One of the reasons travellers are attracted to Peru is that it has a complex heritage. Both history enthusiasts and contemporary design lovers never fail to be enchanted by its past which can be seen in the edifices that have withstood the test of time.
“Within some of these ancient structures, you find beautifully restored hotels showcasing 21st century luxuries and design features which many travellers seek for pure indulgence while on holiday,” says Katrina Trotter, founder of Katrina Trotter Travel, which crafts bespoke itineraries.
Ready to take the dive into a land filled with mystery and beauty? Check into these hotels, and admire their design, decor and artwork, but don’t check out without exploring the fascinating environs of each.
BELMOND LAS CASITAS
Escape to the reclusive serenity of this river-set colonial retreat where the main building is a converted colonial-era farmhouse. For rooms, you have quaintly furnished individual casitas or cottages with dark wood furniture, high, scattered over acres of undulating gardens that are adorned with ponds. You need to drive far to access this retreat. And the drive is an unmissable experience, via craggy escarpments to exalted viewpoints where the purity and nobility of the Andean landscape will strike you. The hotel is nestled in Colca Canyon – among the world’s deepest canyons, where giant condors soar. If you’re game, savvy young general manager Aldo del Camp can organise a whale of a picturesque drive, via the white volcanic colonial city of Arequipa, right up to Nazca. Otherwise, read on a garden bench, arrange a rigorous massage at the spa, or soak in your casita’s outdoors tub in an invigorating ablution fragrant with minty muna, while watching the light change over the hills.
The interior of Las Casitas presidential suite.
Sample indigenous Peruvian cuisine, such as parihuela, a seafood dish.
Summer is an opportune time to visit, in time for the many cultural festivals taking place during the season.
Guests are greeted by resident alpacas.
OVER TIME, HE CREATED AN AT-ONE-WITH-NATURE SPACE INVITING JUNGLE-LOVERS, WHICH EVOLVED INTO AN ECO-LODGE.
Pictured is the Jungle Canopy Bridge leading to Lodge Lounge.
Interior of the Twin-Bed Deluxe Room.
The exterior of the main building in the eco-lodge.
TAMBOPATA RESEARCH CENTER
Rainforest Expeditions began 30 years ago when founder Eduardo Nycander visited the Amazon in order to rescue macaws. Over time, he created an at-one-with-nature space inviting jungle-lovers, which evolved into an eco-lodge. Now, to celebrate its 30th birthday, the lodge has acquired eco elegance. Expect immense new deluxe suites which thrillingly have only three walls, the fourthceding to a wall of green jungle enclosing round Maldivian-styleterraces with an outdoor bath, shower and lounge. The famed Tambopata Macaw Project is the most profound research on Amazonian macaws and mornings are spent observing resplendent macaws, parrots and parakeets, their colours as lively as their voices. There are also monkey trails, bambooforest hikes, Master Trail and jaguar-spotting boat missions for the more adventurous. Post-prandially, expect night walks under a sky full of stars.
Suffice to say, the jungle never sleeps. https://www.perunature.com/ amazon_lodge/tambopataresearch-center
Titilaka is the abode of unbridled luxury that propelled Peru to glamorous heights when it was launched in 2008. Your airport pickup comes with cushions, swish blankets, oxygen (getting to the resort requires a steep 12,500 ft ascent), Wi-Fi, juices and a chic snack bag. At the lodge, suave leather sofas, slick lights and contemporary art flirt with a fanciful extravaganza of vibrant decorative shawls and ornate pink cows. Housekeeping ladies in striking, voluminous skirts enhance the drama. But what is really captivating are views of the glass-wrapped surface of Lake Titicaca. This is the world’s loftiest navigable waterbody and it stretches like an ocean. On the outdoor deck clad in blazing white daybeds, watch the waters boiling with myriad birds. Rooms come with opulent beds, buxom tubs and the richest toiletries in all Peru. The wine and goodies-stocked mini bar is on the house, like meals and excursions. Embark on a handsome boat to see the famous floating islands followed by a delightful picnic on the culturally endowed, blue-water-wreathed Taquile Island. You return to afternoon tea, sundowners under astral skies, dapper cocktails and supper in a ravishing dining room with hushed lighting. Here’s the only place in Peru where you dress for supper (get out that cocktail dress!). And it’s the dining room that’s dressed, come morning, with Peru’s finest breakfasts including astonishing smoothies.
The modern and understated design of the guest rooms.
EXPLORA VALLE SAGRADO
Explora is about the “art of travel” and, like all fine arts, its appeal is niche. It’s meticulous. It’s aesthetically sensitive. The super sleek structure in blond wood emerges from a hazy speckle of purple and golden corn, evoking an Impressionist painting. Rooms in wood and glass are minimalist with no TVs, no Internet, no minibar. A swath of glass sweeps across vast spaces that span restaurant, bar and lounge, all of which adopt a lean look that’s imposing in its starkness. From glass-panelled interiors or outdoor terraces, behold green-mantled mountains soar, their summits like sculpted ancient temples of rock. And Explora was created to scale those pinnacles. Pick from 36 crafted hikes that unveil the Sacred Valley’s secret splendours, before resting yourself down for a welldeserved treat at Peru’s most gorgeous destination spa. “It’s the last of your hikes,” quips front office manager Ivan as he directs you on a long gravelled path, lit dimly at dusk. The spa occupies a colonial building with Inca-time foundations and marvellous Spanish-era murals, and comes with a heated pool and 2 hot tubs set in aromatic gardens.
The restaurant looks out to the working farm within the resort.
Wide windows offer unobstructed views of the terrain.
The mountainfacing resort is set gloriously amid purple and gold cornfields.
TAMBO DEL INKA, A LUXURY COLLECTION RESORT & SPA, VALLE SAGRADO
This is the Sacred Valley’s best-located hotel and its most popular. Set in acres of sumptuous gardens and watched by brilliant glaciers, it boasts a towering dining room with outdoor terraces on which to sip mocktails concocted with extraordinary indigenous exotica. Creative culinary journeys include Farm to Kitchen Lunch, which has F&B manager Manuel leading you down a carefully groomed riverine path to enchanting organic gardens. You pick fresh veggies from the garden for a chef to prepare. Expect one of the world’s most sensational pools, partly indoor, partly levitating over a lap of bird-flitted emerald lawns against a swell of hills. You’d spend an eternity here. But the Sacred Valley spa treatment beckons.
The natureinspired design of the resort’s architecture.
Guests are encouraged to laze in the jacuzzi overlooking the mountains.
HOTEL PARACAS, A LUXURY COLLECTION RESORT
Superb lawns flow from villas down to seas featuring bobbing boats. Visitors can lounge on the terrace and drink up the view. In multi-faceted Paracas, piercing-blue seas and palm-swooned deserts meet and the hotel offers desert odysseys with dunebashing rollicks, culminating in sunsets complemented by a glss of wine. Morning excursions include speedboat rides to the splendid Ballestas Islands Nature Reserve to see bird-sheeted islets, sea lions and startling marine creatures. Grab the spa for top-notch massages and then devote yourself to the stunning sapphire pool streaked on both sides with slick white cabanas.
The hotel features a sleek pool accented with modern daybeds.
INKATERRA LA CASONA
In the quiet confines of the historic town of Cusco, the old Inca capital, this all-suite heritage property operates a closed-door policy. Behind impressive doors lies a salon opening onto a central cloistered courtyard around which are configured the hotel’s 11 individually decorated suites. They are on the first floor, with stately old stone walls and fireplaces, but without numbers on the doors. South American travel expert Katrina Trotter reveals this is a “colonial manor house built in the 1500s by the Spanish conquistadors over ancient Inca estates”. Today, an almost church-like solemnity pervades the abode. Decadence comes in sinful butter-laden croissants at breakfast and opulent colonial furniture with contemporary chic accents.
A look of the central courtyard in the resort, with a historic well.
The spa room located in the Colonial Quarters.
INKATERRA HACIENDA URUBAMBA
By night, the hotel glitters like a bejewelled casket on the hillside. In the embrace of the imperial Andes that hang like a cadence on the horizon, this tranquil space is among Peru’s most beautiful hotels. The main building, behind which ample individual casitas rise on the lilt of a hill, recreates a Spanish hacienda enclosing a large central courtyard. Embossed saddles, ornate church bells, colonial antiques and artwork, and old indigenous textiles convene tastefully in a contemporary space with plush sofas. At the bar, young Victor does terrific Pisco sours.
The Hacienda is set in sprawling lawns surrounded by the Andes.
The mesmerising vista seen from the Tea Lounge located in the Principle building.
Indigenous artwork and antiques on display.
KATRINA TROTTER’S PICKS
THE TRAVEL EXPERT SHARES HER LIST OF SITES TO VISIT IN PERU
MALI, located in the Lima central, is housed in the beautiful Palace of the Exhibition, a building that was built between 1870 and 1871 specifically for exhibitions. Today, the museum’s permanent collection offers a trip through time – starting with pre-Colombian art and covering approximately 3,000 years of Peruvian history to reach the present day. http://www.mali.pe
MATE, in Barranco, Lima, offers a refreshing contemporary twist on Peruvian culture. As a not-for-profit museum that was founded by its namesake in 2012, the purpose of this museum is to preserve Peru’s important culture and past, while promoting its artistic future. Besides the permanent expositions featuring Mario Testino’s famous photographs, the museum often displays the works of up-andcoming Peruvian artists. https://www.mate.pe/en
CASA LUNA, this beautiful 1960s property, houses one of Peru’s largest collections of folk art. Although mainly comprised of Nativity scenes, Javier and Yvonne Luna’s collection depicts the culture, idiosyncrasies and beliefs of the people from whom each piece comes. A colonial architecture expert and skilful storyteller, Javier uses his collection as a conduit to explain Peru’s amazingly varied cultural landscape, past and present.
MONASTERY OF SANTA CATALINA
Stepping into the Monastery of Santa Catalina in Arequipa is like stepping into another world. The monastery was founded in 1579 and was mostly inhabited by Creole and mestizo nuns. It was not until 1964 that the Spanish nuns arrived. The vibrant coloured walls and winding streets make this open-air museum feel like a small city that is apart from Arequipa. https:// www.santacatalina.org.pe
TEXT DEVANSHI MODY,
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KATRINA TROTTER