High in the Andes, Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo tends to attract guests with a one-track mind – the pilgrimage to see Machu Picchu’s sacred citadel consuming their thoughts. And yet this luxurious hotel is a confident seductress with an armoury of distractions: a smart restaurant with stellar fare, a riverside café and bar, restorative spa and a cloud forest setting that’s home to hundreds of species of orchids, birds and butterflies, with guided tours around the grounds thrown in. So much more than a one-night stand, this is a top-notch eco-friendly stay you’ll be pleased to hike home to.
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A 25-minute de-stressing massage at the spa for up to two hotel guests
Double rooms from £289.15 ($365), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include buffet breakfast and dinner.
This cloud forest stay is part of a climate-positive family of hotels, where its conservation efforts more than offset its CO2 footprint, generating a positive impact on the planet: extra kudos for the fact it’s been set up this way since the Seventies.
At the hotel
Spa, restaurant, café, wine cellar, cloud forest trails, gardens, library, binoculars to rent (at extra cost). In rooms: heated plunge pools (suites only), plasma TV, iPod dock (some rooms), minibar, free bottled water, bespoke bath products.
Our favourite rooms
You’ll find simple rustic decor throughout the hotel with even the ‘smallest’ casita impressively spacious. For superiors and junior suites, it’s a photo finish decided by a generous footprint. For a heated plunge pool to yourselves, you want either a suite or the Inkaterra suite. Villa Inkaterra with a pool and garden, butler service and private dining is easily your most luxurious option.
Beside the spa is a spring-fed freshwater pool with stepped entry, shaded by greenery.
Unu Spa has an Andean sauna (for private or communal use) and offers a range of face and body treatments – from hot-stone massage to coca-leaf exfoliation – incorporating nods to Andean traditions. In keeping with the hotel’s casitas, the spa is a villa-like cocoon of plastered ivory walls and warm wood details; treatment rooms are tucked away, shrouded by voile curtains and bathed in candlelight.
Head-to-toe Patagonia trekking gear by day; folksy embroidered splendour in keeping with the Andean vibes for evening.
The hotel has very limited WiFi (you’re asked not to download music or movies) – internet connection is at its strongest in the Inkaterra Café (Villa Inkaterra comes with satellite internet access). Sadly the hotel is not wheelchair accessible.
Very welcome. Best suited to children aged five or older. Under-12s stay free; if an extra bed is needed, there's a charge of $170 a night, and babysitting can be arranged (from $67 a child). Ask about the hotel’s conservation focused I-Kids program.
Long before the planet’s plight came to the cultural fore, Inkaterra was setting the benchmark for sustainable tourism. Its Machu Picchu hotel opened in the Nineties and its owners have since restored its cloud-forest locale and invited scientists to record its rich flora and fauna, notably its hundreds of species of orchids, butterflies and birds. Not content with their carbon-negative footprint, the hotel also rescues spectacled bears and runs a non-profit organisation focused on scientific research and community education around sustainability. Low light pollution, energy-saving light fittings and appliances, stringent recycling and refillable bath products help to reduce its impact. Its restaurants works with local suppliers and farms to source ingredients, too.
The dining room’s floor to ceiling windows mean tables at its outer edge secure top spot with uninterrupted mountain vistas. Cosy banquettes and river views secure a win for windowside tables at Inkaterra Café.
Mountain gear is acceptable (if not de rigueur) for breakfast in the dining room and daytime at Inkaterra Café. Cocktail hour heralds the call for dressier evening threads – especially in the main restaurant where the dress code’s smart-casual.
At a restaurant where the timetable includes tea time and cocktail hour alongside breakfast, lunch and dinner, you can safely banish any concerns around hunger. The restaurant itself is a stilted building with vast windows offering mountain views, plus a double-height ceiling that enhances the light-filled space. Breakfast is a buffet affair with pastries, bread, fresh fruit, cheese and charcuterie. After cocktail hour, it’s time to dine à la carte on Peruvian classics including lomo saltado (a salted beef tenderloin stir-fried with onion and peppers). Beside the railway with views of the river, Inkaterra Café is a colourfully cushioned bistro with a palm-thatched roof, serving hearty Novo-Andean plates (a culinary movement that reclaims pre-Hispanic Peruvian cuisine, typically with chicken, lamb and beef, rice and potatoes) as well as salads, sandwiches and pizzas. And you can reserve the hotel’s wine cellar for a private dinner.
Pisco sours sipped at high stools in the bar at Inkaterra Café are hard to beat. A lobby bar beside reception has lounge vibes and is a cosy spot for coffee or pre-dinner G&Ts. Dinner in the main restaurant comes with a selection of Peruvian, South American and European wines – a menu from which you can select four bottles to try at wine tasting with the hotel’s sommelier in the cosy wine cellar, which is honeycomb-lined with a wall of bottles.
Breakfast is served 5am–10am; lunch, noon–4pm; dinner, 6pm–10pm. Cocktail hour is 6pm–7pm; for tea time, it’s 3.30pm–5.30pm.
There’s a dedicated menu of snacks and small plates, available 24 hours. Between 6pm and 10pm, you can also order dishes à la carte from the menus at the main restaurant or Café Inkaterra.
Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo is in Aguas Calientes, the town from which most trips to visit the high-altitude Incan citadel at Machu Picchu depart from.
Cusco airport is a three-and-a-half-hour drive from the hotel. From the airport you’re better off travelling two hours by road to Ollantaytambo train station and taking it by rail from there.
From Ollantaytambo train station, direct trains serve Machu Picchu station, right beside the hotel.
There are no cars in the town of Machu Picchu Pueblo beyond the buses and taxis that ferry visitors to and from the sacred site.
Worth getting out of bed for
Any stay at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo comes with a handful of free excursions: take a twilight walk to witness incredible starry skies and discover the cloud forest’s mystical side (boulders with strange markings included); join an early morning bird watch to spot ducks on the river and tanagers feeding; explore the orchid garden, home to 372 native species (and counting). A nature trail around the hotel grounds is your introduction to the cloud forest’s flora and fauna. Or take a 30-minute walk to see a working Peruvian farm and its plantations on a half-day tour including snacks whipped up with farm produce. Worthwhile extras range from wine tasting with the hotel’s sommelier to cookery classes to an entrancing Andean ceremony with a shaman to show payment to the Earth – a wise move ahead of your trek up to the ancient Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. You can walk with a guide (routes vary in difficulty) or take a bus up to the archeological site and a three-hour tour around its temples, plazas and gates, plus an on-site museum. Memorable side trips include a restorative dip at the thermal baths at Aguas Calientes, or a riverside hike through the Mandor valley to take a swim at a secluded waterfall.
Riverside with tables alfresco, upscale restaurant Full House serves trout, alpaca loin and of course lomo saltado (watch out for guinea pig on the menu too), as well as a selection of pizzas. Head to Incontri del Pueblo Viejo for classic Italian pasta and pizza served alongside Peruvian plates such as Andean trout ceviche, alpaca and crema de yanahuara (an asparagus, spinach and corn soup). What looks like a beach shack is in fact a laid-back spot for flavour-packed Peruvian cooking: wood-lined Treehouse Restaurant has all the ceviche, causa (a kind of potato salad cake) and shrimp chowder you could wish for.
For a caffeine fix, head to stone-clad café Coffee Trotter, where flat whites are lovingly crafted in stoneware cups and you can pair your organic matcha tea with a buttery croissant.
At sister hotel El MaPi on Avenida Pachacutec, there’s a fine cocktail lounge where you can work your way through the pisco menu on high stools beside the marble-top island bar.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this high-altitude hotel in Aguas Calientes and unpacked their pisco and ponchos, a full account of their mountain break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo…
After a day on the mountain trails, as you put your feet up with a pisco sour in the privacy of your casita, take a moment to marvel at your surroundings at this luxe Inkaterra hotel, as much a triumph of construction as of nature. You’re in the high Andes, sharing five hectares of pristine cloud forest with hundreds of birds, butterflies and orchids. An Andean village of adobe-brick casitas ribbed with eucalyptus beams has been built by hand around the rocks in situ. In spite of the geography, there’s no stinting on home comforts: casitas are spacious with polished rustic interiors, most with working fireplaces – some with private terraces. Not only can you dine at the lofty-ceilinged main restaurant where the Peruvian fare is as fine as the mountain vista, but you could opt for railwayside cuisine and cocktails at thatched Inkaterra Café. Make time for a private dinner at the hotel’s wine cellar (it’s your Smith Extra); take a twilight walk to explore the mountains’ mystical side, or book into the spa for a massage to soothe trail-weary muscles. Yes, Aguas Calientes is typically a stopover destination en route to Machu Picchu, but this refined eco-friendly hotel warrants more than an over-nighter…
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