“ Resort hotel, Machu Picchu, Peru / Tel (from UK): 0 800 458 7506 / www.inkaterra.com/en/machu-picchu. „
Initially when I saw the position of this hotel/resort I was a little surprised and wondered if we were going to get any sleep. This was because the InkaTerra lodge Machu Picchu hotel in Agua Caliente is AT the station. In fact the rail line runs through the middle of the hotel. You have to check in at the Inka Grill on one side of the line then walk across the line to get to the rest of the hotel which consists of a series of lodges set in tropical vegetation climbing up the mountain behind.
While checking in you are offered a complimentary drink while they do most of the work associated with check-in we sat and sipped our tea. This building where we checked in was also where you could access the internet with a few computers available (free which was great) and also where we had our lunch the day we were leaving.
After we checked in - on one side of the railway line - we walked across the line to try and find our room. We were trying to sort out the map when one of the staff members asked if they could help us. We jumped at the chance and were escorted to our room very quickly. It is quite tricky to find you room as the hotel is scattered up the mountain and set in beautiful lush tropical gardens. The rooms are in blocks but nothing is set out straight and you have to follow curvy paths and go round rocks and walls which all added to the challenge.
When you are the grounds of the hotel you can almost forget that a town is only a few hundreds metres away. It takes 5 minutes to walk in Aguas Calientes and the busy market but you can't see or hear anything whilst you are in the grounds. There are apparently about 12 and a half acres of ground but as it is all up the mountain it couldn't be seen at one time. The tropical foliage was beautiful with hanging vines and colourful flowers. Some very unusual ones in pots that looked like a variety or orchid or a relation of the 'Bird of Paradise' flower, it was all fascinating.
The rooms are in blocks of about 6 to 10 rooms but they all had a view and enjoyed this without being overlooked by adjoining guest rooms. They were decorated and furnished in Peruvian style with tiled floors, white bed linen and cast iron bed head. There were two large windows, one looked out to a rock with plants growing up and the other opened up to a small patio with two comfortable chairs and this looked down into the valley and the railway. The bathroom had an enormous shower and the eco toiletries, soap, shampoo and conditioner as well as citronella insect repellent. The room was quite light in the day but dark with the lights at night but it had a very comfortable double bed and two pillows each. Some of the others in our group had two double beds in their rooms but I'm not sure of the price difference between the two rooms. In the evening someone came in and turned down the sheets and put a chocolate with a 'have a good night' note on the pillow which was a nice touch. It was all VERY clean and smelled fresh. Our little patio looked down into the Urabamba River gorge and the railway line. Oh, and we also got bath robes and little slippers too - but not enough time to relax there to make use of them!
In the lobby and bar area at 4 o'clock there was an afternoon tea laid out with various tea options (including my lovely coca tea) and a choice of a couple of different types of cakes. Swiftly following on from this it was pisco hour when pisco sours were flowing freely( as in - not costing anything) to those who wanted them. We moved from this to the evening meal in the restaurant - somehow time seemed to stand still and 4.30 became 7.30 before we realised.
The restaurant was a big wooden lodge with windows all around so that you could see down to the valley. You could sit outside at various different levels as well. Our dinner was included as part of our package so I cannot give you costs but dinner was four courses. You began with fruit juice then a choice of four starters - I had purple corn ravioli stuffed with smoked trout with a cheese sauce - 4 largish ravioli and it was delicious. There were about 5 main choices all of which looked good. I had steak brochettes as the Alpaca had run out and it was very tender, tasty and well presented. For the dessert choices, I think there were about 5 or 6 and again they all looked wonderful when presented and my local tart was delicious. You were offered coffee or other hot drinks afterwards but we didn't want any more so I can't say what they were like. The service was slick and the staff friendly and smiling, the food was presented beautifully and tasted superb.
The next day several optional free excursions were available. There was a bird watching walk at 6.30am, a visit to see some spectacled bears in a sanctuary at 8.30, a nature walk at 10 and another one that I forget. We went to see the bears which are endangered as they are poor parents and are extremely solitary as well as very unaggressive so all in all the poor cubs stood a poor chance of reaching adulthood and so these bears are extremely vulnerable and close to extinction. This was the only excursion that they asked a voluntary contribution for - this money went to the upkeep and protection of the bears. One of the bears was ancient and would be there for the rest of his life and the other they were trying to reintroduce into the wild. The guides were excellent, obviously knew their stuff and were committed to the task. Hopefully this small project will succeed.
The grounds of the hotel were beautiful with tropical plants everywhere set against rocks going up the mountain. There were several places with bird feeders and humming birds visited these frequently and if you were patient it was possible to get some perfect photos. The Cock of the rock - the National bird of Peru was also spotted by several people but unfortunately we missed this. In the middle of these gardens was a pool. It looked rather murky to swim in but I guess if it was hot and sunny you could sit there and watch the humming birds feeding. It wasn't THAT warm when we were there so we weren't tempted.
This hotel was real gem and a bonus as the main reason for our stay here was to visit Machu Picchu and have somewhere to sleep nearby so we could spend a reasonable time up at Machu Picchu. To be treated to such an oasis of tropical vegetation and wildlife just outside your bedroom door was something we were not expecting at all. They made such an effort to offer excursions and share their surroundings with guests. They grew their own coffee on site and had a coffee roasting oven and ground it all fresh. I mentioned before that the toiletries were all eco friendly and they were sold in the shop on site if you wanted to buy more.
The excursions all began in the eco centre. This little room had a book exchange (books in many languages) lots of literature and information about the area and other places of natural interest as well as different endangered species of wildlife. There were two or three guides and their English was very good, I suspect they spoke several other languages as well! They made me feel very humble.
After this bonus of a wonderfully relaxing morning we went over to the Inka cafe for our lunch. I had been feeling a bit 'delicate' in the morning so did not really want anything much but the meal offered was similar to the dinner the night before and all very well presented. All those still able to enjoy their food said it was delicious. It is funny how if you are not feeling great, food becomes remarkably less interesting which was a shame as it looked very nice and I was hungry but just didn't dare risk it.
After lunch we walked a few yards back to the station to collect our bags which had been brought down by the hotel porters and boarded the train back to Cusco.
In summary this hotel was charming, you did need to be quite fit to get to your room if it was one of those at the top of the mountain. You also needed a good sense of direction to find your room again as the paths were only lit with lamps and twisted and turned round smaller paths, foliage and huge rocks. You really felt you were in a tropical Garden of Eden. The staff could not do enough for you and every one said 'Hello', 'good day/evening/afternoon' when they passed and smiled warmly. I felt very 'at home' here and even though I wasn't well the second day I still was able to enjoy the setting and walk around watching the wildlife without having to go very far at all.
I do not know the cost of staying here but as it was part of our tour I was blissfully unaware of the cost and able to appreciate the pleasure without counting the cost!
Also on Ciao under my name -catsholiday
"I don't care what we're paying; it's worth it."
This is not a sentiment often voiced in our value-conscious family, but as we sat sated by dinner at our window table overlooking the Urubamba gorge, I found myself not only unsurprised to hear my wife saying it, but nodding in agreement too. Admittedly, we may have been influenced by the complimentary Pisco Sour cocktails and the excellent Chilean wine with which we had washed down our delicious meal, but we have drunk well at many other hotels without reaching the same conclusion.
So what made the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Hotel - formerly and still alternatively known as the Pueblo - different? The welcome? The rooms? The setting? The facilities? The cuisine? The service? The ethos? In a word, yes.
* The welcome....
....does not wait for your arrival at reception. As you alight from the train at Aguas Calientes station you are greeted on the platform by an Inkaterra representative, who will arrange for your luggage to be taken directly from there to your room. If you want to go straight up to Machu Picchu to visit the Inca relics, he will show you where to find the bus. If you'd rather check in at the hotel first, he will guide you there - it is only a couple of minutes' walk - sit you down on a sofa in the café by the entrance, and complete the registration formalities with you over a complimentary beverage.
We chose the iced tea which is made from the organic crop grown on the Inkaterra estate and flavoured with their own limes; we later found that a jug of this refreshing nectar is kept topped up at all times in reception for guests to help themselves. Bowls of fruit are also around on the same basis.
Any questions you may have, not just about the hotel and its many services, but also about sight-seeing in the area, are answered at the same time, courteously and in fluent English. You are then shown to your....
....the standard of which, depending on what you have booked, may range from the comfortable all the way up to the palatial. The top-of-range villas are sumptuously appointed, multi-roomed and self-contained with their own private courtyards and plunge pools. Being cheapskates, my wife and I had opted simply for the bottom-of-the-range Superior (yes, even the Pueblo can stoop to euphemisms), but with over three hundred square feet plus balcony at our disposal, this was hardly cramped. The rooms are contained in "casitas" (cottages), each individual in design and none with more than five rooms. The layout ensures that no balcony directly faces or overlooks another.
The interior was furnished in an uncluttered but cosy colonial style: wooden beams and wardrobe, an open fireplace, large beds with wrought-iron heads, thick woven alpaca blankets and coverlets. The bathroom was clean and well-lit with modern fittings, separate toilet and shower, and ample supplies of the hotel's own environmentally-friendly toiletries. Wraps and robes were laid out ready for us, plus umbrellas and "recycled material" slippers to cover all eventualities, and there were two comfy chairs. It was by no means the most luxurious room we've ever stayed in, but it suited the style of the place, and had charm.
We took the chairs out onto the admittedly narrow balcony and surveyed the....
* Setting *
The Pueblo is set in the midst of cloud forest. On the journey over from Cusco you cross the Andean watershed, and the Urubamba is a tributary of the Amazon. The water that splashes among the rocks below the restaurant terrace will, many weeks and thousands of miles later, find its way through the jungle out to the Atlantic. Even at this altitude, over two thousand metres above sea level, the vegetation is dense and exuberant. One has to peer through the dark foliage and scarlet blossom of the tall pisonay trees and the creepers that hang from them to catch glimpses of the forest clinging to the precipitous mountains all around. Nearer at hand, hummingbirds do their humming amid the many-hued Angel's Trumpets of the brugmansias and there is a constant chorus of birdsong. Cobaea scandens (so my wife tells me; an attractive vine with bell-shaped flowers, anyway) wanders over everything.
The Pueblo's grounds are separated from Aguas Calientes by a rivulet that tumbles down a steep gulley to join the Urubamba, and the village is neither visible nor audible from most parts of the hotel; you occasionally hear a train rumble through the gorge below, but that is all. The hotel's twenty-four casitas (containing eighty-six rooms in all) are spread around a private estate of over 5 hectares (12½ acres), so they do not exactly jostle with each other for space. Mostly you can only spot the other casitas by their terracotta tiled roofs, just visible above the surrounding greenery, and the peace of the surroundings is not disturbed by the hotel's various....
....which include a Yoga Centre and Unu Spa (exotic sauna, with reflexology, aromatherapy, exfoliation, various massage options and Andean Hot Stone treatment all thrown in). I have to admit that this stuff doesn't much appeal to me and I wasn't tempted to try it. My wife might have been tempted under other circumstances, but we were short of time with Machu Picchu to visit, and she didn't even use the swimming-pool, which is almost unheard-of for her. Part of the reason for this was that it looked remarkably unappealing, the water (which comes straight off the mountains) being cold and cloudily greenish, with leaves floating on the surface. With the adjacent pool bar unmanned when we passed by at lunchtime, this seemed an uncharacteristically neglected corner, and a blot on the hotel's otherwise well-maintained and excellently-run amenities.
Much more animated was the Nature Centre, which has a library of local wildlife information and which organises excursions, as well as nature trails within the hotel grounds, of which more below. Free internet access is available on several terminals in the café, billed as "high speed", though it was exasperatingly slow when I logged on. Bookshelves line one wall of the guest lounge, which has snug corners lit by candles and an open fire to create a relaxing atmosphere, in contrast to the lively bar next door. Apart from the casual café, there is an only slightly more formal dining-room, which is the best place to take the meals that are included in the Pueblo's all-inclusive tariff. Talking of which....
* The cuisine....
....is either international with a Peruvian flavour, or vice versa, depending on which way you interpret it. Whichever way you interpret it, it's great: imaginative, well-cooked, copious and tasty. Wherever possible, ingredients are fresh, organic and locally sourced, often from the hotel's own estate.
For starters, I had the smoked Andean trout with avocado salad, beans and citrus salsa, while my wife had a green organic salad with avocado and passion fruit vinaigrette. We'd seen the ripe avocados growing in the gardens and weren't going to miss them.
For mains, we both passed up the alpaca dishes (the animals are too endearing) and chose chicken, one version served with potato tart and mushroom sauce, the other with a creole sauce and chick-pea concoction. Both offered well-contrived combinations of flavours, though if you wanted to be picky you might have found the accompaniments a touch on the heavy side, lacking in green levity. In any case, we were now so full that we waved aside the dessert selection and settled for platters of fresh fruit, which turned out to include a vast array of pineapple, melon, grenadilla, guava and the like. There are also vegetarian options for both starters and mains, and more than one in each case to prove that this is more than mere tokenism.
Breakfast comes from an ample buffet, supplemented by cooked fare on request. This looked good, but the buffet was more than enough for our early-morning appetites. Breakfast also gave us a good example of the hotel's approach to....
....when we rashly asked to be seated out on the terrace to enjoy the view of the river gorge. The waiters willingly prepared a table for us outside, whilst discreetly counselling us that it might prove to be too cold at that hour. It was, and there were biting insects about too, so that within a few minutes we were asking to move back in again. There were no raised eyebrows or sardonic "told you so" expressions, just ready compliance as an alternative window-side table was quickly found for us. Biting insects, incidentally, are one of the drawbacks of the cloud forest location, and though various repellent lotions are provided in the rooms, none of them seems to be fully effective.
Service around the hotel was generally of the highest order, with everything attended to quickly, efficiently and with a smile. At the same time, it was neither assertive nor servile; no one seemed to linger in the hope of being tipped. When the time came to leave, our luggage had found its way back from our room to the station platform, where it was waiting in the care of a porter beside the door to our carriage. Superb service is obviously part of the....
of the place, the other main element being environmentalism. In these days when everyone is jumping on the eco-tourism bandwagon, it is always hard to tell whether professed environmentalism is genuine or mere lip-service. Even when it is no more than lip-service, however, at least the values are proselytised, and Inkaterra shows many signs of going well beyond lip-service. The Inkaterra organisation owns six hotels in Peru, of which two (the Pueblo and another in the Amazon basin) are run in association with an ecological NGO called ITA that promulgates conservation and biodiversity. The hotel prides itself on being carbon-neutral in its energy usage, grows its own organic produce and treats its estate as a nature reserve.
The nature walks tend to confirm this, as well as being fascinating in their own right. There are, for example, over 500 species of birds found there, including over 70 types of hummingbird - wonderful iridescent creatures in every shade of the rainbow that flit among the fragrant flowers. Talking of which, there are 373 different varieties of orchid in the gardens, or if you prefer something less showy, 88 different ferns. And so on. We took an expertly guided walk of well over an hour's duration (for which there is no extra charge), discovering new - to us - flora and fauna with every step. Not to mention the pre-Inca inscriptions found on the rocks along the trail.
* Price and value....
....are not, of course, the same thing. Wilde defined a cynic as someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, in which case I am not the cynic I thought I was, since I know the value of a stay at the Pueblo, but not the price I paid for it. A debate about this was the cue for the quotation from my wife with which I opened this review; our complicated itinerary having been booked through a tour operator with various options being juggled, we somehow never quite pinned down this element of the overall total. Looking back over the numbers, I think that we must have secured a hefty discount on the rack rate, which starts at US$569 per night for a couple on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis (the only basis available; the Pueblo doesn't do room only). Indeed, the basis went beyond dinner, bed and breakfast; the only extra charged for was the wine with our meal. Even so, I certainly hope we got a hefty discount, because that's way beyond what I would normally contemplate paying for a night at a hotel. Just as well I didn't realise in advance, perhaps, or I might have vetoed it and missed a great experience.
However, believe it or not, the Pueblo is less expensive than the prestigious Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge located up by the Inca monument itself, which did not look nearly so appealing. Neither did other, albeit cheaper, options in the area.
Anyway, the Pueblo is one of the best, and most sympathetically run, hotels I've ever stayed in. Despite the drawbacks of aggressive insects and the murky swimming pool, staying there was most stimulating and enjoyable, and worth whatever we paid.
© Also published under the name torr on Ciao UK, 2008.
Hotel visited October 2007.
Note about names: As you may have gathered, Inkaterra is the name of the hotel group, and they have officially changed the Pueblo's name to the Inkaterra Machu Picchu, which is too much of a mouthful to keep repeating through the review. To refer to it as the Machu Picchu runs the risk of confusion with the historic site itself, so I've opted to refer to it as the Pueblo, by which name it is still known locally as well as in many guidebooks and hotel-booking websites. In case that's not enough confusion for you, the Urubamba River is known as the Vilcanota where it flows past Machu Picchu (and the Wilcamayu elsewhere in the sacred valley), but it's the Urubamba for most of its length and for that reason here too.
A review of Machu Picchu as an ancient monument/tourist attraction can be found at:
In Inkaterras vacation resort, luxurious whitewashed bungalows are set into terraced hills. The hotel spa services use natural essences, and a first-class restaurant boasts stunning views of the Vilcanota River.