Cusco Travel Guide
The last time we were in Cusco, we missed the opening of JW Marriott's second Peruvian property by just a few days. While we haven't been lucky enough to hit the Inca Trail since then, we've been hearing just enough about the now one-year-old JW Marriott Cusco to have us think about packing up our hiking gear and heading south of the border.
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Good news for those adventurous types! Peru's Cusco, one of the most sacred and spiritual places on earth gets a new Luxury Collection property,Libertador Palacio del Inka, right in the heart of the temples and ancient ruins.
Set to open its doors in June of this year, the 203 room renovated hotel will welcome guests that want a little relaxing before they head into the hills or a pampering reward after they worked their dogs on a hiking trip. If the renovated rooms aren't enough, a visit to the Travertine marble and tornillo wood spa can rejuvinate any weary body.
Poised directly across from the Temple of The Sun, the stone building features traditional Peruvian construction techniques built without using any mortar. Don't worry, the building itself is 35 years old, so it has stood the test of time. Showcasing Spanish colonial architecture, the super European center-court will have you feel like your walking back in time and still getting comfy in a modern designed building.
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If you've made it as far as Cusco, Peru, chances are you want to feel like you're in Cusco, Peru. That's where the Hotel Monasterio comes into play, as it not only calls a well preserved 15th century monastery home (hence the name), but keeps the furnishings and food as locally sources as possible. It's not all so foreign, however; the toiletries are L'Occitane, the staff speaks excellent English and its membership in the Orient-Express Collection ensures a certain level of service.
Yesterday we showed you all around the property and made mention of the fact that it was the first Cusco hotel to introduce the option of oxygen enriching guest rooms to counter the effects of Cusco's high altitude. Luckily we didn't suffer from "soroche," or altitude sickness, and thus didn't need to add the additional service.
First things first. Hotel Monasterio is the most famous hotel in Cusco, Peru. Part of the reason comes from its being of the Orient-Express Collection, but the property really distinguished itself when it became the first to offer oxygen-enriched rooms to combat the effects of altitude sickness, a very real obstacle to enjoying Cusco for travelers who arrive to the city's 11,200' height without acclimating. Airplanes actually have to specially adjust their cabin pressurization after arrival at the city's small airport.
Altitude effects everyone differently and we were lucky to only get super winded while climbing stairs, which isn't much of a problem as the hotel is only two stories and occupies a monastery built in 1595. It's got electricity now, and window glass, and luxury bedding, and other niceties of the last couple centuries (including free WiFi!), but the building has been well preserved and the 16th century aura is still very much alive.
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Fly into Peru's Lima Airport anytime soon and, even before you hit the streets, you'll be face-to-face with a huge ad for the two JW Marriott properties in Peru: the JW Marriott Lima and the JW Marriott Cusco. For now we focus on the JW Marriott Cusco, as it's only just opened and we just missed it by a few days. Still, we managed to snap a few preview shots.
The property sits within a former monastery and numbers 153 rooms and suites, all with supplemental oxygen to combat the effects of Cusco's high altitude. This feature they "borrow" from the Orient-Express Hotel Monasterio just up the street, which originated the unique offering. In fact, the JW and the Monasterio will go head-to-head in competition for guests; who will choose Orient-Express and who will choose Marriott?
While we were staying at the Casa Cartagena in Cusco last month, we popped over to the nearby Plazoleta Nazarenas to scope out Fallen Angel, a restaurant-lounge-guest house frequented by the city’s glitterati.
There, we fell under the spell of fancy finger foods and odd furnishings like a 10-foot sparkly angel sculpture, tables that are made from bathtubs converted into fish tanks with glass tabletops on them, and bathrooms that are categorized by “Angel” and “Devil” rather than by sex so that patrons can self-segregate depending on their mood that evening.
But the restaurant bathrooms have nothing on one of the restrooms we spotted upstairs in one of the four new, equally quirky guest rooms.
When we told friends that we were going to Cusco last week, every single one of them, without exception, asked us if we were staying at the city’s most famous and historic property, Orient-Express Hotel Monasterio. We weren’t.
Instead, we got a sneak peek at the city’s newest boutique luxury property, the 16-suite Casa Cartagena, which, as it turns out, is right next door to the Monasterio, but feels a world away.
Yes, we subscribe to the standard world traveler's dream of wanting to visit Machu Picchu one day. But we will be sure to spend some time in the gateway town of Cusco on our way there because the La Casona Inkaterra Cusco looks like a damn nice place to stay.
Opening almost a year ago, it claims to be the first boutique hotel to hit Cusco and has just eleven suites arranged around a central courtyard. But although it's a historical building that some think was the first Spanish-built structure in Cusco, it's got all the modern touches too with heated floors and iPods. We see no shame in mixing nifty old stuff with the comforts of technology so we're all for this trend.
For a new hotel things are rolling along nicely--we looked at bookings today and the next month is booked solidly. For a patio suite next month you'd pay $600 a night, or $940 a night for the superior plaza suites. The Incas would no doubt be shocked at these prices but for most people a Peruvian vacation is a once-in-a-lifetime (maybe because you can't afford a second time).
If you want to trek to Machu Picchu, but sleep beforehand with a bit of style, take note of the new La Casona Inkaterra, opening this month. It's Cusco's first boutique hotel (with just 11 rooms), a renovation of a colonial manor house. Each suite overlooks either the hotel's courtyard (Patio Suites) or has views over the town of Cusco (Plaza Suites).
The Amazing Race 7 kicked off last night, so we are back to talk about hotels featured in each and every episode. What do we do when a hotel isn't featured in an episode? We guess where we think the cast and crew might be staying. No hotels were featured during last nights premiere, so let the guess work begin!
When you are starting a long, grueling, intensely competitive round the world journey you need to stay in style your first night away from home. With that philosophy in mind, if we were in charge of Amazing Race accommodations for CBS we would hook up our crew at the Hotel Monasterio Cusco high in the mountains of Peru. Hotel Monasterio is a spiritual five star hotel in a great locale.
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