A dream stay in the Inca heartland

Room Service: Palacio Nazarenas, Cusco

In the Andean city of Cusco, the beating heart of Peru’s tourist boom, religious values rule. On the Plaza des Armas stands a stupendous cathedral rich in gold-leaf altars and biblical art. In a tiny square behind it, Palacio Nazarenas and El Monasterio, the convent and the monastery, both built shortly after Francisco Pizarro tricked and killed Atahualpa in 1533, in his eyes a necessary prelude to claiming the Inca empire for Spain. Here, 16th-century nuns and monks lived side by side in buildings that are now Cusco’s finest hotels and reflect the sheer wealth of the Roman Catholic church in the New World.

Palacio Nazarenas, which opened in June, is the more splendid if less formal of the two five-star Orient Express properties. It was bought from an order of Nazarene nuns in 1999 and transformed with the painstaking care required on a site dating back 8,000 years. The pre-Columbian foundations can be viewed through glass panels in the flagstones.

The layout is typical of Moorish Spain: courtyards with well shaded pillared arcades. The design is all whitewashed adobe walls and hand-carved balconies with glowing Peruvian colours inside supplied by contemporary local artists who worked on ornamental furniture and paintings.

In line with Peru’s new status as gourmet capital of South America, the restaurant’s theme is contemporary organic: three of the hotel’s central gardens are used to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs. A fourth contains Cusco’s only outdoor heated swimming pool, overlooked by the El Senzo restaurant. The chef, Virgilio Martinez – the man behind Lima, London’s new contemporary Peruvian restaurant – spent three years researching Andean dishes for it. El Senzo’s best-known components are guinea pig, a market staple elevated to gastro delicacy; quinoa, the indigenous “super food”; purple and yellow maize; and wild cacao. Most of the ingredients not grown on site come from the bustling San Pedro market, a five-minute walk away. The wine list is exclusively South American.

The Hypnoze spa is everything the name suggests and lets you relax, harmonise and revitalise. Lying face down staring at running water in a subterranean Inca drainage system prompts a hypnotic doze, if not instant oblivion.

Location

Plaza Nazarenas is the focus of a rabbit warren of streets between Cusco’s main square and the San Blas artistic quarter. The Mapa Museum next door to the hotel is a showcase for ceramics and gold dating back to AD100, while Casa Concha displays artefacts that were removed from Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham and returned by Yale University in recognition of the centenary of his discovery in 2011.

Cusco is the capital of unmissable Inca ruins – the most accessible is the temple and aqueduct at Sacsayhuamán just above the city. In the Sacred Valley, 60km to the northwest, Písac is renowned for its ruined citadel and Sunday market and Ollantaytambo for its Inca buildings. For the intrepid, this is the start of the four-day hike to Machu Picchu, a journey that can more easily be accomplished by train in a day.

Comfort

As I clutched my welcome orchid, my butler escorted me to my ground-floor suite overlooking the Secret Garden – that’s the one where they grow the herbs. First up, the sitting room, scented with white roses, equipped with deep sofas, an Illy coffee maker, a fridge full of soft drinks and a drawer of snacks and chocolate, all of it complimentary. The bedroom was dominated by a cedarwood four-poster made up with lavishly embroidered Egyptian cotton sheets. Beside it, decanters of rum and pisco, plus the lime and egg white that the butler needed to prepare Peru’s classic pisco sour cocktail.

In the bathroom, butler transformed into soap butler, opening a wooden box containing herbal bars made at the hotel. Whisking a knife from his pocket, he carved off a large slice, revealing fragrant rosemary in the clear glycerine. What better accompaniment to a long soak in a Victoria and Albert clawfoot tub after days in the headwaters of the Amazon? Add underfloor heating, travertine marble fittings, herbal bags saturated with bath oils and toiletries from Italy: luxury doesn’t come more convincing than this.

Next up, afternoon tea with scones and finger sandwiches. Was I really in Peru?

Travel essentials

Palacio Nazarenas, Plaza Nazarenas  144, Cusco, Peru  (00 511 610 8300;  palacionazarenas.com)

Rooms  4/5

Value 3/5

Service 4/5

Doubles start at US$605 (£378), B&B.

 

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss