For some of us, our memories of Cusco involve weary backpackers clad in rainproof gear and hiking shoes passing through town for a couple of days on the way to Machu Picchu. The word 'luxury' certainly doesn't come to mind; but the proliferation of luxury hotels cropping up in Cusco over the past few years suggests that just might be changing. The Orient Express Palacio Nazarenas opened last year (joining another Orient Express property, Hotel Monasterio), as did the Luxury Collection's Libertador Palacio del Inka.
Last September, the 153-room JW Marriott Cusco opened and, at an altitude of 1,154 feet above sea level, it is the highest property in the world for the brand -- guests are offered supplemental oxygen to help avoid altitude sickness (although it costs extra).
The hotel was actually built on the grounds of a colonial monastery, and features a large courtyard, original pre-Inca walls, and a 900-square-foot exhibition area with ruins and artifacts, including ancient Killke structures and the remains of a ceremonial burial, that were found during the excavation process.
During the construction more than 3,000 artifacts were discovered; a preservation project was developed, and workers used GPS technology to be sure to return every column and stone to its original place. Some of the guest rooms have terraces that look across the cloisters of the 16th century San Agustin Convent, where the Killke remains were discovered. If you want to learn more about the building's history and renovation, you can join one of the free tours that leave every evening from the front desk at 6 p.m.
You can also sample modern Peruvian cuisine (that extends beyond ceviche and guinea pig) at the hotel's Pirqa Restaurant, and enjoy what we would expect to be a flawless pisco sour at the Qespi Bar.
Other hotel features include an on-site spa where the hotel intriguingly promises that you can "experience the rejuvenating benefits of ancient Inca techniques."
This is a five-star property so, if you are heading down to the "navel of the world", make sure you pack something a little smarter-looking than your hiking gear.
[Photo: JW Marriott Cusco]