Beyond Machu Picchu: three luxury lodges in Peru
Exhausted after Machu Picchu? Clambering about the sun-soaked citadel can be hard work. Luckily, a burst of new luxury lodges in the nearby Sacred Valley are now offering a convenient chance to relax and rejuvenate. One such is Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, an estancia by Peruvian eco-chain Inkaterra. A two-storey main building contains 11 cosy bedrooms, one balconied suite and various lounges where plump sofas demand snoozy contemplation. Behind are 24 detached casitas – ideal for families – surrounded by a four-hectare farm on which herbs, quinoa, bell peppers and giant purple corn are organically grown. In addition to touring or tending the plantations, guests have several other, similarly rustic, guided activities to enjoy, including llama-cart rides, stargazing, birdwatching, and lantern-lit ambles at twilight, featuring spooky stories of skin-scalping demons. Day hikes up into the enclosing mountains are another must, as are trips to Písac’s vast Sunday market. But the best activity of all is eating. The menu at Rafael Casin’s restaurant features local meats, farm produce and smoked cheeses, with an updated version of traditional Quechua dishes served in bold, delicious fashion. The baked arapaima with aubergine purée, coated in an Andean mint sauce, is the most stomach-pleasing of all. Your head will also be grateful – located between Machu Picchu and Cusco, and at a lower altitude than the latter, the Sacred Valley makes a smart stop during any acclimatisation process. Prices start from US$475 (Dh1,744) per night, including excursions and taxes.
Cusco itself is comparatively chaotic: a beautiful city in which couples kiss on the steps of Plaza de Armas’s beautiful cathedral, cross-legged trinket vendors appeal imploringly to passing tourists, lively bars spill onto narrow lanes, and costumed pan pipe bands play loudly and proudly. Praise be, then, for the Inkaterra La Casona hotel, a restored 16th-century Spanish-style manor house sat between the San Blas arts district and the city’s main square. Step through the hotel’s hulking cedarwood door and a soothing, soporific atmosphere immediately takes hold. The layout is simple and attractive, with 11 grand suites, lounges full of handsome furniture and a small, guest-only restaurant ringing the colonnaded courtyard.
Simón Bolívar, South America’s famous liberator, once laid his independence-minded head here and probably would have appreciated La Casona’s rigorous massages, available in a segregated chamber. More modern amenities, from heated floors to iPod docks, dot those high-ceilinged bedrooms, yet bright rugs, colourful textiles, stone fireplaces – which staff will light for you – and antique gilt mirrors ensure the colonial vibe is never forsaken. Try for an upstairs suite to benefit from balconies and a dining area. Back downstairs, concierges can arrange everything from city-walking tours and Inca Trail treks to coca teas and oxygen tanks for those enduring altitude sickness. The food offerings include Peru’s favourite, guinea pig, and vegetables grown at Hacienda Urubamba. Prices start from $425 (Dh1,560) per night, including taxes.
Peru has significantly upped its rainforest game by developing three distinct Amazonian regions. Amid one of them, Tambopata, awaits Inkaterra’s waterside Reserva Amazónica lodge, easily accessed by a 45-minute boat ride along the wide Madre de Dios River – an Amazon tributary – from Puerto Maldonado’s airfield. The lodge is all wood and thatch – beyond an impressive two-floor main pavilion, elevated boardwalks lead on to 35 cabanas, three of which are suites. Each low-impact hut redefines jungle luxe with log chairs, fine linens and a screened veranda with two hammocks, plus ultra-efficient mosquito netting. Electricity and hot water are available during the day, while large kerosene lanterns are provided in the evenings.
Struggle out of bed at sunrise to relish the dawn chorus, full of exotic, tropical sounds. Then borrow some wellies and choose your excursions: on the protected Inkaterra-owned land, guests can canoe across swamps past rust-coloured howler monkeys and primeval birds, embark on family “treasure hunts”, hike the jungle at night or sail along the river after dark in search of skulking cayman, all led by a local guide. The reserve also contains a canopy walkway, with seven wobbly suspension bridges linking 600-metre-high towers. Back at base, enjoy riverfront Amazonian-style massages using the medicinal copaiba plant, and finish the day scoffing indigenous fish and ice creams flavoured by the local camu camu fruit. Full-board prices start from $1,080 (Dh3,967), for a minimum stay of two nights, including taxes.
Read this and more stories in Ultratravel magazine, out with The National on Thursday, May 19.
Updated: May 17, 2016 04:00 AM