Latin America

Where to Stay in Cusco, Peru for Luxury Travelers

While Lima is the capital of Peru, Cusco is the top city for travelers by a long shot. It’s the gateway to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, plus it’s a gorgeous historic city on its own even if you don’t get out and about. With all the luxury hotels in the city now, it takes some guidance from an expert source to figure out where to stay in Cusco, Peru

where to stay in Cusco - luxury

Cusco’s story is a tragic one for the Incas, but the fact that it was their capital city before the Spanish invaders came in means that you have a layering of history that’s unique in the world. The Spanish were known for tearing down old temples and building churches on top just to be a-holes and show who was boss, but here the stonework was more impressive then they were capable of themselves, so in many cases they left the old Inca walls and foundations intact.

The result is that yes, there’s a giant church on the main square and most of the historic buildings are Spanish Colonial in style, but in many cases these colonial buildings have Inca walls showing up in the dining room, by the swimming pool, or even in your sleeping quarters.

The Cusco luxury hotels that you’ll find below are actually more impressive than you’ll find in Lima, partly because of the historic gravitas, but also because the Lima ones are geared to business travelers or tourists just popping in for a night before moving on. Below you’ll see our quick impressions of where to stay in Cusco, followed by a link to our detailed review and more photos.

Monasterio, a Belmond Hotel

When I first visited the gateway to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu in the mid-2000s, the choices for where to stay in Cusco if you were a luxury traveler were easy to pick from. You either stayed in Hotel Monasterio or the Libertador Palacio del Inka, a distant second at the time.

Belmond Monasterio Cusco

While the lodging scene has changed for the better in Cusco and upscale travelers have more choices now, Monasterio is still the prestige address, despite some rooms being the size of monk’s quarters compared to their competitors. This is partly because of the public rooms, partly because of the pedigree, and also because of the level of service provided by all the veteran staffers.

The original name was Orient-Express, which changed to Belmond, but it has been the same company running the place from the start. Just choose your room carefully, skipping the bottom few categories, so you’ll get the full experience. Then make sure your itinerary leaves you plenty of time for lounging around in this atmospheric, legendary luxury hotel.

See our full review of Monasterio, A Belmond Hotel.

Palacio Nazarenas, a Belmond Hotel

Belmond Nazarenes hotel pool

When the Monasterio Hotel opened, there was no spa or swimming pool, so all along they planned to take over the former nunnery next door in order to have more space to work with. This was a long process with lots of approvals and permits required though, which took more than a decade, but finally they got the go-ahead and Palacio Nazarenas was born.

This property has much of the same historic gravitas and the 55 rooms are clustered around interesting courtyards and art-filled plazas.

Wending one’s way through the courtyards to and from guest suites is all part of the fun at the Palacio Nazarenas, since every route will take you past fountains, colorful flowers, glimpses of Inca walls, and water channels carved into the rock.

The two hotels have access to each others’ facilities, but staying here you’re closer to the heated pool and spa, plus you get 24/7 butler service for all the assistance and pampering you need. Also, the average room sizes are much larger here, with most ranging from 431 to 700+ square feet.

See our detailed review of Palacio Nazarenas, A Belmond Hotel or check rates here if you’re ready to book.

Inkaterra La Casona

Inkaterra La Casona luxury hotel Cusco

Near the Monasterio and Nazarenas but smaller in scope is the Inkaterra La Casona, part of a small Peruvian chain of hotels that also operates near Machu Picchu and in the Amazon. This collection of 11 rooms around a central courtyard is one of the best places to stay in Cusco if you want a small luxury property that really makes you feel like you’re in Peru.

There’s a good chance the staffers will remember your name since there are so few maximum guests here. You’ll probably meet some of the other guests too, either at the daily tea time or at the fully stocked bar. You’ll also be eating well: this is now a Relais & Chateaux hotel.

The rooms are all sumptuous, will heated floors and a long list of luxury amenities.

The inviting bathrooms are almost as large as the main room, with plenty of space for two people to move around without bumping into each other. They feature freestanding tubs, separate marble showers, double basins, and WCs with a door. Robes, slippers, and thick fluffy towels join soap wrapped in local handmade paper and refilled toiletries in clay pots.

See our full review of Inkaterra La Casona or book online here.

Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel

If you want a strong sense of place and a luxurious room without such a high-altitude price tag, Aranwa Cusco is the most affordable luxury hotel in Cuzco. This is where to stay in Cusco if “affordable luxury” is your style.

You can upgrade to a suite here for the price of what a small standard will cost elsewhere, plus you still get building elements that have been in place for hundreds of years and you’ll find quality antiques and paintings inside.

The most unique feature of the hotel is the audio tour of the museum pieces in the public

areas. The tour is available in English or Spanish and guides listeners through seven areas, detailing the historic value of 56 of the hotel’s more than 300 pieces of art and antique furniture items. The pieces are all arranged tastefully, as if you had just stepped into a series of 16th-century sitting rooms.

This hotel is situated in a flatter part of the city than some of the others also, making it a better choice for those who want to walk around but may struggle to climb stairs at 11,000 feet above sea level. It is also more accessible than most for those in a wheelchair and the elevators are wider as well.

See our detailed review of Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel or check your dates here to book.

Casa Cartagena Cusco Hotel

Casa Cartagena Cusco dining

If your tastes run more toward modern decor rather than heavy Spanish Colonial style, the best place to stay in Cusco is probably the Italian-Peruvian Casa Cartagena Hotel. Instead of oil paintings in the 16th-century style, you’ll get modern art and sculptures instead.

There is still a strong sense of place, however, since this building dates back centuries and the Inca stone foundation is older than that. There are still some original frescoes and exposed stonework that give a glimpse of Cuzco’s history.

The full name of this property is Casa Cartagena Boutique Hotel and Spa and it lives up to the last part of the name: the Qoya Spa is one of the best in Cusco. Morning sunlight pours through a glass wall to the Jacuzzi area, which is a well-heated space perfect for lounging near the water. Though much smaller than most hotel pools, this is the only indoor pool in Cusco with plenty of natural daylight and a view of San Blas.

See more photos and our full review of Casa Cartagena or click here to make a booking.

JW Marriott El Convento Cusco

JW Marriott Cusco Peru

While seeing “Marriott” in a hotel name may make you think of cookie-cutter style and business travel, the JW Marriott El Convento in Cusco will change your mind as soon as you enter the stunning lobby. Based on the giant gold sun god design that the original Inca palace displayed, the design behind the reception desk here often makes people stop in awe before they check in.

Since this building was originally a convent, as Nazarenas was, you see massive stone walls and flagstone floors that have been here since the 16th century. There’s also Inca stone work on display in some places, including a few of the suites. The building itself – dramatically lit throughout – is so impressive that management leads daily tours to show it off.

This is one of the newer properties in town, so rooms are well-equipped and filled with all the right gadgets, plus it opened after the Wi-Fi became as important as hot water, so the wiring was set up to get a signal through the stone walls.

See more original photos and our detailed review of JW Marriott El Convento Cusco.

Palacio de Inka, a Marriott Luxury Collection Hotel

Palacio del Inka Libertador Marriott Bonvoy Luxury Collection

If you’re looking to earn or cash in Marriott Bonvoy points and the JW is full, head down the street to this Libertador-owned property that’s also managed by the world’s largest hotel chain. This hotel has special fame—or notoriety perhaps—because it was once the mansion of the ruthless conquistador himself: Francisco Pizarro. In the usual Spanish humiliation style, he built his home on top of a significant Inca palace, so entire walls from the former civilization are still in place.

If you stay in the top suite here, you can even hang out on the balcony where he used to address the crowd. Thankfully it’s not all history and gimmicks at this fine property though, especially after a major renovation last decade really spruced up the design.

Check out the exquisitely hand–painted ceilings and walls: they’re the product of countless hours of work by local artisans. Note the lavish gold–leaf bed frames and columns rising up over the Luxury Collection signature beds, and the motif of the Inca cross, and the bedside tables modeled on a much larger antique table (on display in a ground–level hallway) original to the property. The look is glamorous but fresh, even whimsical — probably unlike any other hotel interior you’ve seen.

See our full review of Palacio Del Inka Cusco or check rates online here.

If you’re looking for interesting tours and other things to do in the country after you’ve chosen from the best places to stay in Cusco for luxury travelers, head over to our section on luxury Peru travel and tours.

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