PALACIO NAZARENAS, CUSCO, PERU
why stay here?
● Frescoes and furniture
● Exceptional service
feel & design
Once a palace, then a convent, and now the gloriously restored Belmond property that it is, Palacio Nazarenas has a layered history. The restoration took three years and we think it was well worth the effort. There are two wings, one which encompasses ancient pre-Inca and Inca walls, and contains meticulously restored frescoes from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and a new wing which respects the rest of the architecture by being subtle but contemporary, and overlooks a lovely heated pool. Everything is precisely placed around this hotel. From locally sourced rugs to beautiful wooden chairs and an enviable collection of ceramics and pottery, it’s not difficult to see that some serious effort has gone into making it all just so. Walk through the delightful courtyard, get lost in the seven cloistered terraces, and dip into the pristine little herb garden to soak it all in. A local artisan is hired to weave traditional brilliantly coloured textiles (which you can watch - it's fascinating), which are available for purchase in the courtyard.
It’s a suites-only kind of place, with four styles of suites to choose from among its 55. All of them are spacious, and show off elegant marble baths and frescoes. Some in the historic portion of the hotel have beautiful high ceilings while others have balconies. We don’t think you could go wrong booking any of them. If you haven’t succumbed to soroche or altitude sickness in any way (unfortunately, we did though it wasn’t extreme), avail of the in-room bar (complete with instructions) to make yourself a pisco sour. Cusco gets chilly in the evening no matter what time of year, so cuddle up in the ridiculously soft alpaca blankets and throws provided in all the rooms. It all feels special, as Belmond intends, with unique touches like scented soap specially cut for you upon arrival into your suite.
We ate one of the best ceviches ever (and we’ve eaten plenty) at the lovely restaurant in situ, Senzo. The locally caught trout, perfectly cooked choclo, finely chopped onions, lemon, and perhaps some magic sprinkled in, made for a lovely lunch. The house-baked breads and freshly prepared spreads were delectable unto themselves, and really, we could have made a full meal of those alone. We can’t help but stand by the alpaca burger as well, in support of a) feeling okay in its general sustainability as it was locally procured and not mass produced, and b) wanting to taste alpaca for the first time. Don’t over-order as portions are generously sized. Do ask for your favourite local fruits even if they aren’t on the menu when it comes to breakfast; in fact, ask for anything and we suspect it will arrive. The staff was perfectly willing to sort us out with some chirimoya (you might know them as custard apples) which we are particularly partial to, in addition to the other amazing varieties of fruit always available in this part of the world. Quinoa pancakes and passionfruit yogurt were other favourites items on the menu.
● Heated outdoor swimming pool
Nothing seems to faze the staff; they were more than happy to assist with last-minute plans and requests, and did so with a smile and the utmost professionalism. You will be assigned a butler when you arrive, who serves as your primary staff contact.
Palacio Nazarenas is a stone’s throw from the Plaza de Armas, Cusco's main square, and sits in the historic city centre. At the least, check out the nice selection of alpaca knit products in the store across from the hotel, and saunter across the Plaza. Consider meandering into Belmond’s neighbouring property, the Monasterio hotel, which houses lots of art. The pre-Columbian art museum is right across the way as well. While it is in no way nearby, Machu Picchu travellers can organise a day trip with Belmond’s distinctive blue Hiram Bingham train to traverse down to the Sacred Valley.
how do you get here?
Organise an airport pick up from Cusco’s airport and you’ll arrive in 20 minutes flat if there’s no traffic. You’ll be glad you did, as gasping for breath after landing at 11,200 feet doesn’t go together well with sorting out transportation at the last minute. Be aware that Cusco is a difficult airport to land into; weather issues, however small they strike you, are treated very seriously. We learned the hard way that flight diversions and cancellations occur frequently.
We promise that our review is bias-free, but we owe it to our readers to share that we received small industry discounts for our stay at Belmond hotels in Peru.
On dealing with Cusco’s 11,200 foot altitude: Do drink the mate de coca offered to you on arrival to stave the breathlessness off. Locals swear by it across the Andean region, it is legal in Peru, and is perfectly safe to drink a couple of cups in a day. Consider getting a prescription for Diamox from your general practitioner medical professional at home; while there is no guarantee it will help, it is prescribed as a precaution. Take it easy for the first day or two, eat light, and drink lots of water - yes, even if you are an elite athlete as altitude impacts people without regard to general fitness. Fear not, if you do end up on the extreme side of soroche (altitude sickness), staff can fetch you medical assistance and oxygen.