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Help with Luxury Hotels of Peru, Please

Help with Luxury Hotels of Peru, Please

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Old Jun 13, 16, 6:59 am
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Help with Luxury Hotels of Peru, Please

Wife and I are going to be spending 8 nights in Peru next March. Here's the (very rough) skeleton outline of the destination/hotel itinerary we're considering. Welcome any and all feedback on hotels (as well as routing), please

On arrival in Lima, fly straight to Cusco and head to Sacred Valley.

3 Nights Sacred Valley (Tambo del Inka)
2 Nights Cusco (Belmond vs Inkaterra vs. Palacio del Inka?)
Hiram Bingham train to MP
2 Nights MP (Inkaterra seems to be a favorite over Belmond SL?)

On our last day, we'll take the HB back to Cusco, take a 1pm flight to LIM and have dinner there (Central? Astrid Y Gaston?) before heading home the following morning. Probably staying at b hotel.

Another alternative we're considering is cutting a night at TdI and adding a night in Lima at the end (for a full day), though the city doesn't entice us as much as the SV/Cusco area for this trip, so leaning toward spending most of our time out there.

Last edited by LM225; Jun 13, 16 at 7:20 am
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Old Jun 13, 16, 7:20 am
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On the route, I would be tempted to switch the order of MP and Cusco. Cusco is much higher than MP and you are likely to enjoy it more if you are more acclimatized to the altitude. Also, Tambo del Inka has its own rail station with trains directly to MP so you would save yourself a lot of time. The train wouldn’t be the Hiram Bingham but the Vistadome trains are very comfortable and travelling from the Sacred Valley to MP is much quicker. Doing this would probably allow you to have only one night at MP (morning train to MP, afternoon exploring MP, overnight, morning for Huyana Picchu if you fancy it and train to Cusco in PM) which might give you an extra day in Lima if you want it.

On hotels, at MP, I would recommend the Sanctuary Lodge mainly because of its location – it is the only place right up by the ruins meaning you can be the last people in the site in the afternoon (magical once the crowds have gone) and pop back easily to your hotel for meals / breaks etc during the day. The only access to the site otherwise is by government run bus (or a very steep hike) which is mayhem. The rooms at the Sanctuary Lodge certainly weren’t glamorous (more like a 4* Hilton) but the location cannot be beaten and the food and drink was good.
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Old Jun 13, 16, 8:45 am
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1. Definitely take the vista dome from Tambo/Sacred Valley to MP. I wouldn't do the HB train, and during March it may not even go back all the way Cusco. You can get the train tickets online easily.

2. We stayed at the Inkaterra rather than the Sanctuary. It's definitely an older crowd at the latter, and I enjoyed the Inkaterra ethos more. But they both are a bit of a tour bus type of place and the food at Inkaterra wasn't very good. Having said that, since we were with a 4 year old it suited our needs.

3. I wasn't a fan of Cusco and we stayed at Palacio (and got an upgrade so that our son could have some space). It was fine, the breakfast was excellent. But I guess we just didn't enjoy it a whole lot and liked the excursions from Tambo, and saw a lot of the things like Ollyntambo, Salt Mines, etc... which were very interesting.

4. The Tambo excursions were excellent, and perhaps we were lucky since, like almost all the guides we've had (like Amankora, safaris, etc...) they see young children as a breathe of fresh air at these places.

If I were to do Peru I'd opt for something in the Amazon + sacred Valley (Cusco stuff can be done, sort of) + Inkaterra MP + Hotel B for great food. Tambo was good, but the furnishings were super basic and a little cheap. I'd probably regret not seeing Cusco if I did the above, but I think it would have fit my interests most.

LIM > PEM (reservica Amazonia) > short flight to Cusco > trip down to valley (45 min car ride that you arrange with hotel) > vista dome > MP > train (not HB!) + car to Cusco > Lima to enjoy some fabulous food.

I'd probably contact Inkaterra and book through them as they have a spot in the Urubamba that looks more interesting to me than Tambo.
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Old Jun 13, 16, 10:36 am
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Originally Posted by EfficientTraveller View Post
On the route, I would be tempted to switch the order of MP and Cusco. Cusco is much higher than MP and you are likely to enjoy it more if you are more acclimatized to the altitude. Also, Tambo del Inka has its own rail station with trains directly to MP so you would save yourself a lot of time. The train wouldn’t be the Hiram Bingham but the Vistadome trains are very comfortable and travelling from the Sacred Valley to MP is much quicker. Doing this would probably allow you to have only one night at MP (morning train to MP, afternoon exploring MP, overnight, morning for Huyana Picchu if you fancy it and train to Cusco in PM) which might give you an extra day in Lima if you want it.

On hotels, at MP, I would recommend the Sanctuary Lodge mainly because of its location – it is the only place right up by the ruins meaning you can be the last people in the site in the afternoon (magical once the crowds have gone) and pop back easily to your hotel for meals / breaks etc during the day. The only access to the site otherwise is by government run bus (or a very steep hike) which is mayhem. The rooms at the Sanctuary Lodge certainly weren’t glamorous (more like a 4* Hilton) but the location cannot be beaten and the food and drink was good.
Very helpful, thanks. It seems that the MP <> Cusco switch is a prudent one, and pretty easy, logistically.

And thanks, too for the note re: SL. I'm beginning to think that the luxury of the SL's location might be of more value than the (reportedly) higher-end hard/soft product of Inkaterra there. Seems like a very special experience to get MP to yourself once the last busses leave.

Originally Posted by DSI View Post
1. Definitely take the vista dome from Tambo/Sacred Valley to MP. I wouldn't do the HB train, and during March it may not even go back all the way Cusco. You can get the train tickets online easily.

2. We stayed at the Inkaterra rather than the Sanctuary. It's definitely an older crowd at the latter, and I enjoyed the Inkaterra ethos more. But they both are a bit of a tour bus type of place and the food at Inkaterra wasn't very good. Having said that, since we were with a 4 year old it suited our needs.

3. I wasn't a fan of Cusco and we stayed at Palacio (and got an upgrade so that our son could have some space). It was fine, the breakfast was excellent. But I guess we just didn't enjoy it a whole lot and liked the excursions from Tambo, and saw a lot of the things like Ollyntambo, Salt Mines, etc... which were very interesting.

4. The Tambo excursions were excellent, and perhaps we were lucky since, like almost all the guides we've had (like Amankora, safaris, etc...) they see young children as a breathe of fresh air at these places.

If I were to do Peru I'd opt for something in the Amazon + sacred Valley (Cusco stuff can be done, sort of) + Inkaterra MP + Hotel B for great food. Tambo was good, but the furnishings were super basic and a little cheap. I'd probably regret not seeing Cusco if I did the above, but I think it would have fit my interests most.

LIM > PEM (reservica Amazonia) > short flight to Cusco > trip down to valley (45 min car ride that you arrange with hotel) > vista dome > MP > train (not HB!) + car to Cusco > Lima to enjoy some fabulous food.

I'd probably contact Inkaterra and book through them as they have a spot in the Urubamba that looks more interesting to me than Tambo.
That's right, I forgot that you guys went not too long ago! Thanks for this, all very helpful. Did any of the Tambo excursions stand out in particular?
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Old Jun 13, 16, 11:15 am
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We were in Peru 3 years ago and did the following:

Lima (1 night): Belmond Miraflores Park (definitely a great hotel, but there are other options). We did dine at Astrid y Gaston which was amazing. The JW Marriott is also wonderful.

Sacred Valley (4 nights): Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado. We loved the intimacy of the property and it cost less than the Tambo del Inka. We dined at the Tambo and it was a great dinner and nice property but definitely less boutique than the Rio Sagrado. But staying in the Sacred Valley is a great thing, making it easier to see many of the sites in the valley. We liked this property a lot, but lack of air con can be an issue for some. The salt mine was our favorite trip, and Ollantaytambo was also a worthy trip. Other trips were less exciting for us. The Pisac market was WORTHLESS--a scam to get you to buy crap that we don't need. We drove 75 min to reach Pisac only to be there 15 min before telling our guide we wanted to head back LOL.

Hiram Bingham train (both ways): We took the HB train from Rio Sagrado (pick up was literally just outside our door since it's Belmond train) to Machu Picchu and from Machu Picchu back to Rio Sagrado due to incursion on tracks--forcing us to bus back from Rio Sagrado. Depending on season there are limits to the route, so check in advance. I HIGHLY recommend the HB at least one way--the way up to MP during the morning allows you to see the beautiful views, but the way back from MP is the last train to leave, giving you more time to explore MP in the first place. It is pricey to do it roundtrip, which we can afford and loved, but for most people one way is more than enough. The food and service were wonderful, so if that's a priority the dinner ride back may be more worthwhile for some.

Machu Picchu (2 nights): Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. We LOVED it, partly due to the amazing Michelin level food (included in the exorbitant price) and partly due to the access in early morning and late afternoon without the crowds. We stayed in Presidential, which I don't recommend--not worth it. But not having to wait in line and then take the damn bus 30 min each way to Aguas Calientes to the Inkaterra was worth it alone for us LOL. The service and location and food made this a no-brainer for us....since MP was the biggest priority for the trip. We did hike up Huaynapicchu, too, on our second morning. Totally worth it. We chose 7 am over 10 am and got an amazing view of the MP site. The SL is overpriced, but still totally worth every penny LOL.

Cusco (2 nights): Inkaterra La Casona. We LOVED it. It was right next to MAP Cafe (in museum) which offers Michelin like tasting menus. Their 7 course Cena del Oro meal--which you have to request a month in advance--was better even than Astrid y Gason and Central! Hotel was across square from the Belmond Palacio de Nazarenas and Monasterio, so essentially same location, but just far more boutique. We had lunch and drinks at the Palacio and were VERY glad we stayed at the Inkaterra--which was more than half the price and far more intimate. But the Palacio is a nice hotel, more modern, more amenities in some ways. We despised the Monasterio, just way too touristy. We found this Inkaterra to be incredibly boutique with beautiful spacious and authentic rooms and tremendous service throughout. We'd return here in a heartbeat.

The more time you spend in the Sacred Valley, the less time you need to spend in Cusco (or vice versa) as a base to explore the Sacred Valley. Some people do one or the other, since you can reach both from the other. But we definitely appreciated the time to unwind, not feel rushed, and to explore each on its own.

M/V Aria cruise by Aqua Expeditions from Iquitos (7 nights). We recommend only doing 3 or 4 night cruise, but it was great. Service blunders here and there, and the food was just OK, but the experience of venturing directly into the Amazon was worth it. Swam with piranha, saw tons of caymans, iguanas, pink dolphins, huge lizards, birds, and even one anaconda. It was fantastic...for 3-4 days. The second half was largely a repeat of the first 3-4 days.

You also can do the Amazon by staying at the Inkaterra properties in Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado instead of doing the Aria/Aqua cruise. Either way, I highly recommend seeing the Peruvian Amazon--since it's higher quality and more luxe than seeing the Amazon in Brazil by far!

Lima (2 nights): Belmond Miraflores Park again. We tried to just change out flight to go home but couldn't, since we'd seen enough. But this allowed us to dine at Central and Malabar. Central was amazing.

I also concur that you should do Cusco (11000 feet) last of the Sacred Valley (9000 feet on average) and Machu Picchu (7800-8000 feet on average). That will help you acclimate to elevation and avoid elevation sickness issues. We went from Cusco to Iquitos, so what a change in climate that was!
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Last edited by bhrubin; Jun 13, 16 at 11:23 am
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Old Jun 13, 16, 11:40 am
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We also ate at Map cafe, but only off the regular tasting menu. Personally I'd prefer to eat street food in Lima at a lower altitude.

We strolled through the Belmond properties in Cusco, and I'd personally opt for the Inkaterra property if I stayed at Cusco.

Essentially you have to ask yourself if you'd rather see Cusco or the Amazon? I know that you like a more relaxed/quaint style of travel than we do, so it may suit you best.

All the excursions can be easily accomplished from the Sacred Valley for Cusco, though.

As for the excursions, I liked them all. We got to visit a lot of local homes and participate in Inkan religious ceremonies. That was fun.

Tambo is pretty corporate, like a Westin. I'd opt for something more boutiquey, something more Incan. I'd go Inkaterra and then maybe the Belmond in the sacred valley. A good friend of mine just did the pods, which I think would be memorable as well.

But if I did it again, we'd just hike the Incan trail and forget all the hotels and see if there's an outfit that can carry your backpacks. But alas, I digress--this is a hotel forum not a travel forum.

Y'all are massively too harsh on the bus. It's not bad, but neither is Inkaterra MP that great. So it shouldn't matter too much.
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Old Jun 13, 16, 12:09 pm
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DSI, the point is not the bus, but the access to MP

what are the limitations on visiting MP for their guests ?

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Old Jun 13, 16, 12:42 pm
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Originally Posted by bhrubin View Post
We were in Peru 3 years ago and did the following:

Lima (1 night): Belmond Miraflores Park (definitely a great hotel, but there are other options). We did dine at Astrid y Gaston which was amazing. The JW Marriott is also wonderful.

Sacred Valley (4 nights): Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado. We loved the intimacy of the property and it cost less than the Tambo del Inka. We dined at the Tambo and it was a great dinner and nice property but definitely less boutique than the Rio Sagrado. But staying in the Sacred Valley is a great thing, making it easier to see many of the sites in the valley. We liked this property a lot, but lack of air con can be an issue for some. The salt mine was our favorite trip, and Ollantaytambo was also a worthy trip. Other trips were less exciting for us. The Pisac market was WORTHLESS--a scam to get you to buy crap that we don't need. We drove 75 min to reach Pisac only to be there 15 min before telling our guide we wanted to head back LOL.

Hiram Bingham train (both ways): We took the HB train from Rio Sagrado (pick up was literally just outside our door since it's Belmond train) to Machu Picchu and from Machu Picchu back to Rio Sagrado due to incursion on tracks--forcing us to bus back from Rio Sagrado. Depending on season there are limits to the route, so check in advance. I HIGHLY recommend the HB at least one way--the way up to MP during the morning allows you to see the beautiful views, but the way back from MP is the last train to leave, giving you more time to explore MP in the first place. It is pricey to do it roundtrip, which we can afford and loved, but for most people one way is more than enough. The food and service were wonderful, so if that's a priority the dinner ride back may be more worthwhile for some.

Machu Picchu (2 nights): Belmond Sanctuary Lodge. We LOVED it, partly due to the amazing Michelin level food (included in the exorbitant price) and partly due to the access in early morning and late afternoon without the crowds. We stayed in Presidential, which I don't recommend--not worth it. But not having to wait in line and then take the damn bus 30 min each way to Aguas Calientes to the Inkaterra was worth it alone for us LOL. The service and location and food made this a no-brainer for us....since MP was the biggest priority for the trip. We did hike up Huaynapicchu, too, on our second morning. Totally worth it. We chose 7 am over 10 am and got an amazing view of the MP site. The SL is overpriced, but still totally worth every penny LOL.

Cusco (2 nights): Inkaterra La Casona. We LOVED it. It was right next to MAP Cafe (in museum) which offers Michelin like tasting menus. Their 7 course Cena del Oro meal--which you have to request a month in advance--was better even than Astrid y Gason and Central! Hotel was across square from the Belmond Palacio de Nazarenas and Monasterio, so essentially same location, but just far more boutique. We had lunch and drinks at the Palacio and were VERY glad we stayed at the Inkaterra--which was more than half the price and far more intimate. But the Palacio is a nice hotel, more modern, more amenities in some ways. We despised the Monasterio, just way too touristy. We found this Inkaterra to be incredibly boutique with beautiful spacious and authentic rooms and tremendous service throughout. We'd return here in a heartbeat.

The more time you spend in the Sacred Valley, the less time you need to spend in Cusco (or vice versa) as a base to explore the Sacred Valley. Some people do one or the other, since you can reach both from the other. But we definitely appreciated the time to unwind, not feel rushed, and to explore each on its own.
Really appreciate all of this detail, thank you! Sounds like you had a wonderful time.

Of Central and AyG, did you prefer one over the other?

Originally Posted by DSI View Post
We also ate at Map cafe, but only off the regular tasting menu. Personally I'd prefer to eat street food in Lima at a lower altitude.

We strolled through the Belmond properties in Cusco, and I'd personally opt for the Inkaterra property if I stayed at Cusco.

Essentially you have to ask yourself if you'd rather see Cusco or the Amazon? I know that you like a more relaxed/quaint style of travel than we do, so it may suit you best.

All the excursions can be easily accomplished from the Sacred Valley for Cusco, though.

As for the excursions, I liked them all. We got to visit a lot of local homes and participate in Inkan religious ceremonies. That was fun.

Tambo is pretty corporate, like a Westin. I'd opt for something more boutiquey, something more Incan. I'd go Inkaterra and then maybe the Belmond in the sacred valley. A good friend of mine just did the pods, which I think would be memorable as well.

But if I did it again, we'd just hike the Incan trail and forget all the hotels and see if there's an outfit that can carry your backpacks. But alas, I digress--this is a hotel forum not a travel forum.

Y'all are massively too harsh on the bus. It's not bad, but neither is Inkaterra MP that great. So it shouldn't matter too much.
Ah, didn't realize that about Tambo, thanks, though I suppose I can see that looking at some of the TripAdvisor photos.

__

One alternative we're considering is dropping to one night at MP, and then adding either:

1) A 4th night (3rd FULL day) in Sacred Valley -- I know we want to do the Ollantaytambo and Maras salt mines trips, though I imagine would could quite easily fill a third day as well.
2) A 3rd night (2nd FULL day) in Cusco.
3) A 2nd night (1 FULL day + an evening) in Lima.

Anyone have thoughts there?
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Old Jun 13, 16, 1:09 pm
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We did Peru this past November for two weeks. Haven't had a chance to write it up yet.

A few thoughts...rainy season impacts train schedules and also views, so a consideration for how many days at MP.

We did all Belmond (Miraflores, Rio Sagrado, Sanctuary, Nazarenes) plus Titilaka - in that order - and loved all of our hotels. Inserted a break in our trip in Cusco and we really enjoyed the city and the downtime. Lima didn't enchant me in the same way. It's a big city. The views are nice, and I am sure that we didn't scratch the surface, but we felt more at home in Cusco.

We also ate at MAP and it was lovely for a special meal, but we prefer simple food prepared amazingly well (much harder to do than it sounds). Pachapapa was the place for us. Hot pizza and cold beers outside in the shade. And I do mean hot temperature and spicy. They had some of the hottest peppers I have eaten in my life and we love habanero.

VistaDome up and HB back.

The point of the trip for us was to see MP per my husband's request, so we made sure not to lose focus on that. We didn't do Maras, and opted to zip-line and hike to waterfalls instead.

We had an awesome guide and driver who picked us up at the Cusco airport and stayed with us through the Sacred Valley, MP, and our first full day back in Cusco. Was awesome to have that relationship and uniformity. Truly enhanced our experience and took it to the next level.

I agree with DSI that next time I would hike the Inca Trail, with someone else carrying my pack
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Old Jun 13, 16, 2:02 pm
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Old Jun 13, 16, 2:37 pm
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Originally Posted by LM225 View Post
Really appreciate all of this detail, thank you! Sounds like you had a wonderful time.

Of Central and AyG, did you prefer one over the other?
We loved Central and AyG. Central wasn't even on the top 50 list when we booked, but it debuted at 50 shortly before we went. I'd say both are amazing. AyG is the more traditional dining room, while Central is more modern in decor. Central is probably a bit more experimental, but we're splitting hairs here.


Ah, didn't realize that about Tambo, thanks, though I suppose I can see that looking at some of the TripAdvisor photos.
I agree Tambo being more corporate, but it is still a very unique property. But consider that even as SPG Plat, we stayed at Rio Sagrado. But to be honest, I don't think you can go wrong at one of Tambo, Belmond, or Inkaterra. It's about what you prioritize.

One alternative we're considering is dropping to one night at MP
We are a rarity in that we stayed at the Sanctuary Lodge for 2 nights. But MP was the single biggest priority for our trip...so giving it just a single night seemed wrong. We VERY much appreciate that we spent 2 nights here, as it gave us TONS of time to (1) do a tour with the Belmond free afternoon, (2) walk around and explore on our own, (3) see the site with plenty of early mornings and late afternoons after the crowds dispersed. We have photos of MP that make it look like we were there alone, in fact...because we largely were for 30-45 min at those times. For us, that meant the world at one of the greatest sites in the world. Of course, we had 3 weeks total trip time!


and then adding either:

1) A 4th night (3rd FULL day) in Sacred Valley -- I know we want to do the Ollantaytambo and Maras salt mines trips, though I imagine would could quite easily fill a third day as well.
2) A 3rd night (2nd FULL day) in Cusco.
3) A 2nd night (1 FULL day + an evening) in Lima.

Anyone have thoughts there?
I'd stick with the 2nd night at Machu Picchu unless you are a quick study or want to save $$$. I definitely wouldn't sacrifice a day at MP for a night in Lima! I also think that by doing BOTH Sacred Valley and Cusco, you'll already have seen plenty in both. We allowed ourselves down time at both the SL and the Rio Sagrado.

You have to do what you think is best. You save money by spending only 1 night at the MP SL but then that is often the biggest reason you're there in Peru in the first place.
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Old Jun 13, 16, 5:20 pm
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Originally Posted by luxtrvlwrks View Post
We did Peru this past November for two weeks. Haven't had a chance to write it up yet.

A few thoughts...rainy season impacts train schedules and also views, so a consideration for how many days at MP.

We did all Belmond (Miraflores, Rio Sagrado, Sanctuary, Nazarenes) plus Titilaka - in that order - and loved all of our hotels. Inserted a break in our trip in Cusco and we really enjoyed the city and the downtime. Lima didn't enchant me in the same way. It's a big city. The views are nice, and I am sure that we didn't scratch the surface, but we felt more at home in Cusco.

We also ate at MAP and it was lovely for a special meal, but we prefer simple food prepared amazingly well (much harder to do than it sounds). Pachapapa was the place for us. Hot pizza and cold beers outside in the shade. And I do mean hot temperature and spicy. They had some of the hottest peppers I have eaten in my life and we love habanero.

VistaDome up and HB back.

The point of the trip for us was to see MP per my husband's request, so we made sure not to lose focus on that. We didn't do Maras, and opted to zip-line and hike to waterfalls instead.

We had an awesome guide and driver who picked us up at the Cusco airport and stayed with us through the Sacred Valley, MP, and our first full day back in Cusco. Was awesome to have that relationship and uniformity. Truly enhanced our experience and took it to the next level.

I agree with DSI that next time I would hike the Inca Trail, with someone else carrying my pack
Very nice, thanks! And thanks for the note on restaurants, too. We love "special" restaurants, but don't like to do more than one or two of those on a trip, so will likely take that meal in Lima on our last night and stick to the more casual and simple places during the Cusco/SV swing.

Originally Posted by QPRfan View Post
We thought the Monasterio was a nice property, but the service was only average (though we were there six years ago). The Hiram Bingham train was fantastic, our highlight of Peru
Thanks!

Originally Posted by bhrubin View Post
We loved Central and AyG. Central wasn't even on the top 50 list when we booked, but it debuted at 50 shortly before we went. I'd say both are amazing. AyG is the more traditional dining room, while Central is more modern in decor. Central is probably a bit more experimental, but we're splitting hairs here.

I agree Tambo being more corporate, but it is still a very unique property. But consider that even as SPG Plat, we stayed at Rio Sagrado. But to be honest, I don't think you can go wrong at one of Tambo, Belmond, or Inkaterra. It's about what you prioritize.

We are a rarity in that we stayed at the Sanctuary Lodge for 2 nights. But MP was the single biggest priority for our trip...so giving it just a single night seemed wrong. We VERY much appreciate that we spent 2 nights here, as it gave us TONS of time to (1) do a tour with the Belmond free afternoon, (2) walk around and explore on our own, (3) see the site with plenty of early mornings and late afternoons after the crowds dispersed. We have photos of MP that make it look like we were there alone, in fact...because we largely were for 30-45 min at those times. For us, that meant the world at one of the greatest sites in the world. Of course, we had 3 weeks total trip time!
Sounds like we can't go wrong with either the Lima restaurants, or the SV/MP hotels. You've convinced me, we're going to stick with 2 nights at MP, especially given the chance for rain when we're there.
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Old Jun 14, 16, 2:27 am
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I wouldn't spend the (quite considerable) extra amount of money for the HB over the Vistadome. On our way back it would have departed later and most of the trip would have been in the dark so I really wondered why people were paying the premium...
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Old Jun 14, 16, 3:31 am
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BHRUBIN, how did you feel about security on the Aqua cruise? I know they've had problems in the past, but I still long to do it someday.
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Old Jun 14, 16, 7:15 am
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Originally Posted by Fliar View Post
I wouldn't spend the (quite considerable) extra amount of money for the HB over the Vistadome. On our way back it would have departed later and most of the trip would have been in the dark so I really wondered why people were paying the premium...
One value-add is that in March, the trains don't run all the way to Cusco. Vistadome runs to Pachar station, and you're on your own for getting to Cusco (roughly 1 hour 40 min drive).

The HB, on the other hand, includes the cost of a transfer to your Cusco hotel, which isn't insignificant.

Certainly doesn't account for the entire cash difference, but it closes the gap a bit.

I'm having trouble getting my hands on a 2017 schedule, but once I do, the train schedules will factor into the decision as well.

Though I totally agree that in a pure price-shopping scenario, the VD wins, there are still some reasons we're considering the HB for the return journey.
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