The closest access point to Machu Picchu is a village officially called Machupicchu Pueblo, but frequently referred to as Aguas Calientes due to its natural hot baths. We opted to spend the night in town after our Inca Trail hike, but the rest of our group took the evening train back to Ollantaytambo. This was something we planned when we first signed up for the hike, but it proved to be invaluable to me since I was still feeling like garbage. After spending the day exploring Machu Picchu (and three days sleeping in a tent) I've never been so grateful for a real bed, shower and toilet.
Aguas Calientes is a very tiny town and the lodging options are limited, but I highly recommend the Tierra Viva. It was close to the train station but not right on the tracks like a large portion of the town. The bed was enormous and the shower would've been impressive under normal circumstances but as it was the first one I took in four days it was downright transformative. They also had a very excellent (free!) breakfast, which was extremely helpful to me since my body had just decided that I was ready to start eating again after a few days of rather violently rejecting that idea.
We didn't do anything at night (except watch the last half of the original Ghostbusters and the first part of a very bad Telenovela), but the next day we had some time to explore before we had to catch our train. Like I said, the town is tiny, and exists almost solely for tourists coming and going from Machu Picchu.
There is a large market next to the train station that is filled with every type of Peruvian souvenir you could ever want—blankets, scarves, jewelry, woven llamas, guinea pig hats, at least one pocket knife that appeared to be made with real human (?) teeth—and the merchants weren't nearly as aggressive as they were in Cusco, which was a relief. I try not to buy too many junky trinkets, but I couldn't resist buying a framed taxidermy bat. I didn't consider at the time that I might have a problem getting it through customs, but luckily I didn't because it fits seamlessly into my curiosity collection and is easily one of my favorite souvenirs ever.
In what has quickly become a recurring theme in my South American posts, my favorite part of Aguas Calientes was the street dogs. We saw some particularly great ones, including a hairless dog in a fleece onesie, and I recently learned that these dogs are "as important as Machu Picchu" in Peru, although to me they were obviously even more so. My favorite, however, was definitely that little guy in the "Adidog" windbreaker—if I wasn't already smuggling home a bat I might have been tempted to bring him back, if only to make my dreams of owning an Instagram-famous dog finally come true.
Where we stayed:
Av. Hermanos Ayar N°401. Machu Picchu