackle orchid garden run by the Mendoza Mora family. Click here to find out how to get to
More Machu Picchu Travel Information:
- How to get to Machu Picchu
- How to buy Machu Picchu entrance tickets
- Where to stay in Machu Picchu
- Where to eat in Machu Picchu
- How to get to Santa Teresa
- More great things to do in Machu Picchu
(Article first published in the Irish Independent on 13/11/2015)