Latin America

Peru is Gaga Over Luxury

written by | Posted on February 1st, 2011

Peruvian hotel companies are at the head of the pack in the new luxury lodging in this South American country.

Peru is a many-splendored place, long famous as the guardian of South America’s most important pre-Columbian heritage, matched by the grandeur of its natural diversity from the Amazon to the Andes to the Pacific coast. Nowadays, leisure and business travelers are discovering other treasures, such as the glories of Peruvian cuisine—South America’s finest—and an ever-expanding roster of stylish and luxurious accommodations that are guaranteeing new comfort levels, particularly in Lima, around Puno on Lake Titicaca, Cusco and the nearby Sacred Valley of the Incas.

While international chains, such as Hilton, Marriott (with a grand hotel in Lima, and spending $45 million in opening another soon in Cusco) and Sonesta are well established in Peru, it is the Peruvian hotel companies—Libertador, Casa Andina and Inkaterra—which are leading the way in luxury lodgings. Traveling south to north during a recent 2-week stay, for instance, this writer began to lose count on the new inventory of spas that are now part of the national luxury hospitality craze. The other signature change in the last few years is the dining scene, starring a whole new cast of deliciously terrific restaurants with talented chefs in command.

Lima, once called the City of Kings, now has hotel infrastructure fit for royalty, or at least the most discerning of leisure and business travelers. The elegant Miraflores Park Hotel, whose 81 units are all suites, sits atop the luxury accommodations ladder in the capital, although a new bid for room at the top of the deluxe hospitality niche will be coming from the $100 million Westin Libertador Lima. It is due to debut in May in San Isidro with 301 rooms and suites, a restaurant under the baton of celebrity chef Rafael Piqueras, and a 20,000-sq.-ft. spa that will be the largest in Lima. The Westin is the largest project under development since Libertador officially joined hands with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, an alliance that has also produced new luxury Libertador hotels in Paracas and the Sacred Valley, with a third entry in Cusco opening in June. This deluxe hotel trio is now at home under Starwood’s Luxury Collection brand.

“The new Hotel Paracas is a winner,” declared my traveling companion Pam Walker, Southern Hemisphere travel expert and owner of Walker Adventures (walkeradventuresltd.com). “The rooms, the views, the restaurants, are all fantastically done—really, really lovely. This is a great place for couples wanting a romantic getaway, although the kids’ club with its own pool works separately and well.” Paracas, once home to the master weavers of the pre-Columbian Paracas culture and today a neighbor of a bird-filled national nature reserve, is a 3-hour drive south of Lima, and this sophisticated Luxury Collection member is airy and beachy, modern in a seaside resort manner. Guestrooms, priced from $365 for a superior room and suites from $435, include such amenities as a 37-inch flat-screen TV, iPod docking station, and private balcony; private butler services are included for guests booking suites. Guests have access to the 5,000-sq.-ft. Spa at Paracas, an extraordinary infinity pool, and two restaurants, as well as a host of excursions including the wildlife-packed Ballestas Islands aboard the hotel’s yacht and a private-plane flight over the “drawings” that decorate the nearby Nazca plain. A 12-passenger plane is also part of the Luxury Collection brand portfolio, offering guests private transfers between all Libertador hotel locations: Cusco, Puno, Arequipa, Lima, Trujillo and Paracas.

The 128-room Libertador Tambo del Inka opened in the Sacred Valley outside Cusco last April as the second Peruvian member of Starwood’s Luxury Collection. Sitting tranquilly on the Urubamba River in the shadow of the Andes, the hotel has the looks and feel of a grand modern stone lodge, handsomely furnished with those colorful and rustic fabrics and ceramics that the Valley is famous for. The 128 large rooms and suites all have floor-to-ceiling windows opening to grand natural vistas, as well as amenities such as 400-thread count linens, 32-inch LCD TV, and complimentary WiFi and high-speed Internet connectivity. The hotel’s Hawa restaurant wows its diners with perfectly executed Novo Andina cuisine. Tambo del Inka offers a luxury base for the active traveler, arranging on request mountain biking, kayaking, hiking to the Inca ruins and community villages, white-water rafting, horseback riding, and escorted excursions to Machu Picchu. For more leisurely guest activities, the 5,905-sq.-ft. spa features 12 treatment rooms with panoramic views of the Andes. Treatments here use ancestral Inca ingredients, from coca leaves and volcanic mud to quinoa grains and fresh fruit. Tambo del Inka rates start at $455 dbl, suites at $545.