Cusco is awash with tourist accommodations, and there is huge variation, from bare-bones dorms to some of the best hotels in Peru. There is a sufficient range of hotels and hostels in the tourist center, so there is no need to stay outside this zone. Your biggest decision is between staying close to Plaza de Armas, which is busy and noisier, or heading up the hills north, south, or west of the main plazas to seek out quieter lodgings, many of which have great views. The most pleasant of these is the bohemian neighborhood of San Blas, which has a relaxing, artsy vibe. Its narrow streets keep out the traffic and smog of central Cusco.
If you arrive and don’t like your room, you can usually wriggle out of your reservation after your first night and head elsewhere—there are lots of good options, especially among the newer, lesser-known hostels.Traffic has made parts of Cusco unpleasant. These areas include the extension of Plateros and Avenida El Sol, where even the back rooms of hotels hum with the noise of taxis and amplified advertisements. Outside of San Blas, Cusco’s nicest lodging is along out-of-the-way streets like Suecia, Choquechaca, or Siete Cuartones/Nueva Alta, where classy bed-and-breakfasts line charming cobblestone streets. Try to make a reservation ahead of time in Cusco, and ask for the kind of room you want (e.g., with a view or with a double bed). Quality is variable, so try to check the room before paying. Despite a steady increase in Cusco hotels, the best ones are increasingly booked solid May-November. If you arrive and don’t like your room, you can usually wriggle out of your reservation after your first night and head elsewhere—there are lots of good options, especially among the newer, lesser-known hostels.
Central Cusco Accommodations Under US$10
For budget accommodations, backpacker hostels are a good option, and there are now quite a few in Cusco. Bear in mind that these places tend to be noisier with regular parties, which may or may not suit you. The most popular are The Point (Meson de la Estrella 172, tel. 084/25-2266, US$8-13 dorms) and LOKI Inkahouse (Cuesta Santa Ana 601, tel. 084/24-3705, US$9-13 dorm, US$33 d private bath). Both have locations in Lima and Máncora, dorm rooms (and a few private rooms) that open onto TV rooms, Internet stations, shared kitchens, and bars. They have a reputation for their parties, and you are bound to meet other travelers.
Youth Hostal Albergue Municipal (Quiscapata 240, San Cristóbal, tel. 084/25-2506, firstname.lastname@example.org, US$6 dorm, US$8 d), part of Hostelling International, has great views from the balcony, clean bunk rooms, and a shared kitchen. A discount is given to youth hostel members.
Central Cusco Accommodations for US$10-50
The name of Hostal Resbalosa (Resbalosa 494, tel. 084/22-4839, US$16 d shared bath, US$22 d private bath) translates as “slippery hostel,” which might not seem immediately inviting. But it is appropriate for the steep walk up here. The hostel itself is one of the best budget options in town. Service is friendly, rooms are well-equipped with orthopedic mattresses, hot water, and cable TV, but the highlight is the sweeping view over Cusco from the terrace. The rooms at the top are better.
Pirwa Backpackers (Portal de Panes 151, tel. 084/24-4315, US$12 dorm, US$35 d) has four central locations: the Plaza de Armas, Suecia, San Blas, and San Francisco. They all have a variety of dorms and private rooms, most with shared kitchen, common rooms, and a travel desk. A great backpacker option is Ecopackers (Santa Teresa 375, tel. 084/231-800, US$10-14 dorms, US$35-45 d), set in a beautiful former colonial home. It offers a courtyard with games, a travel agency, WiFi, and a decent, well-priced restaurant. Dorms and showers are well-equipped. The private rooms are overpriced, but for backpacker groups, the dorms are a very good deal.
For a location one block from the Plaza de Armas, look no further than Hostal Rojas (Tigre 129, tel. 084/22-8184, US$14 d shared bath, US$24 d with private bath), with clean, carpeted rooms around a sunny courtyard inhabited by an entertaining parrot.
Mama Simona (Ceniza 364, tel. 084/260-408, US$10-15 pp) has a selection of dorms and private rooms, plus a colorful sitting room. Another good hostel is El Cuy Hostal (US$12 pp), which has private rooms with cable TV, private baths, and WiFi, although the showers tend to be warm rather than hot. Che Lagarto (US$12 dorms, US$45 d) is another hostel. The dorms are good value but private rooms are overpriced.
The charming Sihuar (Tandapata 351, tel. 084/22-7435, US$25 d) is a two-level building that looks out over a patio and garden. The good-value rooms are pleasant and tastefully decorated, with wooden floors, woven rugs, and hot water.
Central Cusco Accommodations for US$25-50
A very good value hotel is Conde Meloc (Meloq 420, tel. 084/221-117, US$22 s, US$33 d), which has elegant rooms and a cozy atmosphere.
Niños Hotel (Meloq 442, tel. 084/23-1424, US$50 s or d) is a remarkable place with a cause. Its Dutch owner uses hotel revenue to feed, clothe, and provide medical assistance to street children. Just four blocks from the Plaza de Armas, this restored colonial home is a very attractive setting. With large, stylish rooms, hardwood floors, and a pleasant courtyard for taking breakfast, it’s easy to make yourself at home. There is a second location at Fierro 476 (tel. 084/254-611) and a Niños Hotel Hacienda in Huasao.
In this range, the option with the best location is Cusco Royal Suite (Suecia, tel. 084/231-080, US$30 s, US$40 d), which has comfortable rooms just up from the plaza. The hostel is run by a friendly family.
Central Cusco Accommodations for US$50-100
A lovely place in Tandapata is Casona les Pleiades (Tandapata 116, tel. 084/50-6430, US$65 d). Whether it be Melanie or Philip who opens the door for you, the welcome is bound to be warm and friendly. This young French couple has made their seven-room home into a guesthouse, and their aim is to make you feel right at home. There are down comforters on the beds and eggs made to order for breakfast.
The good-value European/Peruvian hotel Madre Tierra (Atocsaycuchi 647-A, tel. 084/24-8452, US$49 s, US$58 d) has seven comfortable carpeted rooms. Cozy and inviting communal areas have white sofas, exposed beams, and open fireplaces.
Hostal El Balcon (Tambo de Montero 222, tel. 084/23-6738, US$45-60 s, US$55-75 d) is a restored colonial house with rustic charm and a pretty, flower-filled garden. This 16-room hostel is quaint and homely, and rooms are decorated simply with weavings on the beds.
The unpretentious Hostal Corihuasi (Suecia 561, tel. 084/23-2233, US$38-44 s, US$50-55 d) is a quick, steep walk up from the Plaza de Armas and has old-world charm that befits Cusco. The rooms of this rambling, eclectic colonial house are connected by verandas and walkways. Some of the rooms are nicer with views over the city; others are dark, with porthole windows, so make sure you check your room before paying.
MamaSara Hotel (Saphy 875, tel. 084/24-5409, US$65 s, US$90 d), a short walk from the plaza up Saphy, is very pleasant and comfortable. The rooms are heated and spacious, and they come with flat-screen TVs, good showers, and oxygen on request. Another good option right off the plaza is Del Prado Inn (Suecia 310, 084/224-442, US$65 s, US$95 d), with stylish warm rooms and an ideal location.
An impressive, original Inca doorway, once the entrance to a sacred place, is now the way into the hotel Rumi Punku (Choquechaca 339, tel. 084/22-1102, US$80 s, US$100 d). Light-filled terraces, a garden with an original Inca wall, and a gym and spa make this a pleasant place to stay.
Another midrange hotel with an excellent location is Cusco Plaza (Plazoleta Nazarenas 181, tel. 084/246-161, US$55 s, US$65 d). The rooms are relatively simple, but the views are great and it’s perfect to be on the quiet square.
Central Cusco Accommodations for US$100-150
The well-known national hotel chain Casa Andina has four of its Classic Collection hotels at ideal locations in the center of Cusco. Two are within one block of the Plaza de Armas (Santa Catalina Angosta 149, tel. 084/23-3661, and Portal Espinar 142, tel. 084/23-1733), one is near Coricancha (San Agustín 371, tel. 084/25-2633), and the fourth in San Blas (Chihuampata 278, tel. 084/26-3694). These well-designed, comfortable hotels provide excellent service, and all have the same prices (US$140 s/d). The aim of the hotels is to reflect the local character of a place and give a genuine experience using local ideology and local products where possible, without sacrificing comfort and convenience. All rooms have down comforters, heating, and cable TV, and a generous breakfast buffet is included. A good option in this range is Tierra Viva (Saphi 766, tel. 084/241-414, and Suecia 345, tel. 084/245-848, US$129 s, US$141 d), which has two hotels near the center with impeccable rooms and a buffet breakfast.
The Hotel Arqueologo (Pumacurco 408, tel. 084/23-2569, US$120 d standard, US$140 d superior) occupies an old colonial building. Rooms with high ceilings wrap around a rustic stone courtyard or overlook a grassy garden. The hotel tries to maintain an eco-friendly philosophy by having its own bio-veggie garden, recycling rubbish, providing a fountain with drinking water to refill bottles, and only providing TVs in rooms upon request. The first-floor café, Song Thé, has comfortable sofas, a fireplace, and French pastries.
Central Cusco Accommodations for US$150-250
The Novotel (San Agustín 239, tel. 084/58-1030, US$240 d modern room, US$320 d colonial room) is in a restored colonial manor that has a patio lined with stone arches, lamps, and wicker furniture for evening drinks. Undoubtedly the best rooms are those on the second floor around the stone courtyard, with wood floors, high ceilings, king-size beds, sitting areas, and all creature comforts (security box, minibar, cable TV, heating). The other 82 rooms are comfortable but bland, small, and sterile in an unfortunate five-story modern addition.
Equal in elegance and similar in layout, but cheaper and better value is Picoaga Hotel (Santa Teresa 344, tel. 084/22-7691, US$160 d modern room, US$180 d colonial, US$200 junior suite), which is ideally located one block from Plaza Regocijo and a two-minute walk from the Plaza de Armas. This 17th-century colonial mansion, which once belonged to the Spanish noble Marquis de Picoaga, has been well restored with stone archways and columns wrapping around a classic colonial patio. The colonial rooms are worth the extra US$20, as they are more comfortable and attractive than the rooms in the characterless modern part.
Central Cusco Accommodations for Over US$250
The five-star Hotel Libertador Palacio del Inka (Plazoleta Santo Domingo 259, tel. 084/23-1961, US$305 d) has a great location next to Coricancha, the Inca sun temple. It occupies the Casa de los Cuatro Bustos, Francisco Pizarro’s last home. It is built on the foundation of the acllahuasi, “the house of the chosen ones,” where virgins picked by the Inca lived in seclusion from society. The entrance to the Hotel Libertador is spectacular. A stone portal leads into a glass-roofed lobby, lined on one side by Spanish stone arches and on the other by exposed portions of stone Inca walls. There is an excellent buffet breakfast served alongside another large square, ringed with two stories of stone arcades. Throughout the hotel are examples of original colonial furniture, artifacts, and paintings. Ask for rooms in the colonial section, with views of the sun temple. The suites are larger with sitting areas and marble bathrooms, and are probably worth paying the extra for.
Casa Andina Private Collection (Plazoleta Limacpampa Chico 473, tel. 084/232-610, US$320 s/d) is the best of Casa Andina’s hotels in town. This beautifully renovated 18th-century manor house is just three blocks from Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, and it offers the intimacy of a boutique hotel but the comforts and services of a much larger property. The hotel has three interior patios with wooden balconies and a stone fountain. In the hotel’s cozy lounge and reading room is a massive stone fireplace that’s always crackling, while the gourmet restaurant offers candlelit dinners in one of four connected salons richly decorated with 18th-century Cusco School paintings. Several rooms in the original structure of the hotel feature surviving colonial frescoes unearthed during renovation.
One of the more memorable places to stay in Cusco is Hotel Monasterio (Palacio 136, Plazoleta Nazarenas, tel. 084/60-4000, US$634 basic d or US$806-2,232 suites), a 415-year-old monastery that has been converted into an elegant five-star hotel. The stone lobby leads to a dramatic stone courtyard, graced with an ancient cedar tree and lined with two stories of stone archways. Colonial paintings line long hallways, which wrap around two other stone patios. The rooms are decked out in old-world Spanish decor, including carved wooden headboards and colonial paintings, and include all the plush five-star comforts. They can even be pumped with oxygen, simulating an altitude 900 meters lower that allows guests to sleep more soundly.
The hotel occupies the former Seminario San Antonio Abad, which was built in 1595 on top of the Inca Amaru Qhala Palace but was badly damaged in the 1650 earthquake. During the restoration, a colonial baroque chapel was added, which remains open to guests and has one of the most ornate altars in Cusco. After yet another damaging earthquake in 1950, the building was condemned and auctioned by the Peruvian government in 1995. It eventually landed in the hands of Orient-Express Hotels, which carefully restored the stonework, planted fabulous gardens, and converted the former cells into 126 plush rooms. These days, guests take lunch in the main square, which is shaded by a giant cedar, scented by a rose garden, and filled with the gurgling of a 17th-century stone fountain. The hotel hosts one of Cusco’s three gourmet restaurants, and also includes a small massage room. It’s a few minutes’ walk from the Plaza de Armas.
Diagonally opposite the Monasterio on Plaza de las Nazarenas is Inkaterra La Casona (Plaza de las Nazarenas 113, tel. 084/23-4010, US$720 patio suite, US$924 balcony suite, US$1,128 plaza suite). Literally named “the big house,” it offers a homely but luxurious atmosphere. This beautiful colonial mansion was first built in 1585. Following the Spanish conquest it was possessed by Francisco Barrientos, lieutenant to Diego de Almagro. It has now been officially named a historical monument by the Instituto Nacional de Cultura, and has been exquisitely restored into 11 luxurious suites with original caoba doors. The doors to La Casona are closed to the outside world, ensuring the utmost privacy. The philosophy of the hotel is to provide a personalized service; you’ll struggle to find the front door, and there is no reception, just a butler and concierge who prioritize individuals’ needs. Rooms are decorated with faded frescoes, colonial tapestries, Persian rugs, and antiques, ensuring the original feel of the home without sacrificing modern comfort and luxury. Every suite has thermostat-controlled heated floors, flat-screen TV, DVD player, iPod speakers, WiFi, and minibar. There is also a private spa and massage room. La Casona also prides itself on being one of Peru’s first carbon-neutral hotels.
Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Machu Picchu.