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September 26, 2013

Refined Elegance in Cusco, Peru

By Alia Akkam | Hotels

Refined Elegance in Cusco, Peru
Courtesy of Palacio del Inka

Cusco, Peru’s heady heights have a way of ambushing visitors with altitude sickness, so it is delightful when, upon arriving at Palacio del Inka, cordial staff usher you to a sofa and procure a cup of restorative coca-leaf tea to sip during check-in. Drinking the ancient remedy helps ward off dizziness, but it is just one of the many authentic reminders of Cusco’s glittering past to be found at the lovely hotel.

After a $15 million design revamp, the 203-room Palacio del Inka, a Luxury Collection property built on once-sacred Incan grounds, is now a grand ode to its city’s golden days. Beyond the simple red-tiled roof and blue-and-white Spanish Colonial façade, the dramatic reception area—with sunlight streaming through the vaulted ceiling and a sleek stone floor—is awash in colonial-era oil paintings.

Historic Cusco is, of course, the gateway to Machu Picchu and the nearby walled fortress of Sacsayhuaman, but when the hiking and ruins-gawking is done, find respite in Palacio del Inka’s intimate, lantern-filled spa. Keep the post-massage bliss going with a ritual that kicks off in the steam room, continues with pummeling jets in the therapy pool and ends in a Jacuzzi.

Wandering the city’s cobblestone streets and bustling plazas leads to the discovery of airy eateries like Greens Organic (135 Calle Santa Catalina Angosta; 51-8/425-4753), where you can unwind over bright-yellow chile trout tiradito. But do spend a night dining at the hotel’s restaurant Inti Raymi, amid a maze of doorways and courtyard sight lines. Vibrant Peruvian produce factors into dishes like aromatic white-truffle-potato soup and sage sauce-drizzled baked pork loin with mashed sweet potatoes. For a nightcap, sip a pisco sour at Rumi Bar, which flaunts an original Incan wall that is more than 500 years old.

The mansion-like Casa de los Cuatro Bustos suites (from $400), with their 13-foot–high ceilings, are worth the upgrade, especially those with balconies that overlook Incan masterpiece Coricancha, the temple of the Sun God. But the standard guestrooms (from $315)—dark wood, maroon hues, leather-wrapped headboards—are just as dreamy. 259 Plazoleta Santo Domingo; 51-1/518-6500; starwoodhotels.com.