I can’t imagine ever tiring of the Sacred Valley. Located less than 50 miles from the Inca capital of Cusco are a succession of breathtaking sites, all set in splendidly scenic landscapes: the great fortress of Ollantaytambo, the sculptural salt pans of Maras, the eerie ruins of the pre-Inca city of Pikillaqta. This region should be the centerpiece of a first-time visit to Peru, and I recommend devoting a solid week to it. Fortunately, it is also home to several of the country’s best hotels and resorts. Everyone suggests starting with a few days in the Sacred Valley to acclimate to the high elevation before moving on to the even higher city of Cusco, and for once, everyone is right. We flew into Cusco (11,152 feet) and made a beeline for Urubamba (9,420 feet), 30 miles to the northwest.
Rio Sagrado, A Belmond Hotel
After testing out the hiking- and trekking-focused Explora Machu Picchu & Sacred Valley hotel (formerly Explora Valle Sagrado) on my previous visit to the valley, I wanted to re-review Belmond’s Rio Sagrado, a longtime Harper-member favorite. The driveway to this 23-room resort descends from a scruffy main road, but the grassy grounds along the Urubamba River feel like a tranquil oasis.
From reception, accommodations and amenities are downhill, accessible by golf cart but often involving a subsequent flight of steps to reach. At about 450 square feet, entry-level Deluxe Terrace Rooms are reasonably spacious, but I much prefer the 990-square-foot Garden Junior Suites. Of those, Nos. 7-12 are closest to the outdoor pool, and 17-20 offer the most privacy, being located on the far side of the pool, spa and restaurant. Near them are two three-bedroom villas, only a short walk from the resort’s public spaces.