Snaking between Machu Picchu and the fortress of Pisac, the Sacred Valley was the breadbasket of the Incan Empire. Today, it’s home to Sol y Luna, a hotel that brings a hint of earthly paradise to this fertile stretch of the Andes. Interlaced with flourishing gardens, the casitas are a showcase of pre- and post-Hispanic craftsmanship, with terracotta floors, ornate furnishings and artwork as bright as the blooms outside. Beyond the looks, you’ll find hospitality with a real heart: profits are used to fund a local school, and the hotel is actively engaged with the surrounding community. Local farmers grow organic produce for the restaurants, born-and-bred guides lead the excursions and guests can try everything from Peruvian cooking classes to weaving lessons.
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Free daily breakfast for two and US$100 credit to spend on activities or in the spa
Double rooms from £341.72 ($438), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of 18% per room per night prior to arrival.
Rates include a buffet breakfast with pastries and fruity tarts that would please a Parisian, home-made jams, granola bars, fresh fruit, cheeses and local superfoods like maca and lucuma; eggs are cooked to order.
As well as training and supporting local farmers, staff and guides, owners Petit and Franz have founded their own school, the Sol y Luna Foundation. Funded solely from hotel profits, it provides education for children from local communities, including those with special needs.
At the hotel
Gardens, stables, gym, yoga studio, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: free bottled water and Tantra bath products. Deluxe and Premium casitas also have a flatscreen TV, minibar, Bose sound system and L'Occitane bath products.
Our favourite rooms
All the casitas have colonial features, including terracotta floors and timber ceilings. The Superior Casitas are generously sized, although they are grouped a little closer together than the other categories (and dispense with extras like a TV, minibar or coffee-maker). If you can, swing for a Premium Casita, which comes with a private Jacuzzi and a terrace with views of the surrounding mountains. Inside, there’s a separate living room with a wood-burning fire, colourful murals and textiles hand-loomed in the traditional Cusco style.
The heated pool is on a lawn and overlooks borders planted with trees, shrubs and fragrant flowers. Sunloungers run along the opposite side, and there’s a hot tub a few steps away.
The local-stone and stained-glass Yacu Wasi spa is bathed in a full spectrum of colours that echo the flowers in the garden and the bright dyes used in traditional Andean textiles. The name comes from a Quechua word meaning ‘house of water’, referencing the restorative power of the element – particularly in Peru’s arid mountains. The internationally trained team of therapists draw on traditional healing techniques, using locally grown herbs and botanicals in massages, facials, body wraps and hydrotherapy treatments.
You’ll be needing your adventure gear; you could go horse riding, paragliding, quad-biking and hiking in a single stay.
All of the common areas are wheelchair-accessible, and there are 10 rooms with wider doorways and grip bars in the bathroom.
All ages are welcome. Extra beds can be added to some rooms, and babysitting is available from US$20 an hour; a day’s notice is needed.
In summer, request a table on the terrace at Wayra, where you’ll have the best view of the Marinera dancers and horse-riders who perform over lunch and during pre-dinner cocktails.
There’s no need for formality, but maybe change out of the hiking gear.
Sporting a vaulted ceiling, timber floor and wood-burning fire, Wayra has no shortage of rustic charm. It’s also a choreographed riot of colour thanks to its cobalt-blue walls – topped with murals by Federico, the hotel’s artist in residence – and hand-painted wood carvings by Jaime Lievana. Head chef Nacho Selis has drawn up a traditional Peruvian menu that champions the rich bounty of the Sacred Valley, a hotbed of agriculture for centuries. The hotel has trained several local farmers to grow organic produce to its (high) standards, ensuring a fruitful relationship with the land and the community that tends it. The second restaurant, Killa Wasi, applies a more modern approach to the local cuisine, but uses the same first-rate produce as Wayra. The menu changes seasonally, but you can expect dishes like trout cured with wild anise and lemon vinaigrette, and Andean lamb with chicha sauce, potatoes and spinach.
The decorative bar is in the lounge area of Wayra, which has a fire and orange and purple sofas. Try a glass of Peruvian wine, a craft beer from a local brewery or a classic Pisco sour.
Breakfast is available at Killa Wasi from 5am to 10am; lunch from noon to 3pm; dinner from 6pm to 10pm. Wayra opens for lunch from noon to 3pm; dinner is from 6pm to 10pm.
You can order from both restaurants while they’re open.
Sol y Luna is in Urubamba, a mountain-ringed town in Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Cusco’s Alejandro Velasco Astete International is the closest airport. In spite of its name, most flights that land there are domestic, making Lima the best entry point for international arrivals. Fly there directly from London Gatwick, or via Madrid if you’re beginning your journey on the Continent. The connecting flight to Cusco takes around 90 minutes. The hotel can arrange transfers from Cusco airport for US$63 a person (based on two guests travelling together). Every additional guest travels for 50 per cent of the rate.
Peru doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to tourist-friendly driving. Attitudes can be gung-ho, and drivers with the largest vehicles often claim a greater right to the road. Unless you’re confident in your swerving skills, you’re better off taking taxis or having someone local do your driving for you. If you do decide to drive, there’s valet parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Sol y Luna’s activities ensure you’ll be making the most of the valley’s nature and culture. Once you’ve toured the fragrant gardens and tried an Andean-style spa treatment, get to grips with the local handicraft with a pottery workshop, weaving demonstration or Peruvian cooking class with chef Nacho. There’s also a daily show with Paso horses and Marinera dancers – the traditional dance mimics courtship and stars some hankies. If you’re travelling as a group or have made friends with fellow guests, consider booking the Pachamama dinner, a traditional Andean feast for up to eight. Lamb, alpaca, pork, potatoes, plantains and stuffed peppers are roasted in a specially dug pit, an act that symbolises a return to Mother Earth.
If you’re making your way towards Machu Picchu, consider stopping at Ollantaytambo, the hilltop fortress that became the final Incan stronghold during the Spanish Conquest. At the other end of the Sacred Valley is Pisac, known for its citadel and steep, terraced fields, which are still farmed today. After you’ve had your fill of the ruins, go for a whirl around the town’s market, where you can browse stalls selling alpaca products, jewellery and hand-woven Andean fabrics. If you’re up for a challenge, book the hotel’s half-day bicycle trip to Maras, where the hillside is pockmarked with hundreds of salt pans that have been tended since pre-Hispanic times. The front desk can also organise kayaking on Huaypo Lake, horse-rides to hillside villages and quad-biking tours of the Sacred Valley. The following day, reward your efforts with a tasting at Cervecería del Valle Sagrado, the Sacred Valley’s first craft brewery. Opened by four friends in 2014, it’s been at the forefront of Peru’s craft-beer scene, brewing an ever-changing line-up and collecting dozens of international awards along the way.
You’re unlikely to be doing much eating out – there isn’t a lot in the local area and most guests are more than happy to stay put after spending a long day exploring the valley and mountains. One place that is worth the journey is Mil, a triumph of creativity and knowledge. Set above the Incan terraces in Moray, this Peruvian fine-dining restaurant serves an eight-course menu that’s staunchly regional, with many of the ingredients coming from indigenous communities who grow their crops the old-fashioned way. The restaurant also has its own team of biologists and anthropologists, a Peruvian herb-liquor specialist, and an on-site chocolaterie that buys its cocoa from local farmers.
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 hotel in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and unpacked their Peruvian recipes learnt from head chef Nacho, a full account of their Inca Trail break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Sol y Luna in the Sacred Valley of the Incas…
In Incan times, the Andes were treated with reverential respect, not least because gods were thought to dwell in the most precipitous peaks. Standing in the lush gardens of Sol y Luna, it’s not all that hard to see why. There’s more than a touch of paradise about this pocket of the Sacred Valley, flecked with colour and flanked by mountains that climb into the sky. Feelings of calm and awe come on thick and fast, which is surely what hotel founders Petit and Franz felt when they first set foot here.
Whatever their feelings were, one thing is clear – this hotel celebrates the local culture and the lay of the land. The colourful casitas showcase layers of Peruvian history through their decor. In the restaurants, head chef Nacho Selis is on first-name terms with local farmers, who grow the ingredients for his Novo Andino menus, which draw from the mountains, coasts and jungles of Peru. For families or groups of friends, he’ll put on a traditional feast, roasting meats, potatoes, corn and greens in a fire-pit – symbolising a return to the earth and paying tribute to the Incan goddess of fertility. The best bit? You’re within striking distance of pre-colonial treasures Pisac, Ollantaytambo and, of course, mythic Machu Picchu – which, like the hotel, was inspired by the sun, moon and stars.