We picked the hotel for several reasons:

  • Laundry stop (we booked it for 3 days to use as a storage point in between our travel between Machu Picchu)
  • The trains to Machu Picchu have various luggage restrictions (and alternative routes to Machu Picchu apart from hiking the trail are quite scarce).
  • Relatively low-cost accommodation (and storage)

We arrived at Ollantaytambo close to nightfall, and the taxi immediately got lost in the small narrow roads of the town as many of the roads were not clearly marked. We finally arrived at the hotel and set about packing our backpacks with the items we’d need on our 1 night stay in Aguas Calientes (a.k.a Machu Picchu town) and the subsequent hike around the Inca citadel.

Not much of the day remained once we completed our packing. We handed in our laundry to the reception desk and expected it upon our return the day after.

 Hotel grounds

The dining area had minimal staff and they were particular on our seating at certain tables in the empty dining hall as they expected larger crowds of guests at the time. There were a few large European & American groups but I wouldn’t categorize this as a busy hotel and the Machu Picchu season was just starting.

The town had a major Inca structure built on the steep mountain that walled the city and you could see this impressive structure from the Hotel grounds.

I hoped to visit the structure on the return journey from Machu Picchu if time (& energy) permitted.

Train to Machupicchu Pueblo

parked train

I had considered the famous 4-day hike along to Inca trail to Macchu Picchu, however by the time tickets opened for the season, they were all snapped up by eager tour groups. The trail wasn’t cheap either at a minimum of USD400 per person (all hiking operators were licensed by the government) and the authorities had capped a maximum number of hikers for the trail per day which raised prices further. Sanitation wasn’t considered ideal on this route and 4 days would mean less time to explore other stuff so in an act of pragmatism we’d decided on the alternative by train.

Tourists were not allowed to travel on local (cheap) trains , and backpackers were apparently kicked off such trains, instead they had to take specialized tourist trains operated by Perurail or Inca rail. These operators had a duopoly on the route so tickets were pricey (still 1/4 of the hiking price) but the class of travel provided was relatively luxurious.

logo of perurail

We’d picked the hotel as it was a mere 5 minutes walk to the train station and our train departed at 9am. We arrived comfortably on time and lingered about the station till the train was ready to board.

The station must have catered to non-tourist trains as I noticed many locals in the waiting areas.

Shortly before the scheduled departure time we were ushered to our various carriages for boarding in a surprisingly organized fashion (getting our money’s worth it seemed).

We sat opposite a middle-aged Dutch couple who covered part of the route we’d taken to reach Cuzco. They had flown directly to Chile and started from the dusty town of San Pedro de Atacama. They’d taken the 3 day jeep ride into the desert, whereas we opted for the express half-day trip to Uyuni, Bolivia.

They admitted the accommodation was rough and freezing at night but they felt the experience worthwhile overall. They had also travelled to Cuzco via the land-route we had skipped due to my bout of illness.

It was interesting to compare notes on their route and to hear their thoughts on the options we hadn’t taken.

The scenery outside wasn’t much to behold. The tracks ran in parallel to a river on the left with a steep mountainside to the right. On the left-side beyond the river, farmland (which appeared to be quinoa) and forests could be seen beyond up till the mountains in the distance.

Aguas Calientes

We arrived at Machupicchu Pueblo (previously known as Aguas Calientes) without much incident. The train pulled into the station, which spilled into the town centre.

train tracks and tourists

The station was bustling with tourists and guides. In the crowd we noticed a hotel attendant holding a placard for our hotel. We identified ourselves and he guided us through the maddening crowds and haphazard streets to our hotel.

This town exploded in popularity after the 1911 discovery of Machu Picchu and the subsequent tsunami of tourists who flocked to see this wonder of the world. This tourist boom fueled a building boom which continues to this day. Right behind the hotel we could see the scaffolding of what we assumed to be another hotel. Though as with all boom towns urban planning took a back seat. However the infrastructure seemed palatable to most of the visitors , which is something which I’d consider commendable in almost all of Peru’s tourist sites.

ornate lift


We checked into our comfortable (and rather ornate) hotel and planned our requirements for the following day:

  • Return bus tickets to Machu Picchu
  • Buy drinking water

I had considered the 1 hour hike to the peak but given we had a guide and that the route wasn’t particularly scenic, we thought the time & energy would be better served exploring the site. At USD10 we didn’t think it prohibitively expensive, but backpackers on tighter budgets would have had no qualms on spending the extra time and sweat.

The bus tickets were sold on the street opposite the bus pickup spot. There was a queue but nothing particularly daunting.

The town itself didn’t offer much in the form of attractions so after a brief wander and photo-taking we retired to the hotel for some much needed rest (it had been touch-and-go for the past few days since arriving in Cuzco).

cliffs & sunset


The train is by far the most popular means of getting to the citadel for tourists (since the hiking trail is capped and no roads cut through the jungle and mountains), however if you’re willing to spare more cash and time (and be prepared to book really far in advance if you’re looking at the shortest 4-day hike), then the classic Inca trail would definitely provide more adventure (and discomfort for sure) than a simple point A to B train ride.However, I think the train ride was the most optimal option on such a whirlwind tour as mine.