A visit to Machu Picchu, the Lost City of the Incas, is a must for world travelers, and to stay near the ancient site allows you more exploration than most. A whopping 70 percent of visitors see the ruins only as day-trippers, which is a shame because that’s not enough time to experience the magic of South America’s most famous archaeological site.

Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, an unusual luxury property because of its lush, Andean cloud-forest setting, is an outstanding option for a stay here.

But first, you have to reach the town, officially called Machu Picchu Pueblo but formerly known as Aguas Calientes for its thermal springs – now simply called Machu Picchu by most. In making your travel plans, you will need to differentiate the village from the archaeological site, also called “the historical reserve.”

Nearly everyone arrives by train. To do so in style, book the Orient-Express Hiram Bingham train from Cusco.

Inkaterra rises up its terraced hillside from alongside the train tracks, making it easily accessible for travelers.

The award-winning, eco-conscious Inkaterra Machu Picchu is an Andean-style village tucked amid 12 acres populated with native birds, plants and an amazing wild orchid collection. Stone pathways lead to the one- or two-story, whitewashed casitas with barrel-tile orange roofs, many of them covered with moss and plants, so your jungle-like stay feels like luxe treehouse living.

Trained guides take you along nature trails on the grounds that wind past waterfalls and gardens, the hotel’s working tea plantation, and the world’s largest private collection of indigenous orchids.

Plus, there’s a gourmet restaurant with views of the river and train tracks below (and free happy-hour pisco sours), a swimming pool and UNU Spa with a private, outdoor hot tub for two tucked in the foliage. A spa highlight is the Andean Sauna treatment, a candlelit, sweat-lodge experience in an “igloo” of indigenous bamboo and fresh eucalyptus leaves that smells heavenly.

Your Inkaterra Machu Picchu adventure is individually organized when you arrive at the hotel. This natural paradise setting is the perfect preparation for a visit to the enigmatic Lost City of the Incas.

The Machu Picchu Historical Reserve is, of course, “the biggie.” Named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the site is surreal: 15th-century stone-fronted terraces, stone temples, stairs, walkways and streets. “Machu Picchu,” meaning “ancient summit” or “old mountain,” is mysterious, full of wonder and awe inspiring.

To enter the site, you’ll need the equivalent of $40 in local currency, cash only. You can get a Machu Picchu stamp in your passport just inside the entry gate, so be sure to take it along (safely tucked away).?

Erick Torres, manager of Inkaterra’s sister property in Cusco formerly worked here in Machu Picchu. He says of the sacred site: “It fits your soul somehow. It doesn’t matter what it is, but you feel it. Once you’re there, you feel it. It takes your breath away.”

Inkaterra La Casona is Cusco’s first luxury boutique hotel. This two-story structure is a meticulously restored, colonial manor house – perhaps the first 15th Century Spanish construction in Cusco that was built over an Inca complex. Later, it was occupied by Spanish conquistadores and their descendants.

Today, Inkaterra La Casona operates as a private manor for a limited number of guests. The large, wooden front door is always closed like a private residence, thus it is not open to the public for walk-in traffic. All facilities and areas are for the exclusive use of in-house guests only.

In fact, to maintain guests’ privacy, no signage is posted, so be sure you have the street location for your taxi driver. One you arrive, you step from the street over a raised threshold and through a huge door into reception, where you’re immediately greeted and become immersed in the beauty of the place. Next to reception is a quiet sitting area called “Zaguán” an old Spanish word referring to the entrance hall of an old colonial house.

Eleven suites are positioned on two floors. A wrap-around balcony overlooks the grassy courtyard with a miniature, stone circle where incense burns near sunset. Contemporary amenities within the suites create an ambience of comfort and exclusivity enjoyed by residents in centuries past. Particularly luxe is that each suite has a stone fireplace and a roomy marble bathroom with thermostat controlled heated floors, which are particularly nice during the cool season.


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