Km. 75.8, Carretera Urubamba–Ollantaytambo, Valle Sagrado, Peru
Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado is an elegant riverside oasis located in Peru's historic Valle Sagrado, or Sacred Valley. The property's smart design allows guests to drink in views of the rushing river from every vantage point, whether sipping café con leche at the breakfast table, floating in the infinity pool, bottle–feeding a baby llama in the garden, or relaxing on a private flagstone terrace.
Don't be surprised if your taxi driver blows right past the entrance of the Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado — it's easy to miss the turn–off when traveling along the busy road between Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, two important cultural sites in Peru's Sacred Valley of the Incas. Though you're in the center of a fascinating region famous for its spectacular pre–Colombian ruins and lush landscape, the highway is dusty and ordinary, lined with gas stations and bus stop shelters — perhaps not the setting you'd imagine for a luxury hotel.
You'll forget about that, though, when you pass through the front gates of Rio Sagrado. Part of the newly named Belmond portfolio — a small, carefully curated collection of luxury hotels, trains, river cruises, and safaris owned by Orient–Express Hotels — The natural majesty of the Sacred Valley is on fine display from the first moment you set foot inside the beautifully landscaped property, situated on a terraced hill that rolls gently down to the banks of the Urubamba river. There's no central building, but a series of freestanding villas — all looking out toward the water, connected by footpaths lined with fragrant tropical flowers.
This riverside refuge is one of only 45 luxury hotels and travel experiences operated by Orient–Express Hotels (Orient–Express renamed this collection "Belmond" in February 2014). This is one of five such properties in Peru. Though not far from its sister properties in Cusco or Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley location is considered a convenient midway point between the two or better, the place to start. Many international travelers suffer from altitude sickness when flying into the area: experts recommend spending plenty of time acclimatizing in Cusco, or starting first in the lower–altitude ruins of Machu Picchu or in the Sacred Valley.
The hotel is, indeed, an incredibly restful place to break your journey or recover from the long set of flights to Cusco. On one end of the property, perched high among the trees, is Spa Mayu Wilka, a quiet wood and stone spa with huge picture windows facing the mountains. On the other end is a perfectly temperature–controlled swimming pool, and beyond, a grassy yard that slopes down to the river's edge.
Here, beneath the trees, is the most charming spot to wander, to read a book, to take a siesta atop a well–placed chaise lounge, or to sit down at a glass–topped table and wait for a staff member to take your order for tea or pisco sours. A handful of baby alpacas graze nearby. They're the hotel's well–loved pets: show up in the late afternoon if you'd like to help the staff with bottle–feeding.
With so much inviting outdoor space, who wants to hang out inside a hotel room? You will, once you lay eyes on one. These aren't your standard guest quarters, but cleverly laid–out spaces fusing indoors and outdoors. Even the most standard rooms, known here as Deluxe Terrace Rooms, feature spacious private terraces with lovely river views and king–sized beds topped with Peruvian cotton linens.
And then there are the bathrooms. The hotel calls them "Swiss-style," but we've never seen anything like these, even in Switzerland. There's an oversized rainshower head and heated wooden floors, sure, but the shower box itself, encased in pristine glass and creeping tropical foliage, feels open to the sky and the valley, even though it's completely enclosed. Trust us — with a heavenly shower like this one, you'll be tempted to bathe multiple times a day. And why not?
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in the contemporary El Huerto restaurant, adjacent to the pool area. The nouveau Peruvian cuisine is gourmet and well–prepared with ingredients from the chef's nearby garden, even if the space isn't overly remarkable. At night, the cozy wood and stone El Bar del Huerto is your best best for atmosphere. The breakfast buffet contains thoughtful details, like dried fruits and nuts, that go beyond standard early–morning offerings to meet the needs of guests who've planned day hikes, rafting excursions, or horseback rides in the Sacred Valley. At lunchtime, the grounds are quiet, with most visitors out exploring; it's a particularly tranquil moment to take an al fresco table and feast on a lunch of trout ceviche and freshly baked bread.
Tranquility is the name of the game here, after all. There are no televisions around, though the staff will happily lend you a fully loaded iPod to plug into your in–room dock. Otherwise, the only sounds you'll hear are birdsong, and the rhythm of flowing water. Careful you don't miss your dinner reservation; once you recline on your terrace's plush chaise, recovering from jet lag or a hike to Machu Picchu (or both) you'll likely drift off into dreamland.
Web Address: Belmond Rio Sagrado
Total Number of Rooms: 23
Published rates: $375-825 BB
Review and photos by Bridget Gleeson.