Having been made into the tourist trap that it is, the city of Aguas Calientes is stuffed full of restaurants. But they all have one thing in common – they are geared for tourists and offer food at tourist prices.
But a smart traveler realizes that all those locals who stick around Aguas Calientes in order to take advantage of the tourists lured by the overblown promotion of Machu Picchu also need to eat, and they surely don’t dine in any of the tourist restaurants.
Here’s where the Central market of Aguas Calientes, otherwise known as Mercado de Abastos (Food Market) comes to play.
Located close to the train station in the Machu Picchu Pueblo (the name into which the Peruvian government is trying to rebrand Aguas Calientes), Mercado de Abastos towers rather inconspicuously a little bit up the stairs, in a building that hardly attracts any tourists, despite thousands passing in front of it literally on a daily basis.
On the main floor of Mercado de Abastos one can encounter sellers of fresh fruits, however just as everything in Aguas Calientes, these are all heavily overpriced, having been shipped to the pueblo by train. Once done asking fruit sellers for prices but not buying anything because of the ridiculous price, an unlikely tourist can walk up the stairs to reach the market’s upper floor, and encounter stalls selling cooked dishes for the locals who work in the many of Aguas Calientes’ tourist establishments.
Even though at 12 Soles for a menu consisting of a soup and a main dish, the prices up there are still high by Peruvian standards, Mercado de Abastos is the cheapest place to get fed in Aguas Calientes, and truly the only somewhat economical way to eat while waiting to go up to Machu Picchu.
I definitely took advantage of it, and even though during my 3 day stay in Aguas Calientes I was the only tourist who took said advantage, it didn’t bother me one bit being surrounded by locals slurping loudly their food and chewing it with their mouth open like a pack of cows on a field, because it came with the good feeling that I wasn’t allowing the overpriced services of Aguas Calientes take advantage of my being there entirely.