The great Andean city of Cusco is an important stop on any trip to Peru, for the chance to marvel at ancient archaeological sites, beautifully kept colonial architecture, and vibrant markets piled high with colorful fruit and fabrics. There’s a wonderful range of places to stay here, so we decided to round up the best luxury hotels in Cusco, from former palaces and convents to contemporary boltholes, all located in the city’s picturesque center, and with oxygenated rooms to ease you in and help you acclimatize to the high altitude.
Belmond Hotel Monasterio
You can’t help but fall in love with the Belmond Hotel Monasterio, encased in a 16th-century building – the Seminary of San Antonio Abad – on Inca foundations. Impeccable Belmond service is, of course, a given, but the fact that you are surrounded by original artwork and architecture is what sets this hotel apart. It’s like staying in a museum, albeit with the chance to dine at two upscale restaurants (one Peruvian, one Mediterranean), sip pisco sours while enjoying live opera music, and gaze out at the pretty courtyard from your sumptuous guestroom. What’s more, the Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral are just a short walk away, so sightseeing is all too easy.
Inkaterra La Casona Hotel
The discreet, understated facade of Inkaterra La Casona belies the wonders within, for this is every bit the palatial, sumptuous Cusco hotel, with a fascinating history to boot. This was the very place that Simon Bolivar stayed in during his travels to Peru, and the hotel lives up to this reputation with its artfully arranged confection of antiques, Peruvian rugs, frescoes and tapestries. However, modern fixtures are aplenty, including heated floors in guestrooms, a heavenly spa, and delectable fusion food in the restaurant. Pull up a chair on the tranquil terrace, admiring original Inca masonry and colonial archways while you tuck into local delicacies like Andean trout; some of the best restaurants in Cusco are also just moments away.
JW Marriott El Convento Cusco
Take a colonial convent in central Cusco, add the prestige and know-how of renowned hotel group JW Marriott, and you have a stunning result that’ll make you want to extend your stay in this great Andean town. The JW Marriott El Convento Cusco is simply sublime, from the moment you step into the atmospheric lobby – complete with a huge Swarovski-encrusted chandelier – you know you have found something rather special. The hotel is built on Inca foundations, which you can explore on a free guided tour every day at 6pm, and is festooned with superb modern Peruvian art. The cloistered courtyard is a beautiful remnant of the original convent, while contemporary additions to the building include a first-class spa with a sauna, steam room and even an indoor pool. Meanwhile, the guestrooms are as polished as you would expect from the JW Marriott, fitted with large, flat screen televisions and iPod docks; the best rooms feature little balconies with rooftop views.
El Mercado Hotel
El Mercado is a charming Cusco hotel that expertly fuses traditional, local architecture with modern interiors, courtesy of Peruvian designer, Jordi Puig. As such, you will come across open-air balconies and terracotta roofs above, and below, an inviting stone courtyard with a fire pit at its center, all sprawled over what used to be a marketplace. Rooms are hip and contemporary, each with a unique design, but perhaps the best of all is the expansive suite with fireplace, bathtub and TV room. The Plaza de Armas is just a couple of blocks away, so after exploring the unmissable sights of Cusco, return for cocktails in the courtyard, cozying up under typical Peruvian throws and keeping warm by the fire pit.
Belmond Palacio Nazarenas
Another Belmond hotel in Cusco is the Palacio Nazarenas, which also showcases Inca and colonial architecture, housed as it is in an old palace and convent. Antique furnishings, frescoes and Peruvian artifacts are dotted throughout the property, which itself is wrapped around a collection of courtyards that feature pretty gardens and water features. Belmond Palacio Nazarenas also flaunts contemporary additions, including Cusco’s best outdoor swimming pool (heated), an oxygenated spa, a sleek lounge with snooker table, and 24-hour butler service for every guest. Don’t hesitate to ask your butler to prepare you a pisco sour or two (using your very own, in-room cocktail bar).
Palacio del Inka Hotel
Last but not least, the Palacio del Inka has to be one of the best luxury hotels in Cusco, graced with privileged views of one of the city’s must-see archaeological sights: the Koricancha (Temple of the Sun). It also lies just across the road from the Church of Santo Domingo, and the secret gardens are also close by, so you really couldn’t be better placed. The hotel itself is a resplendent symphony of Peruvian antiques, jewel hues like gold and garnet, and Spanish colonial architecture like stone columns, harking back to the building’s former life as Francisco Pizarro’s palace. While away the hours in the spa, home to a sauna, steam room and hydrotherapy pool, or make use of the gym if you want to work up a sweat. Otherwise, take a seat in the fabulous restaurant and enjoy a mix of local and international dishes in the charming courtyard.
Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator. Surtrek Tour Operator is a well-established firm, specializing in custom-designed luxury tours in Ecuador, the Galapagos and throughout the rest of South America.
Cusco was long an important center of indigenous people. It was the capital of the Inca Empire (13th century–1532). Many believe that the city was planned as an effigy in the shape of a puma, a sacred animal. How Cusco was specifically built, or how its large stones were quarried and transported to the site remain undetermined.
Incan majesty and Andean baroque exist side-by-side in Cusco's stone streets, epitomized by the Qoriacancha palace and the church of Santo Domingo flanking the Plaza de Armas.
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