Wandering around the town takes little more than an hour, although you will have to up and down many paths and there are so many restaurants. I can’t even tell you how many pizza places I saw … I think there are more pizza places here than in Italy. Every restaurant has a drinks special, and all drinks cost almost 4 times the price than the rest of Peru.
As a tourist town, there are all sorts of scams or slightly shady ways of doing business. The prices are ridiculous compared to Peruvian standards … in fact in 36 hours, I didn’t see one local person eating in the restaurants. Here’s a couple things to look out for
- Inflated prices – most of the prices are on par with American prices
- Incorrectly calculated bills – always check your bill. I was overcharged twice and I had to show them. Super annoying!
- Bait and switch menu specials … you’ll see many places with a 15 Soles menu of the day. If you order, they’ll try to insert 10-15% more than advertised due to the “tax” and “servicio”. There is no tax and service – the price is the price. If you’re unsure, then simply ask “No tax, no servicio, no nada mas.” They might conveniently forget … don’t let them play you for a fool. Only ever pay what is advertised.
- Taking a long time to bring your change. This happened to me also … don’t leave your change … demand it.
The food though is quite good. In fact, I can’t say that I’ve had a bad meal in Peru and I haven’t been sticking to tourist places. As for choosing a hotel, I definitely do NOT encourage you to stay in a high end hotel here. It’s simply a waste of good money. I ended up staying in a very reasonable hotel with a great river view for the grand total of $25USD for the night. There are other hotels on the river that charge a fortune for the same view.
Since you’re not going to be spending any more time than you need to in Aguas Calientes, you could also visit the hot springs that the town is named after. If a 5 – 8 min walk uphill … and you can rent towels and sandals if you don’t have any on you at the time.
Aside from the hot springs, drinking and eating – there is almost nothing else to do here. I was fortunate enough to be around for the local primary school’s graduation ceremony – it was a 2 day affair, since they were dancing in the evening and then the following day. The costumes and the dancing was so cute … I don’t know what it costs, but the parents must put a lot of time into those costumes – since I didn’t see a Walmart selling this stuff, especially with the level of detail in the costumes.
You can also hang out in the main square and do a photo shoot with the signs. One thing to note is that even though they renamed the town Machu Picchu Pueblo … everyone still refers to it as Aguas Calientes.
Finally … the last thing you can do is walk along the river and take some pictures, if you didn’t do the walk down from Machu Picchu. It does make for some excellent photography.
So there you have it … your plan on how to spend 24 hours in Aguas Calientes Peru. This assumes that you layer in Machu Picchu in that 24 hour span, otherwise why else would you be in this town?