Urubamba, Sacred Valley, Peru
There are certain hotels that have you plotting a return from the moment you arrive. Places that make you feel so welcome and so at ease that you want everyone you love to stay there. Remote retreats where the senses are engaged in unfamiliar ways and everywhere you look there is beauty. Sol y Luna Lodge & Spa epitomizes this vision of hospitality and style.
Situated in Peru's scenic Sacred Valley of the Incas surrounded by majestic Andean mountains, Sol y Luna Lodge & Spa is a tranquil retreat in a region rich in history, tradition and culture.
It could be easy to miss this artisanal charmer tucked among the humble homes and narrow streets of Urubamba, an hour's drive from Cusco and en route to the Inca citadel at Machu Picchu. But word of the stylish escape hidden behind understated adobe walls continues to spread quietly among luxury travelers.
A unique spirit of creativity and genuine hospitality reigns at Sol y Luna, and it's apparent from the moment you're escorted to one of the property's 43 stand-alone guest casitas ('little houses' in Spanish) via winding stone pathways edged in flowering gardens.
Private verandas face terraced mountainsides with garden views and lounge chairs that beckon upon arrival. And extravagance registers in deceptively simple touches: colorful Peruvian folk art, indigenous woods, hand-painted frescoed murals, and a hot water bottle in the bed at night.
All casita categories, including two-story family suites, feature fine linens, heated flooring, luxury toiletries, and complimentary Wi-Fi. Deluxe and premium casitas offer significant upgrades in space and technology (standard rooms are television-free) including high-definition TVs, pre-loaded iPods and sound systems, en suite soaking tubs and private veranda plunge pools.
Should you leave your casita—and frankly, this can be hard—the resort's exclusive Yacu Wasi spa plies guests with rejuvenating massage, facial and hydrotherapy treatments: an ideal way to recharge and restore after days of Inca Trail blazing.
Or you could set off on horseback riding one of the hotel's famous Peruvian Paso horses, unique for their gentle gait and sturdy elegance. Or you can arrange to paraglide over majestic Andean landscapes of snow capped peaks and ancient Inca ruins.
For some, it may be enough to attend an equestrian demonstration at the resort's Wayra ranch, enroll in a weaving or pottery workshop, attend a cooking class and learn to recreate Peru's celebrated cuisine, or learn how to make (or simply imbibe) a perfect Pisco Sour at the Chicha Wasi bar.
In the evenings, it can be difficult for foodies to choose where to dine. The Killa Wasi restaurant offers fine dining with a world-class menu for each season created by executive chef, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, one of the world's most recognized Peruvian chefs.
Or, perhaps, you'll opt for a more casual dinner at Wayra, chatting with the gregarious chef Nacho, as he prepares your meal, incorporating local produce (much of which is grown organically in the hotel's own orchard and gardens) and meats infused with the tastes and traditions of the region.
Prime real estate for enjoying a sunset cocktail or wine by the fire before or after your meal is the lovely Wayra lounge: a sensory oasis of color and form showcasing the resort's trademark original artwork and custom crafted décor.
On select nights a local theatre company stages an elaborate "Andean Gods" outdoor production on the Wayra grounds, dramatically showcasing the legends, traditions and legacy of the indigenous Quechua culture.
Beyond the service and entertainment, however, lies the passion project of Sol y Luna's European owners, Marie-Helene (Petit) Miribel and Franz Schilter - the Colegio Sol y Luna.
Set adjacent to the hotel property, the intercultural school provides education, art and sports for the youth of the Sacred Valley and a way for Petit and Franz to give back to the surrounding community.
Guests are welcome to arrange a visit, should they wish to, and see first-hand how their stay is helping the Sol y Luna Asociación have an enduring impact on the lives of local children, their families and future generations. If you're lucky, Petit will be available for the tour. Her passion, vision and affection for the teachers and students—which includes her son—is contagious.
Be sure also to leave time (and suitcase space) for a visit to the Sol y Luna boutique, a carefully curated collection of Petit's favorites. From the handsome broad-brimmed hats worn by Wayra's Paso horsemen to elegant handwoven alpaca clothing and the unique work of the Peruvian artists featured throughout the resort, the shop features original items that you won't find elsewhere.
It is this unique sense of style, extraordinary ability to create a meaningful and memorable experience, and visionary good karma that makes Sol y Luna Lodge & Spa one of those special places that will leave you longing to return and recommending to friends for years to come.
Total Number of bungalows: 43
Published rates: $170 to $825
Review and photos by Ellen Barone. Photos courtesy of Ellen Barone and Sol y Luna Lodge & Spa.
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