Peru’s Sol y Luna: A luxurious homebase on the road to Machu Picchu

Sacred Valley

Sol y Luna is postcard perfect

Visiting Machu Picchu is at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists, but there are numerous choices when it comes to places to stay. Some choose to stay at the entrance gate of Machu Picchu, where prices are sky high. Others stay in the touristy city of Aguascalientes at the base of the mountain. But to me, the most relaxing and pleasurable way to experience Machu Picchu is to stay in the Urubamba Valley (known as the Sacred Valley), which helps travelers deal with the high altitude in stages rather than catapulting them to the top at once, which can lead to dizziness and discomfort.

Sacred Valley

Nearby Machu Picchu has stunning scenery, especially when the clouds shroud the mountain tops

Sol y Luna, a Relais & Chateaux retreat
Sol y Luna
 is a new member of the Relais & Chateaux grouping and the most popular option for travelers seeking luxury and comfort in the region. Sol & Luna is located about an hour by car from Cusco in the town of Urubamba. The property is stunning, with mountain scenery as a backdrop from all angles. The hotel is owned and managed by a European couple that tends to the property as if it were their home (and in fact it is, as they live on-site).

Sacred Valley

Swimming pool; the resort is planning a larger version soon

The experience begins at reception, where guests are first greeted by what will become a museum-quality exhibition of contemporary artwork by local artists. Contemporary pieces are found throughout the property, including in the restaurants and guest rooms. It reflects the creativity and energy of the region.

Beyond support for local artists, sustainability and support for the valley’s children are the raison d’être of the hotel. In fact, the owners quit their high-paying corporate jobs with the specific intent of coming to the valley to help local kids. The hotel provides the means for them to do just that, and guests are always invited to tour the neighboring school if they’re interested.

Sacred Valley

Sol y Luna classroom

Locally immersive—and supportive
It’s always great to stay with a hotel that supports the community, and the resort employs numerous locals that are passionate about sharing their region with visitors. The resort owner even sources products for the hotel’s boutique from local craftsmen and designers, which adds to the local touch.

Sacred Valley

Being blessed by a local Shaman

If you’re lucky, you can be at the hotel when a local shaman pays a visit. Many guests are as interested in understanding the local culture as in visiting Machu Picchu itself. Families, especially, find this to be a fun experience.

Sacred Valley

Dining on the lake with chef’s buffet

Eating well
Dining at the resort is another Sol y Luna highlight, with many of the ingredients grown in the region. In fact, the chefs have created a vibrant menu of local cuisine, and most guests eat all of their meals at the resort (many of the rates are all-inclusive). Killa Wasi restaurant offers a fine-dining atmosphere serving dishes like pumpkin lasagna and quinoa falafel for vegetarians to roasted cuy (local guinea pig) and roasted lamb. Chicha Wasi bar gets its name from the traditional Inca corn beer and serves a tasty pisco sour.

Sacred Valley

Amazing Peruvian appetizers

On the other side of the property (near the horse stables) is Wayra, serving up more local fare in a more casual atmosphere. Outdoor seating is available in seasonal weather, and many guests prefer to sit there enjoying the underground barbecue and grilled buffets. Lunch is served here family-style with course after course of local salads and grilled meat and fish accompanied by numerous local sauces—including the hotel’s own recipe of chimichurri sauce. The Cellar, a sophisticated, private basement dining area with stone walls accented by racks of wine bottles, can be reserved for special occasions.

Tip: Don’t miss the regular acrobatics show that takes place several evenings of the week at Wayra; there’s also an afternoon horse parade show that families love. 

Sacred Valley

Unique, local artwork in the rooms

Rooms and the guest experience
Complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the property, which is great for uploading photos after a day’s adventures. Other activities include horseback riding (the most popular), hang gliding (often hosted by the hotel’s owner, a pilot himself), picnics by the lake, ATV riding in the hills, and local Peruvian weaving demonstrations. In warm weather, guests can swim in the hotel’s pool, but plans are in place to build a new, larger pool in the coming months.

The grounds burst forth with blossoming gardens and creeping vines that make their way up the side of the guests’ bungalows. Stand-alone casitas constructed with local stone and adobe bricks offer exceptional privacy and space here.

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Outdoor whirlpool and terrace

All of the rooms are decked out in the same Peruvian folk flair seen in public areas, including hand-painted murals and unique pieces, which vary from room to room.

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Swimming pool; the resort is planning a larger version soon

Rooms are comfortable, decorated in warm tones and accented with contemporary art and hand-embroidered fabrics. Beds are covered in Peruvian cotton linens and goose-down duvets. The smallest casitas do not have TVs, but do have small writing desks. Larger casitas have TVs, pre-loaded iPods and spacious living areas.

Sacred Valley

Bathroom with rainfall shower and deep soaking tub

Marble baths come with soaking tubs, drenching showers with marble surfaces, dual vanities with L’Occitane toiletries, and large windows with privacy shades overlooking the colorful gardens. Many guests pass the time on their private terraces either soaking in the whirlpools or eyeing the majestic Andes.

Sacred Valley

Machu Picchu

In the end…
Obviously, the main reason for visiting the area is to explore Machu Picchu, and the best way to do that, unless you’re hiking, is by hopping a ride aboard IncaRail. The luxury experience at Sol y Luna is the ideal way to enjoy the area’s scenery while also dining on tasty Peruvian dishes on the way to Machu Picchu.

An open bar and multi-course meals help to pass the time. It’s important to remember the effects of high altitude though and drinking plentiful water is key.

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Chefs prepare delicious meals aboard Inca Rail to Machu Picchu

What many guests appreciate most about this family-run hotel is the bespoke service and focus on community support, which is what drives the owners in all that they do. Sol y Luna is the perfect homebase for exploring the region and paying a visit to Machu Picchu.

 

Ramsey Qubein

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About the Author

Ramsey Qubein

Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist and correspondent for Northstar Travel Media covering the hotel and airline industry from every corner of the globe. He has traveled to 144 countries (many more than two dozen times) and lived in both Madrid and Paris. His work has appeared in numerous consumer and industry publications including Travel+Leisure, Premier Traveler, Islands, Business Traveller, Singapore Airlines’ Silver Kris, and US Airways magazines. He is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and completed a Master’s Degree thesis researching various aspects of marketing/branding in the travel industry. Ramsey is highly recognized as an expert in travel loyalty programs, business travel and the luxury travel segment. He flies nearly 350,000 miles per year and estimates he has circumnavigated the globe more than 80 times. He is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio programs and contributor to USA Today, Fox News, BBC, Frommers, and AirfareWatchdog. Ramsey enjoys participating on travel panels or roundtables and is frequently quoted on travel-related subjects. Interested editors are welcome to contact him for any freelance writing needs related to business travel, aviation, or the hotel industry.

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