In Cusco itself, the Hotel Monasterio has long been considered the classic place to stay in the city. Eponymously named, the former monastery has a beautiful courtyard, a sumptuous breakfast buffet, a private chapel, a bar and lounge, and many other luxuries large and small. While the rooms are somewhat small (as befits the monastic heritage), the overall experience continues to impress, years after it became a landmark Cusco property. The location, just a block from the Plaza de Armas, doesn’t hurt either.
Ambling around the city, I sampled some of the top can’t-miss attractions, including the Incan fortress of Sacsaywaman towering over the city, the atmospheric Plaza de Armas, the eclectic San Blas neighborhood, and the Santo Domingo church, built on top of Incan walls in that classic form of Spanish syncretic conquering.
Taking a page out of the “buy and refurbish” book, Orient-Express has just opened, as of June 2012, an incredible new property right next door to the Monasterio—the Palacio Nazarenas. The all-suite hotel was similarly converted from a convent, and exploring the nooks and crannies of its many garden courtyards was a joy. As befits a new property, some of the landscaping will take a little time to come into its own, and the library should benefit from further stocking over time, but the hotel was impressively put together for a new entrant. Though the weather was hardly tropical (at 11,300 feet, it perhaps rarely is), the contemporary heated pool beckoned, the restaurant offered a solid array of Peruvian and international dishes, and the staff was more than helpful. However, likely the signature feature of the hotel was the room itself. The ornate bathroom came with heated marble floors, a full tub with bath salts, a shower with two different heads (along with fancy bathworks from the UK) and Italian soaps and lotions. Likewise, the suite was divided into a sleeping area with four-poster bed and local herbs available for sleep aids (and an inset flat screen TV that went unused), and a sitting area with free access to espresso, minibar and snacks, and even a pisco sour alongside a classy sofa and chair and another flat screen TV. Oh, and to ensure the altitude doesn’t bring on a case of soroche (altitude sickness), oxygen-enriched air is piped in automatically. My assigned “private butler” Giancarlo was more than happy to show me around the room, pointing out all of the above, plus a hundred other little touches. From my perspective, Palacio Nazarenas has set a new standard for lodging in Cusco, and indeed for the whole city.