Located 3,400 metres above sea level in southeast Peru, the ancient Incan city of Cusco is steeped in rich, bloody history. Its cobbled streets, decadent religious buildings and sculpted town squares have hosted some of the country’s most formative and destructive events, from Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro’s declaration of colonial victory to the violent death of Túpac Amaru II, the leader of Peru’s indigenous resistance in the late 18th century.
If walls could talk, no neighbourhood would weave a more vibrant tale than Plaza de Armas. As the heart of the city, this square has seen more historic action than any other, all overlooked by Cusco’s towering duo of colonial religious relics, the Cathedral of Santo Domingo and Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus (Church of the Society of Jesus). Just off this impressive plaza, behind the lofty bell towers of the cathedral, are the heavy wooden doors
of my hotel for the evening, the Belmond Palacio Nazarenas.
Welcomed with a fresh coca tea (a local remedy for the effects of altitude), I admire the rustic charm of the hotel’s lobby. Built in the 16th century, Palacio Nazarenas was once a private mansion before becoming a Jesuit school and later a nunnery of sorts for aristocratic girls, called a Beaterio. Belmond meticulously restored the building, known locally as ‘La Casa de las Sierpes’ (House of Snakes), over a three-year period and reopened it in June 2012 as Palacio Nazarenas.
On the short walk to my suite, I am guided through the grounds by an extremely knowledgeable butler. We duck under original stone arches, pass ornate colonial fountains and meander through perfectly sculpted gardens before reaching the suite, which sits on the second floor. There are no standard rooms at Palacio Nazarenas, just 55 luxury suites, which gives the property an air of genuine exclusivity, a feeling that is only enhanced on entering the 750-square-foot Premium Suite.
Flanked by an expansive walk-in closet on one side and a large, marble-clad bathroom on the other, a reception area opens onto a spacious open-plan living space. A writing desk, sofa and private bar sit to the left, while a duo of twin poster beds, overlooked by an intricately carved cabinet, sit off to the right. The room’s décor oozes historic charm, its muted tones punctuated by original brickwork and hand-woven, Incan-style rugs. Perhaps most impressively, each suite offers oxygen-enriched air conditioning, a feature I was grateful for after returning from a stroll around the steep hills of the high-altitude city.
Before dinner, I make use of the large, freestanding bath and try out the herbal flower option from the in-room Hypnôze Spa menu. The wild-harvested Andean herbs and petals provide a soothing aromatic soak before I head downstairs to the signature Senzo Restaurant, where head chef Virgilio Martin combines delicious Peruvian ingredients with contemporary gastronomic techniques.
No meal in the land of the Incas is complete without a traditional, palate cleansing Pisco Sour – a cocktail crafted from Peru’s national brandy. In-keeping with the hotel’s patriotic historicism, Palacio Nazarenas offers an in-suite class on constructing the perfect Peruvian aperitif, which sees an expert barman combine exact measurements of Pisco liquor, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white to create the ultimate taste of Latin America. Mine is enjoyed on the suite’s expansive balcony, overlooking the heated outdoor pool, which sparkles brilliantly in the starlight.
On retiring for the night, I select the ‘ocean’ mood option on the room’s state-of-the-art Bose surround sound system. Enveloped by a plush, feathery duvet, I gently drift off to the sound of lapping waves and the distant chirping of birds. Fully rejuvenated, I venture out once again the next morning into the narrow, cobbled alleys and winding walkways of historic Cusco, more than ready for my next Incan adventure.
THE IMPORTANT BIT
What: Premium Suite
Where: Belmond Palacio Nazarenas, Cusco, Peru
Price: from US $1,227 per night
Tel: +51 84 58 2222