Since its debut in 1995, our favorite place to stay in Cusco has been the 126-room Hotel Monasterio, located a short stroll from the Plaza de Armas. Originally a Spanish seminary dating to 1592, it contains the extraordinarily ornate Chapel of San Antonio Abad, which is still overseen by the archbishop of Cusco. Elsewhere, the gracious interiors brim with charm. Polished terra-cotta tile floors, vaulted ceilings, elaborate wood accents and intricate silver ornaments are complemented by a museum’s worth of remarkable oil paintings done in the distinctive style of the Cusqueña school. The magnificent cloistered courtyard features geometric gardens, cobbled paths and a towering 300- year-old cedar.
As is to be expected in an historic building, the accommodations are anything but cookie-cutter. Our Deluxe Room came with authentic furniture, well-executed lighting (including easily accessible bedside lamps), a small flat-screen television and reliable complimentary Wi-Fi. A supplementary oxygen system to offset the effects of the 11,000-foot altitude was available for $48. While it was perfectly adequate, the marble bath with granite vanities seemed a bit tired and offered only a tub/shower combination. The preferred lodgings are the spacious Deluxe Rooms overlooking the Plaza Nazarenas, as well as the 12 duplex Junior Suites on the mezzanine level.
Along one side of the courtyard, Illariy restaurant features a sophisticated menu by chef Mariano Takinami, which blends the richness of the Peruvian larder with clever Japanese accents. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and continue to recommend the Monasterio with enthusiasm. Travelers to Cusco now have an attractive choice between a distinguished boutique property, La Casona, and a full-service grand hotel.
HOTEL MONASTERIO 93 Deluxe Room, $715; Junior Suite, $820. Calle Palacios 136, Plazoleta Nazarenas, Cusco. Tel. (51) 84-60-4000.
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