KM 110 Railroad Line, Aguas Calientes, Peru
Not actually next to the Machu Picchu site, but occupying a riverside jungle down at the bottom of the mountain, this fine eco–focused hotel is in many ways superior to the Sanctuary Lodge. It stresses its nature programs, birdwatching, and hikes, but Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel also has some of the finest rooms in the country.
This rambling hacienda–style resort in Aguas Calientes comes off like a step into another dimension. Hidden away next to a mish–mash concrete town that is a model for unregulated building, this Eden comes as a pleasant shock. Guests look around in awe as hummingbirds and butterflies flit around and both streams and the river block out any noise from the town. Avocado, coffee, guava, and orchid plants infuse the air throughout the grounds and the buildings are pretty stucco affairs with terra cotta tile roofs.
Overlooking the roaring Urubamba River and the razorback peaks of the Andes, most guests arrive at this lovely village–like compound by train, where bellhops meet incoming guests with reservations to haul their bags up the hill. Within the property, stone pathways thread down to the main building with its wood–beamed reception area and polished staffers. Lamps with wicker shades dot sitting areas appointed with comfy armchairs and sofas of wood and lashed rope. The neat lounge has plaster walls, brick and tile floors, a huge open fireplace, and a smattering of antiques, religious images and Chankay artifacts. Tea made from leaves grown on the premises is always at the ready. The adjoining bar displays similar furniture and hand–painted bowls inset into its walls.
The main restaurant on the grounds has whitewater views and excellent food, served buffet–style at breakfast and a la carte at lunch and dinner. Outside guests are allowed at the second riverside restaurant perched over the train tracks, which serves average buffet fare at lunch.
The small but well–placed terrace is a prime people–watching spot when the trains puff in or for having a cocktail by sunset, while an eco–reading room has a deep selection of nature books. A lukewarm spring feeds the large bi–level, shady stone pool, so it can be used all year. A beehive–shaped Andean sauna can be set up with two hours notice and massage service for weary legs takes place in a calming and spacious environment that uses only natural products. The hiking trails here are a bird watcher's and butterfly lover's paradise, meandering past streams, blooming flowers and botanical gardens. There are even petroglyphs hidden off one of the paths. The friendly bi–lingual staff conducts a variety of guided nature walks on a set schedule. At last count, 372 species of orchids–some discovered here–had been logged and 172 bird species had been spotted. One steep kilometer away are the town's natural hot springs, open to the public. The small gift shop sells well–made trinkets and plenty more are on offer in neighboring Aguas Caliente town (as are plenty more restaurants).
Accommodations are in well–spaced dwellings with adobe walls and terra–cotta–tile roofs. The well–;designed guest rooms vary in size, but most are spacious (at least 322 square feet), with skylighted ceilings that provide much–needed light through the lush vegetation. Locally inspired fabrics, tile floors with area rugs, dark period furniture, and ornate wrought–iron queen or twin beds with tartan spreads and alpaca blankets are common to all rooms. All have large timber beams overhead and cozy wood fireplaces that are welcome on cool nights. All have room for ample furniture, including desks, armchairs, and sofas or dinette sets. Each guest gets a generous array of welcome gifts. Baths are generally rustic tile with a touch of granite, with dressing areas, stall showers, hair dryers, and spa–quality natural toiletries.
Some rooms have large glassed–in sitting areas and a few feature balconies, The suites here are a delight: two–story affairs that feel like a little cabin, with sitting rooms upstairs and bedrooms below, plus a stereo in all and an outdoor shower in some. For those with a large family, splashing out for one of the villas may make sense. These 3,500–square–feet complexes comprise two or three adjoining guest suites. The largest one––the Inkaterra Suite––also has a dining area.
Villas have their own gardens and a private butler, plus these are the only units that are offered room service for private dining. Rooms 21 to 29 and 91 to 94 are steep walks from the main building if mobility is an issue, while 60 to 64 are the regular rooms with the best river views. Only some of the rooms have Internet access, so request one of those if needing to do any business. Otherwise, log–ons are complimentary in the business center.
This is a one–of–a–kind hotel that continually shows up in travel magazine "best of" lists, delighting almost everyone who enters this hidden retreat. Prices for the suites are high for Peru, but compared to the rates of the nearby Sanctuary Lodge up the mountain, they look like a bargain.
Web Address: www.inkaterra.com/machu–picchu–pueblo–hotel/
Total Number of Rooms: 85
Published rates: $416 to $1,620 full board, villas $1,650 to $3,100 two nights full board
Review, video, and photos by Timothy Scott.