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JW Marriott El Convento Hotel — Cuzco

Esquina de la Calle Ruinas 432 y San Augustin, Cusco, Peru

The painstaking care taken by the Marriott Corporation in transforming a former convent alongside impressive Incan ruins has resulted in one of the nicest places to stay in the heart of this magnificent colonial city.

JW Marriott Lobby in Cusco

The luxury hotel market in Cusco, gateway to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, is certainly not hurting for luxury lodging choices. Under ordinary circumstances, therefore, the opening in town of an upscale property belonging to an international chain might provoke hardly more an a yawn in response. The JW Marriott in central Cusco is no ordinary chain hotel, however.

The wow factor kicks in immediately upon entering the lobby—formerly the chapel in the 16th century San Augustin Convent that Marriott took years restoring and updating in order to convert it into a truly superb hotel. The areas leading up and adjacent to the reception desk literally glow with the ancient splendor, a representation of the Incan sun temple. The hotel is so proud of its premises that it offers free tours to the public every afternoon.

Cusco JW Marriott

Right away, the friendly, bilingual staff serve the Andes' recommended antidote to altitude sickness, coca tea. The hotel has you covered at 11,200 feet above sea level (higher even than Machu Picchu): supplemental oxygen can be pumped directly into all guest rooms through the ventilation system (the surcharge for this extra is $20/day). This can make a big difference to a first–time visitor unaccustomed to the thin air on the eve of a full schedule of heavy sightseeing and having trouble sleeping.

The guest rooms—including seven suites—are just about as well appointed Cusco JW Marriott courtyardas you'll find for a hotel just three blocks — on level ground — from Cuzco's magnificent main square. All the latest technological amenities are in evidence, from 42-inch LCD cable TVs to iDocks, and, of course, the 5-star basics: robe and slippers, coffeemaker, minibar, electronic safe-deposit box, and bathrooms with separate showers and bathtubs. Signature Marriott bedding, plus anti-noise windows, insure a quiet and comfortable night's sleep. Complimentary bottles of drinking water and daily newspaper are provided, although if you want to connect to the Internet from your room, it will set you back an additional $10 per 24 hours unless you're a member of their rewards club. (Wi-Fi is free in the public areas.)

JW Marriott room in Cuzco

For those who can't get enough of Incan architecture, a number of rooms and suites—including the luxurious Imperial Suite—come with internal original stone walls. Some of the premium rooms have balconies overlooking the expansive courtyard; most of the hotel's rooms feature king–size beds, although there is an ample selection of twin doubles.

Cusco Marriott courtyardBack in the splendid lobby, there is a bar and lounge with an impressive gas fireplace open on two sides, where meals can also be taken. More formal dining (although casual dress is always acceptable) is at the impressive Pirqa Restaurant, serving Peruvian and Andean cuisine, along with the usual international standbys. The talented chef here emphasizes local ingredients wherever possible, especially the varieties of Peruvian quinoa and potatoes, and sources as much of what's served from organic farms. The hotel is also quite good about recommending leading restaurants in town.

Incan touches are also a hallmark of the hotel's spa, both in the design and the treatments, which draw on altiplano herbs and traditions. There is an indoor heated relaxation pool, sauna, steam room and a whirlpool, although no fitness center.

The JW Marriott in Cusco is the second in the chain in Peru, opening after its flashier sister hotel in Lima did. It may not have the snob appeal of some the more veteran opulent Cusco properties, but its combination of ancient decor and modern comfort make it a contender when visiting Inca country, especially if you're looking to earn or cash in Marriott Bonvoy points.

Web Address:
Total Number of Rooms: 153
Published rates: $265 — $875 including buffet breakfast

Review by Buzzy Gordon, updates and several photos by Timothy Scott.

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