The five-star Hotel Libertador Palacio del Inka (Plazoleta Santo Domingo 259, tel. 084/23-1961, www.libertador.com.pe, US$305 d standard, US$325 d junior suite, US$385 suite) 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—the owners are avid collectors. 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.
One of the more memorable places to stay in Cusco is Hotel Monasterio (Palacio 136, Plazoleta Nazarenas, tel. 084/60-4000, www.monasterio.orient-express.com, US$634 basic d or US$806–2,232 suites), a 415-year-old monastery that has been converted into a most 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 fabulous 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 undoubtedly the best hotel in Cusco, Inkaterra La Casona (Plaza de las Nazarenas 113, tel. 084/23-4010, www.inkaterra.com, US$720 patio suite, US$924 balcony suite, US$1,128 plaza suite), the latest masterpiece of the Inkaterra group. This beautiful colonial mansion was first built in 1585 and following the Spanish conquest was possessed by Francisco Barrientos, lieutenant to Diego de Almagro. It has now been officially named a historical monument by the National Institute of Culture. La Casona has been exquisitely restored into 11 luxurious suites, retaining its original heritage right down to the minutest detail. The doors to La Casona are closed off to the outside world, ensuring the utmost privacy and creating a serene and relaxing oasis for guests.
The philosophy of the hotel is to provide a personalized service; therefore there is no reception, just a butler and concierge who prioritize individuals’ needs and tend to their every whim. Rooms are impeccably 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 mini bar. The bathrooms are superbly designed with the most contemporary amenities, including free-standing bathtubs, marble showers with two types of showerheads, lush towels, and handmade toiletries. Special touches such as bowls of fresh fruit, housekeeping service three times a day, and a private spa and massage room make a stay at La Casona truly exceptional. As if this were not enough La Casona prides itself on being one of Peru’s first carbon-neutral hotels.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition