Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Belmond Rio Sagrado

Peru

The place to discover the spirit of the Incas

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Belmond Rio Sagrado
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Belmond Rio Sagrado

Location

Beside the Urubamba River, near Cusco in Peru's Sacred Valley.

Travel Information

Fly from Lima to Cusco airport, where Belmond will meet you for your transfer to the hotel.

Top Tips

Acclimatise to Andes altitudes before visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu by train. Explore the Sacred Valley on horseback or mountain bike or simply relax by riverside.

5-Star X-Factors

Experience life in the Andes.

Belmond Rio Sagrado

We flew into Cusco where the mountain tops seen from the airplane seem to reach the sky higher than you’ve ever experienced before. The dramatic introduction to the Andean mountain range begins immediately. Then there’s a slow descent to the valley floor of Cusco which is surrounded by the jagged mountains on both sides and yet rests at over 11,000 feet above sea level. How high are those mountains?

At the airport, we were greeted by two members of Belmond's team who, at every location of our journey, provided wonderful ground transport drivers and personal guides - we were incredibly well looked after. They say it’s important to acclimatise before you spend time in Cusco, which is why traveling to the Sacred Valley and then on to Machu Picchu is recommended. Being one to suffer at the hands of motion sickness, I prepared with tablets supplied by my doctor and was pleased to find I ultimately did not need them as the local coca tea leaves did the trick. They are offered everywhere and in lots of different forms - you can chew them raw or soak them to make tea. The coca plant helps not just with nausea but with a bad tummy as well.

Arriving at the Belmond Rio Sagrado feels like you’ve discovered a tranquil Andean hideaway set alongside the rushing Urubamba river away from the main dirt road. There are willow trees and a sprawling lawn shaping their grounds. The rooms and suites all have balconies with floor to ceiling sliding glass doors that face the flowing river and are decorated with locally woven soft furnishings in vibrant colors against wooden floors and tiled bathrooms. Needless to say, the bed is extremely comfortable and we enjoyed a restful night’s sleep with the lulling sound of the river below. I viewed many a room on the property and there wasn’t a bad choice.

We stayed two nights, participating in a shaman ceremony of gratitude at the water’s edge, as well as a short trip to see Ollantaytambo, one of the great Inca fortresses and sacred areas in the Urumbamba Valley that is nearly 600 years old. The town is one of the oldest continuously occupied settlements in the Americas and has sixteen massive terraces spread before you showing off the impressive Inca masonry. It was incredible to walk through and get a visceral introduction to the ancient history and start to comprehend just how the Incas cultivated their land and developed their culture.  

Back at the hotel you can spend time getting one of many treatments in their zen spa - we did a couples massage using local aromatherapy oils which was heavenly, or simply sit by the pool, sit on your terrace or stroll in the gardens and feed the wandering alpacas. Their restaurant, El Huerto (the Orchard), has indoor/outdoor seating and serves up local, delicious food. We found having these two days in the valley allowed us to relax and acclimatise while getting slowly educated and infused with the Andean way.

It was then time to say farewell and take the train to Machu Picchu - the only way to access the area unless you are walking the Inca trail. We were heading for Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, which is the only hotel anywhere near the citadel. The Vistadome train leaves from Ollantaytambo and is an hour and a half ride through the Sacred Valley to the ruins. The small town of Machu Picchu is filled with tourists from around the world - hikers and backpackers, families and couples on honeymoon, old and young  adventure seekers.

At Machu Picchu there is a buzz in the air that is palpable, like everyone here is about to experience something very special. We were aware it was the main purpose of our journey.

Jennifer Hamm
Jennifer Hamm