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Where to stay in Cusco

Heading to the lofty Peruvian city? Rest your weary head in one of its classic Andean-inspired digs.

Published 25 Jul 2019, 11:00 BST, Updated 23 Jul 2021, 10:40 BST
El Retablo.
El Retablo.

Cusco is breathtaking – literally. At 11,200ft, the ancient Inca capital often sparks altitude sickness in visitors, but surely that’s all the more reason to indulge in a memorable hotel to take it easy? Ideally, stay in the old town, centred round the Plaza de Armas, or arty San Blas, just north of it. There are stairs aplenty around here, so it isn’t ideal for those with mobility issues, but if you can hack it, its atmospheric streets and jaw-dropping views are well worth the exercise.

There are international chains here, of course, but Cusco does independent hotels beautifully — from the small clutch of Mountain Lodges of Peru (including El Retablo and XO Art House) to independently owned properties such as Atiq and Tambo del Arriero, a homage to the city by a local family that loves it. All are individually designed, whether that’s harking back to classic Andean traditions, or getting a famous Peruvian designer to put her own stamp on it.

El Retablo
This two-storey boutique B&B features eye-catching murals, flowery headboards and the odd painted ceiling. Vibrant splashes of colour are set against bright white walls, and each of the 17 rooms has been hand-painted by a different artist; the style mimics that of a traditional Peruvian retablo — a brightly coloured Andean folk art box, often housing tiny religious figurines. Handwoven Andean throws and cushions decorate the beds, and both the high-ceilinged breakfast lounge and pretty courtyard feature vivid murals. For a sense of place, you can’t do better than this. From £58. 

Tambo del Arriero
This 17th-century colonial mansion started out as an inn for Andean muleteers. It fell into disrepair over the years, before being restored by a local family in 2007. The rooms are set around two balcony-fringed courtyards and while the style is modern with plenty of bright colours, the beamed ceilings and murals are a nod to the building’s origins. From £65. 

XO Art House
A new sibling for El Retablo, this art-themed hotel opened in January 2019 after previously operating under a different name. Set within a grand, converted casona (mansion) in the San Blas area, XO Art House’s seven boutique-style rooms have been dressed up with a dash of 21st century — think modern art, delicately clashing colours and an array of iPads. From £69. 

Atiq Boutique Hotel
Overlooking the Coricancha Temple and the church of Santo Domingo, Atiq’s nine rooms are a sumptuous retreat right in the heart of the Inca capital. The interior design was overseen by Peruvian designer Elena Testino (sister of famous photographer Mario), and heavy drapes, gilded mirrors and bold, fuschia-and-orange furniture are the order of the day. From £76. 

Published in the Jul/Aug 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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