Luxury Explorer Review

5-Star Hotel Review

Belmond Sanctuary Lodge


The only hotel located within the mighty Inca citadel of Machu Picchu

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Belmond Sanctuary Lodge


Within the sanctuary of Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Travel Information

Machu Picchu is reachable by private transfer, a regular bus service from Aguas Calientes, Peru Rail or by trekking along the famous Inca Trail

Top Tips

Visit Machu Picchu early morning or late in the day to avoid the masses

5-Star X-Factors

Simply nothing else like it!

Belmond Sanctuary Lodge

Imagine waking from a perfect slumber on crisp linens, freshening up in luxurious comfort, then stepping out into mighty Machu Picchu with barely another soul in sight. Well, this dream can actually become a reality.

After a couple of days in Lima, it was time to take the train to Machu Picchu - the only way to access the area unless you are walking the Inca trail. 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. There is a buzz in the air that is palpable, like everyone here is about to experience something very special. The last leg of the journey to the site, again, unless you are walking up, is a very windy steep road that only gives access to local buses. The altitude here is not the problem as you are lower than the Sacred Valley, but the bus ride does give some pause with the many switchbacks on a narrow, hillside road. I chose to sit next to the driver which was allowed and it really helped any vertigo that threatened to invade.

The gates to get into the site are directly next door to the next Belmond hotel experience, The Sanctuary. This hotel has the distinction of being the only hotel at the top of the mountain and it’s literally next to the entrance to the site. Being a resident, this allows you to linger inside Machu Picchu from literally opening until closing if you choose, as well as alongside this magical spot from the privacy of the hotel grounds without many people near you at all. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and all of our drinks - piscos included! - come with the price of the room, and the staff and service couldn’t have been friendlier. Must mention that the spa treatments are located in the beautiful, quiet gardens where you can choose from a variety of services both outside or in small cabanas.

After a light lunch, our personal guide took us to the awesome site that is Machu Picchu. Standing on the upper level looking down you are instantly struck by the vastness of the structures and the energy coming off of the surrounding mountains - I could feel it. Regardless of the many myths of what this site was intended to be - and there are many ideas - it is magnificent in its scale and remarkable when you consider it was built before the wheel; there were no donkeys or horses carrying building materials and it was built on the top of a mountain nearly 8000 feet above sea level. Just phenomenal.

It was ideal to have our guide for the afternoon slowly take us through the formed buildings, plazas and platforms that are connected by narrow lanes and paths. We were able to stay till just before closing when most tourists had gone and the sun was starting its descent which was beyond magical. Drinks and dinner back at Sanctuary Lodge felt like just that, a sanctuary for those lucky enough to be staying the night in this glorious backdrop.

The next day we chose one of two hikes on offer - Huayna Picchu - which required a pre-purchased timed ticket as they only allow 200 people climb every few hours. The officials make each person sign in and then sign out to keep track of all the hikers as it is very steep and narrow and not for the faint hearted. Many of the steps are carved into the stone of the mountain and you have to be fit to get to the top. Once there, though, the views back to Machu Picchu and beyond are spectacular and well worth the effort getting there.

This was an experience we'll treasure for the rest of or lives.