No destination in South America attracts more visitors per year than Cusco. A short drive from the mountaintop Inca fortress of Machu Picchu, Cusco is a captivating destination in its own right. Dubbed the Navel of the World by its pre-Hispanic founders, nearly every building in Cusco sits on ancient Inca foundations.
There’s certainly no shortage of palatial luxury hotels in Cusco. The only challenge is picking one that suits your tastes and budget. We’ve chosen the best based on factors such as design, historical appeal, location and price. Here are our favourites:
The design of Palacio del Inka is a reflection of the history of Cusco itself, with Inca masonry on the ground floor and colonial Spanish architecture above. The arched mezzanine connecting the suites overlooks a spacious interior plaza that makes for a wonderful place to relax after a long day exploring Cusco’s many cultural treasures. In keeping with Palacio del Inka’s historic pedigree, the interiors of the suites themselves boast the best of post-colonial elegance. The on-site spa is an underground retreat, featuring hot tubs, saunas and Turkish-style baths as well as massage and other body treatments. Oxygen and hot coca tea are available to help guests adjust to Cusco’s high altitude. Once you’ve acclimated, the staff at Rumi Bar serve a mean (and free for guests) Pisco Sour.
While most luxury hotels in Cusco boast a lengthy historical pedigree, Belmond Hotel Monasterio takes the cake. Set in a former monastery built in the 17th-century, the Belmond is an architectural gem. Former monks’ cloisters now make luxury suites with all the modern amenities and comforts that travelers would expect. The interior courtyard matches the design of Cusco’s central Plaza de Armas – located just steps away from the entrance of the hotel – with plenty of places to relax surrounded by immaculately-manicured greenery, or under the shade of the 300-year-old cedar tree which serves as the courtyard’s centerpiece. The hotel’s hallways and common areas feature a world-class collection of 18th-century religious art.
Casa Andina Premium Cusco is no exception to the rich architectural history of Cusco, but it offers a more rustic, relaxed aesthetic than its more done-up 5-star neighbours. The Casa Andina Premium’s common areas, restaurant and bar retain the sometimes imposing historical weight that pervades Cusco, but its suites offer a modern, uncluttered feel that wouldn’t look out of place in New York or London.
Set in a former colonial mansion, Terra Andina features Inca foundations, Spanish arches, lovingly carved facades and modern amenities in one eclectic and charming package. The standard rooms are a little small, but the mattresses get great reviews and the bathrooms are spacious and most feature a full-sized tub. Aesthetic purists may find the wooden furnishings in the bedrooms clash with the glass and marble in the bathrooms. Private balconies with wooden balustrades that overlook Cusco’s callejones are notable features too. Located a few blocks from Cusco’s Plaza de Armas, Terra Andina is perfectly placed to explore the city.
Weary travelers looking for a modern aesthetic retreat from the rich architecture of old Cusco can lay their heads on Atiq’s ultra-comfortable beds. Located on Avenida del Sol, Atiq is just next door to Coricancha, an ancient Inca temple on which the Spanish built the Convento de Santo Domingo – a must-see. Avenida del Sol also features some of the best shopping in Cusco and leads directly to the city centre, the Plaza de Armas. Atiq’s rooms are very well insulated so even the late-night bustle of Cusco’s main commercial drag won’t keep you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Just a short walk from Jorge Isaacs Theater, La Ermita Church, The Poet’s Park and Saint Peter’s Cathedral, Alko Hotel Boutique is located in one of Cusco’s most charming neighbourhoods. Touches like copper faucets, wicker lamps and aged-wood furniture add to Alko’s charm. The deluxe rooms feature balconies that overlook the hotel’s many green open areas. There is no onsite restaurant, but there is a buffet breakfast and many restaurants are nearby.
Like so many hotels and private residences in Cusco, Novotel features a grand courtyard surrounded by a mezzanine supported by stone columns and archways. Unlike other hotels, Novotel has a glass pyramid-shaped roof covering the courtyard, which is an important consideration if you’re traveling to Cusco during the rainy season. Novotel is part of the renowned Accord hotel group, and this property’s suites feature a décor that is standard to other hotels in the group – low-key, clean and modern. The common areas, on the other hand, come alive thanks to the presence of Inca stone foundations and other pre- and post-Hispanic touches.