Machu Picchu, Peru
Located steps from the entrance gate to the Machu Picchu ruins, next to the bus stop and the snack stand, this otherwise exclusive property can only be reached on foot via the Inca Trail or by a winding bus ride up from the train station at Machu Picchu town — also known as Aguas Calientes. Despite its understated appearance and rooms that are downright cramped at the lowest category, this small lodge is aimed at the &If you have to ask…& crowd, many of whom travel seamlessly from Cusco on the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train.
The Belmond Sanctuary Lodge does not face the actual ruins (or get in the way of the views there), but the public areas and some guest rooms face the Huayna Pichu mountain, the famous background peak for every postcard shot of the more famous citadel. You enter into a simple check–in area and leather sitting area, with photos from a 1912 National Geographic expedition lining the walls of this and the neighboring bar and restaurant.
Next to reception is an attractive rustic bar, where you can sample Peruvian wine and look out at the peaks. It also serves as an a la carte restaurant for some meals and is adorned with an abundance of rough stone, wood, and locally inspired decorations. The stone fireplace and large bar are the centerpieces, with a wall of windows supplying a good view when buses aren't rumbling by. You can fetch high tea in the afternoon, choosing from a tempting array of French pastries, chocolates, and finger sandwiches. You share the large buffet restaurant with day–trippers and anyone else who wants to drop in for something better than the snack stands outside. The selection of dishes in both venues is impressive though, especially considering the distance and effort involved in getting ingredients to this location with no roads.
This place was a simple travelers' lodge and there was no getting around that in terms of the actual size of the rooms. the lodge did what they could to find custom furniture for the tight spaces and they make the most of what's available. Antique armoires and headboards give some gravity to the lodge theme, while colonial chairs and Inca art make up for the plaid spreads and lack of floor space. TVs come with DVD players, you get fluffy robes, and there are small but well–appointed dressing areas. Baths come with stall showers, hair dryers and biodegradable toiletries. Room service runs until 10 pm, when most guests have headed to bed anyway.
The Sanctuary Lodge rooms are all pretty much the same and all have a pleasant view of mountains or gardens. If you want a really great view, you'll pay dearly for one of the 11 rooms that get the full Andes panorama. Despite their twin beds, the most desirable rooms, with great views and a terrace, are numbers 35 and 38–40.
The two suites have double the space and terraces large enough for a cocktail party. Despite the hefty price tag, these are the ones to request for this special visit to the mysterious land of the Incas.
The busy atmosphere of the tour groups subsides at night, but during the day you can always escape to chaises in the quiet, well–tended gardens wedged between the buildings, listening to the sounds of bubbling fountains. With prior arrangement you can take a guided tour of the ruins after official closing time, giving the hotel an air of exclusivity to justify its steep rates.
If you got here via the Inka Trail or your muscles are aching from all the steps in the citadel, there's a relaxing spa on site where you can get a full rub-down with some local Andean ingredients.
While the location is remote, service here ranks among the best in the country, giving you a seamless experience if going on the Hiram Bingham from here to the Monasterio. The Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo is actually a much better value, despite the included meals here, but there are always plenty of guests lined up ready to pay for the only hotel next to the ruins: the Sanctuary Lodge is frequently sold out from May through September.
Website: Belmond Sanctuary Lodge
Total Number of Rooms: 31
Published rates: $925 to $1,730
Review by Timothy Scott. Photos courtesy of the hotel.