Peruvian Panache

Steeped in ancient history, Cusco, Peru, is vibrant inside and out

Once capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco, Peru, is now an enchanting city rich in both culture and history, known for its ancient remains and Spanish Colonial architecture. And when visiting what some call “the Rome of South America,” it’s best to headquarter in the center of it all.

Located a brief jaunt from Cusco’s vibrant main square, the Plaza de Armas, the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco blends 21st-century luxuries with historic authenticity. Housed in a restored 16th-century convent, the boutique hotel features a combination of Incan stone and Colonial architecture.

The grandeur begins from the moment you arrive; upon check-in, guests are greeted with the sight of an Incan sun comprised entirely of 76,500 glittering Swarovski crystals. 

Since Cusco is situated at 11,150 feet above sea level, you’ll likely need to rest after getting settled into your room. Each elegantly appointed suite comes with its own oxygen-enrichment system designed to reduce the risk of altitude sickness. Kick back with a cup of fresh tea, or take a soak in the tub with locally sourced bath salts. For sustenance, look no further than the hotel’s restaurant, Qespi, helmed by chef Jonathan Campos and offering both Peruvian classics and original creations.

When it comes time to explore, get lost in Cusco’s bustling historic district, where the best way to take in the city’s colorful buildings and ancient architecture is by foot. For a taste of local cuisine, visit the Mercado San Pedro—a busy marketplace occupied by every type of vendor (and exotic fruit) imaginable—to purchase local chocolate, pink salt, handmade goods and more. Swing by Café D’wasi Peruvian Coffee to pick up a cup (or bag) of coffee, and don’t miss out on artisanal chocolates from Chocolates La Cholita. Or perhaps you’d prefer to enjoy lunch with a view on the patio of cozy cafe La Valeriana.

Of course, a trip to Cusco is never complete without touring some of its natural (and manmade) wonders. Plan an excursion to Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas, nestled among sweeping sights of the Andes Mountains. Here, you’ll also find the salt pools of Maras, ancient, geometric salt pools that have been harvested since Incan times (guests are able to purchase bagged salt at market stalls on site).

Perhaps Peru’s most widely recognized wonder is Machu Picchu, which is a three- to four-hour train ride from Cusco and not to be missed. Journey in style aboard the impossibly luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train, which takes its name from the explorer who rediscovered Machu Picchu. Inside its 1920s-style carriage, expect white-tablecloth dining, top-notch beverages, live entertainment and unbelievable, up close views of the Andes. At your destination, awe-inspiring grandeur awaits. An ancient Incan citadel, Machu Picchu’s allure is a product of both raw beauty and enigmatic mysticism.

Back at the JW Marriott, don’t close out your trip without a guided tour of the hotel’s Incan and pre-Incan artifacts—up close evidence of the region’s deeply rooted history and incomparable culture.