Mar 152013
 

We were met at the Aguas Calientes railway station by the SUMAQ hotel porter, who put our bags in their cart and then…wheeled them to the hotel. We didn’t know there were no cars in town, so everywhere you went was on foot. It was no big deal, since the hotel was only a five minute walk, it was just funny watching them wheel the giant cart of bags to the hotel. Most of the other people on our train were at the same hotel, but were headed straight up to Machu Picchu so didn’t walk to the hotel with us. First, a few thoughts from our two days at the hotel, and then a little review of Aguas Calientes itself.

SUMAQ Hotel, Aguas Calientes

Room:

We’d reserved the basic standard room, and it was perfectly fine.  The beds were very comfortable, there were more pillows than I had a clue what to do with (seriously, there were 6 pillows on each bed!) and the temperature was decent.  There was no climate control, so the room tended to be slightly on the warm side, but not enough to every really be a problem.  Bathroom was well-stocked with decent eco-friendly amenities, and considering this was a small town it was a very nice room.  Some pics of the room, with the many-pillowed bed:

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Service:

The staff was very friendly and helpful, but like almost every hotel we stayed at English skills were quite limited.  As I’ve mentioned before my Spanish is pretty basic, but it was still easier to speak to the staff in Spanish with the exception of the reception.  But, for simple transactions, it was clear that many of them preferred Spanish as well.  The nicest feature, however, was for the bus up to Machu Picchu.  If you bought your ticket from them, they’d send someone to the bus station to wait in line for you, and then when the bus passed by the hotel they jumped off and you jumped on, saving you the walk to the station.  That’s service!

Location:

Located on the edge of town, it’s nice and quiet, which we really appreciate in the evenings.  Plus, it’s on the road to Machu Picchu so  you’re the last ones on the bus and the first ones off.  Very nice.  That said, “edge of town” doesn’t mean too much, since you’re still only a 5, 10 minute max, walk to everything in town.  So, for the quiet you get being at the edge of things it’s an awesome location!

Breakfast:

Breakfast was included in our rate, and they had a pretty good spread.  Lots of breads, cheeses, pastries, yogurt, fruits, juices, etc, plus a few hot options each day as well including bacon.  Definitely more than a basic continental breakfast, and we were pretty impressed with it.  That said, if you go on the later side for breakfast we found they’d run out of some options so that’s something to consider.

Restaurants / Bars:

Our rate each day included one happy hour pisco sour (which was about 1/4 the size of a normal drink – it was just a teaser) and dinner as well as breakfast.  Both days, we went and had the tiny pisco sour, and then from 5-7pm they did two for one drinks which we maybe took advantage of a few times.  They were about $10 each, but at 2-for-1 they were a pretty good deal!  A pic of the tiny teaser drink, with the tasty chips:

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A three course dinner was also included, which was nice because it would have cost $40+ per person each night!  Quite a deal!  You could have anything on the menu with this option, which made it a fantastic value.   Dinner started with some tasty bread from a local bakery:

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I tried two different appetizers the two nights we were there:

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The second one was a beef carpaccio, but I can’t for the life of me remember what the first was!  I do remember it being very tasty though  ;-)

Then, both nights I got the alpaca tenderloin as a main…it was THAT good!

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Then, both nights I also went with the same dessert, a rice pudding which was absolutely amazing:

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Pool / Gym / Facilities:

We didn’t end up using any of the other facilities other than the common lounge which was nice and well-stocked with tea, and made a nice place to wait for our train after checking out, so I can’t say too much about them.

Overall Review:

I didn’t check out any of the other hotels in town, but really didn’t feel like I needed to – the SUMAQ was perfect.  Yes, it was expensive, but they had a stay one night get one free going on when we stayed, and considering breakfast and a three course dinner were included it was actually quite a good value.  It looked to be the nicest place in town, and the fantastic service combined with a great quiet location would make it a no-brainer if I was back in Aguas Calientes again!

Town of Aguas Calientes

The train station is in the centre of town, and other than that it’s pretty much gift shops, small markets, hotels, and cafes and restaurants.  There’s not too much else to the town.  A cool snake shaped drain/fountain outside the train station:

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…and the road/path leading from the train station:

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…and finally, the main Plaza in town – just a *little* smaller than the one in Cuzco, eh?

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The rushing river that ran past the train station and our hotel – this thing was out of control!

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While we waited for our train we’d gotten quite hungry, so decided to grab lunch.  All the little tourist trap restaurants near the train station looked about the same, so we picked the one with the best view and a bit of outdoor seating.  We picked a place called “Toto’s House” which was pretty empty, but had a huge salad bar inside.  We sat outside and split a tasty everything pizza with a few beers, which made for a good way to wait for the train.

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…aaaaand that was pretty much it.  Outside of Machu Picchu that’s about all there was to do.  Dinners, snacks, and just hanging around and reading.  It was a nice relaxing little town, but not exactly a hotspot!  I’m sure there were bars and nightlife, but after spending all day hiking we were way to exhausted to take advantage of it.


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