La Casona Inkaterra, Cuzco
A block from the historic Plaza de Armas, the latest carbon-neutral property from Peruvian hotel group Inkaterra is secreted behind a massive green door on tiny Plazuela Las Nazarenas, which it shares with the famous Hotel Monasterio and the Museo de Arte Precolombino.
It may be a sprout to Monasterio’s beanstalk, but this discreet hotel’s intimacy and dazzling restoration will make smaller-scale luxury the new Cuzco standard. The 11 rooms of the former conquistador’s mansion have views of the plaza or open onto a charming courtyard. Crisp yet cozy, the suites nod to both Incan and colonial influences with antiques, handwoven blankets, and traditional thickly plastered beams crossing the high ceilings. Coca-leaf tea awaits guests to ward off soroche (altitude sickness), but if it does kick in, the friendly cuzqueño staff has oxygen tanks on hand. Coming soon: a gift shop (just look around the hotel to whet your appetite) and grotto-like restaurant, skylit to let in both sun and the Southern Cross.
A menu of private adventures, including trips to ruins, churches, and markets, and a coca-leaf tea reading. 113 Plaza Las Nazarenas; 800/442-5042 or 51-84/234-010; inkaterra.com; doubles from $600.
Las Casitas Del Colca, Colca Canyon
From Arequipa, Peru’s second-largest city, a sometimes arduous four-hour drive leads to this small paradise in the deepest canyon in the Americas, which inspires all the usual inadequate superlatives, from “breathtaking” to “staggering.”
The canyon is capacious enough not to show its growing popularity, and Orient-Express is prescient for expanding and dramatically refining the formerly rustic Parador del Colca. The original seven-room lodge now houses Las Casitas’ handsome reception, bar, and restaurant. Guests stay in 20 new cottages—all with private patios and heated plunge pools (great for stargazing on cold nights)—among ponds, stables, gardens, and a small lawn where baby alpacas are bottle-fed by staff and guests. (Alpaca, a common entrée in Peru, is on the menu here, but the meat is tougher than you’d wish.) The hotel excels at thoughtful details, like field guides with pop-up maps of the region, and red-clay flagons of aloe vera and zinc-oxide sunblock—at 10,700 feet, skin burns at the speed of light. Turndown service leaves a sheep-encased hot water bottle peeking from behind a pillow and lit candles ringing the bathtub.
Treatments at the exquisite on-site spa (try the signature high altitude Altu massage), trips to Cruz del Condor to see the world’s largest birds rise on thermals from the canyon below, hikes, horseback rides, and volunteering at a church in town. Parque Curiña, Yanque; 800/237-1236 or 51-54/959-6724; orient-express.com; doubles from $1,000, including all meals.
Hotel Sumaq, Aguas Calientes
Across the road from the rushing Vilcanota River and the green mountain that hides Peru’s main event, this hotel raises the bar in a frontier town that grew up serving pilgrims who flock to Machu Picchu.
Urban efficiency and modern design aren’t usually associated with a unesco World Heritage site, but Sumaq (Quechua for excellent or beautiful) is pulling off both. Half of the 60 orange-and-white rooms have balconies overlooking the river; the other 30 have big windows facing the mountains. Exploring the ruins opened our eyes to the Incan references throughout the hotel. The Andean cross motif turns up in bathrooms, and on headboards and blankets; and Machu Picchu’s architecture is mirrored in the stacked-block look of the floor tiles and squared-off faucets and dinnerware. Energy conservation is a priority here: turning on lights requires an electronic keycard, and corridor lighting is motion-activated.
“Lost city” tours set up by the hotel on request—our excellent guide was Lisette Arag´on, daughter of hotel porter Samuel. Avda. Hermanos Ayar; 866/682-0645 or 51-84/21-1059; sumaqhotelperu.com; doubles from $410, including breakfast and lunch or dinner.