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Libertador, which now owns seven properties, is part of the Brescia Group, a conglomerate operated by the second generation of an Italian family that settled in Lima, Peru, in the late 19th century. The company has invested $200 million in not only the new resorts and the new Westin Libertador Lima (to open in May 2011), but the extensive renovation of its Cusco property, Palacio del Inka, which will also be a member of the Starwood Luxury Collection.
In an area where luxury hotels occupy colonial-era buildings, Tambo del Inka is a complete departure. Designed by the award-winning firm Arquitectonica, the 21st-century modern building stretches along the Vilcanota River in the village of Urubamba in the Sacred Valley, halfway between Cusco and Machu Picchu — an area where verdant farms and small villages evoke the feeling of Shangri La, which makes coming on this boldly modern 128-room resort all the more surprising. But the design is also distinctly Peruvian, and pays homage to its rustic environs and the stunning ruins of Machu Picchu through its stone and wood details, the use of local textiles, and playful references like massive stone frogs in the lobby. The resort has unique luxuries — its own train station, so that guests have only a short, leisurely stroll through the gardens to connect with the train to Machu Picchu (people boarding in Cusco get up at the crack of dawn and drive to the station) and a lavish, multi-storied 12-treatment-room spa which features the use of indigenous ingredients (including Andean mud, coca leaves, or the grain quinoa) and a complete hydro-therapy circuit; two indoor pools— one for swimming and one with spa features including massage waterfalls— and sauna, steam and Vichy shower treatment rooms. The dramatic two-story dining room with its Machu Picchu-inspired stone walls and fireplace opens onto a terrace perfect for a lazy lunch. The seasonal menus reflect the hotel’s modern homage to the Andes, using local ingredients in witty twists on traditional dishes, all informed by Mediterranean cuisine. The bar, with its heated terrace, is irresistible. Rooms are spacious, with floor to ceiling windows (on the garden side, French doors open onto terraces), sprawling bathrooms with separate shower and tub, and flat-screen televisions, iPod docking stations and Wi-Fi. Rooms start at $455.
Tambo del Inka’s elevation is a couple of thousand feet lower than Cusco’s, so guests who come first to Tambo have an opportunity to acclimate gently, then go on to the cobblestoned hillside streets of Cusco. They also have the opportunity to explore the Sacred Valley at leisure, visiting villages renowned for their textiles, hiking to pre-Incan ruins and touring a salt mine.
The 120-room Hotel Paracas lies on the sunny coast three hour’s drive south of Lima, just below the long swath where the Humboldt Current shrouds the land in fog. Paracas is like New York’s Hamptons, an escape for well-to-do Limans. But the resort has a surprising wealth of activities and attractions. Guests can fly from Lima to Paracas on the resort’s 12-seater plane and can book private flights over the nearby Atacama desert and the mysterious Nazca Lines, an unforgettable experience. Just off the coast are the Ballestas Islands, a nature preserve teeming in ocean birds, Humboldt penguins and sea lions that guests can visit (as Kate Moss recently did) on the resort’s private yacht, as well as on smaller boats. Behind the resort the land becomes massive sand dunes, and one of the resort’s offerings is a romantic champagne dinner on pillows and carpets under a softly lit tent in the remote dunes (reached by 4x4 on a roller-coaster-like ride). Just up the coast are the vineyards of Pisco, where the national drink is created.
The Hotel Paracas reflects its sunny promontory in modern two-story white buildings. All the rooms have balconies or terraces with ocean views, and the glass-walled bathrooms add to the sense of airiness and space. There are, of course, flat-screen televisions, iPod docking stations and Wi-Fi. The hotel has museum-quality antiques on display throughout, and two restaurants; one in the main building, and another between the large outdoor pool and the pier. The food is absolutely sublime, with emphasis on fish just plucked from the ocean — Peruvian ceviches and crudo plates of thin-sliced raw fish marinated in citrus, grilled and pan-roasted fish, as well as ample choices for carnivores. The cuisine is modern Peruvian, with Mediterranean influences, and a splash of Pisco here and there. The spa here is large and multi-storied, offering everything from quinoa facials to Andean mud wraps. Service is discreet and expert. Rates start at $355.
Not many North Americans are aware of Paracas yet, but it’s bound to become another of Peru’s famous destinations.