On a recent trip to Peru, Karen one of our Latin America Consultants, was lucky enough to be hosted by Belmond, who own some of the most beautiful properties in the country, and operate some of the most fascinating routes in Latin America.
The wonderful thing about Belmond is that although it has properties in many of Peru’s principal tourist destinations (it has more properties here than in any other country in Latin America) each is unique and each has its own individual character – there’s never a feeling of staying at a chain hotel!
We started our trip in Lima at the Miraflores Park Hotel, located in the exclusive Miraflores district overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The hotel has a classic elegant style, a great rooftop pool and the Tragaluz Restaurant, serving beautifully prepared cuisine, featuring many Peruvian specialties. It is also ideally located for exploring the nearby neighbourhood of Barranco, which has become the city’s trendiest quarter, home to many art galleries, including the Mario Testino museum, boutiques, cafes and buzzing bars.
Lima is often overlooked by visitors to Peru but it has much to offer – the historic centre of the city, with its impressive cathedral and many fine examples of colonial architecture, some excellent museums including the Larco Museum, where you can enjoy the late night opening with dinner, and some amazing restaurants, including many that feature on the world’s top lists – the most popular such as Central and Astrid y Gaston often getting booked up months in advance.
From Lima we flew down to Cuzco and headed straight to the Sacred Valley – the best place to acclimatise to the altitude as it is lower than Cuzco – for a stay at another of Belmond’s gems, the Rio Sagrado. Set in lovely gardens with alpacas and llamas roaming around, and an outdoor pool and small spa, this is the perfect place to relax when not out exploring the sites. There is so much to see and do in the Sacred Valley, including visits to the colourful markets of Pisac and Chincheros, the Inca ruins of Ollantaytambo and the lesser known – and lesser visited – but equally impressive sites of Maras, home to a honeycomb of salt plans, and Moray. For those looking for adventure there is also white water rafting, horse riding, hiking and stand up paddle boarding on offer.
The next stop on our journey was the iconic site Machu Picchu, still the highlight of most people’s trips to Peru, which we reached on the glass roofed Vistadome train taking us through gorgeous Andean scenery, passing snow-capped peaks and the rushing Urubamba river. What can you say about Machu Picchu? It is undoubtedly one of South America’s, and indeed the world’s, most famous sites and admittedly it does attract thousands of visitors each year but people often ask us if it still worth visiting? Personally, I would say a resounding yes. It’s one of those places that I had always wanted to visit when I was young, having seen the photo spreads on the National Geographic Magazine, and I’m lucky enough to have been four times, but I have to say I still find it one of the most breathtaking sites I have ever seen. The setting is incredible, perched high on a mountain ridge surrounded by towering forested peaks, with the Urubamba valley rushing below. How it was constructed in this incredibly remote location and why it was abandoned are still unanswered questions. Although many theories abound much remains a mystery, which adds to the allure of the site.
For those with time who really wish to get the most out of their time here, where better to stay than the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel located by the ruins. Accommodation at the hotel is somewhat simpler than at the other Belmond properties, mainly due to the strict controls, but its incredibly unique location helps to make up for this and they have worked hard to create little touches – there is a natural Jacuzzi pool in the grounds which you can reserve for a private breakfast and massages are offered in a secluded open air spot overlooking the mountains. Plus the afternoon tea is a real feast!
For anyone looking to add that extra touch of luxury to their trip I would recommend returning to Cuzco on the famous Hiram Bingham train. Step on board and you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time. The carriages are decorated in the style of the 1920s Pullman carriages, with brass and wood furnishings. Enjoy drinks with live music in the bar car and then settle down to a delicious three course dinner in the sumptuous dining car.
What better way to end your trip than with a stay at Cuzco’s Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, the newest addition to the Peruvian portfolio set in a converted monastery, set around no less than seven cloistered terraces and the city’s only outdoor pool. The suites are divine and even feature their own bar where your butler will come and teach you how to make a pisco sour! We enjoyed an amazing gourmet dinner at the hotel’s Senzo restaurant and for anyone wishing to try their hand at Peruvian cooking the hotel offers culinary workshops.
Much as it would be tempting not to ever leave such wonderful surroundings you cannot miss the chance to discover the wonders of Cuzco. It is a fantastic place to simply wander at your own pace, ambling through the cobbled streets soaking up the atmosphere, browsing through the handicraft shops, admiring the beautiful colonial architecture, spotting Inca remains and visiting the local market that is always full of life.
Peru, the land of amazing food, fascinating Inca ruins, breathtaking scenery and colourful, vibrant markets –and wonderful hotels from which to enjoy it all. I’ll be back!