Every year, millions of eager travelers make the trip to Machu Picchu, checking off the 15th century Incan citadel from their jet set bucket list. There’s a reason so many people are determined to make it to Machu Picchu—it’s one of those rare, once-in-a-lifetime magical experiences that actually lives up to the hype.
But it’s not exactly a convenient site to reach, and while many people turn the excursion into a day trip, it’s far more relaxing and enjoyable to transform the hike into a whole travel experience. That means finding a luxe hotel for your stay in Aguas Calientes, the settlement below the famous Incan site. Sumaq Machu Picchu is one of the few five-star hotels in the town and is located in its own little enclave, away from the hoards of backpacking tourists that are inevitable when visiting certain destinations.
The plush, understated Peruvian hotel feels like it’s in a private oasis, overlooking the Vilcanota River. Sumaq also removes all the stress from planning your visit to Machu Picchu—they take care of the whole itinerary, starting out with sending someone to come pick you up at the train station, transfer your luggage and give you a little peek at the famous market, where we highly recommend picking up an alpaca sweater or two. That’s just the beginning, though—other experiences include private shaman rituals, ceviche classes, pisco sour demonstrations and more. And, of course, the guides for your hike. Here’s everything you need to know about our top hotel pick for Machu Picchu.
The Rooms Are Inspired by the Local Andean Culture
The hotel is comprised of 62 rooms and suites, all of which are decorated in a deep red, gold and dark wood color scheme. The decor is modern while showcasing the local Andean influence, like the woven textiles hung on the walls and on the beds. Most of the rooms feature views of the Vilcanota River and lush greenery from the mahogany-accented windows. If you want an upgrade, consider one of the two deluxe junior suites, which have private living rooms, balconies and Jacuzzis. Rates start at $350 for a deluxe garden view, while the deluxe river view starts at $608.
Or Splurge on the Regal Imperial Suite for $2,660 a Night
If you’re really looking to splurge, book the hotel’s Imperial Suite, which costs about $2,660 a night. There’s a king-size bed, a separate living room and a massive marble Jacuzzi in the entertaining area, so you can relax in a bubble bath post-hike while taking in the views of the mountains and Vilcanota River. Guests who book this suite also get butler service and a wine bar filled with bottles selected from the hotel owner’s personal cellar. Those staying in the Imperial Suite can also have a full formal dinner within the room, and it includes ceviche and pisco sour demonstrations right in the living area.
Learn How to Make Ceviche and Pisco Sours, and Watch an Ancient Peruvian Earth Pot Cooking Ritual
You don’t have to be staying in the Imperial Suite to experience the aforementioned food demos, though. The hotel will plan out a special cooking class at the bar, where you can learn how to cook up trout ceviche (it’s fresh from the neighboring river). There’s also the option for a pisco sour class, because you absolutely must try the local Peruvian drink while there—plus, it means you can add a new cocktail recipe to your repertoire.
If you don’t mind waiting a few hours before you dine, we definitely recommend the pachamanca demonstration. It’s an ancient Peruvian dish in which stones are heated in a fire and then buried in the ground and act as an oven (an “earth pot”), and food including pork, chicken and potatoes are then buried in the earth with it, underneath a few layers of plantain leaves. If you’re looking for a simpler meal, the hotel’s one restaurant, Qunuq, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with Peruvian dishes and local ingredients like quinoa chicken, trout ceviche and alpaca. You can also go for the Flavor of the Andes tasting menu, to try a little bit of everything.
Take a Mystical Tour of Machu Picchu, Complete With a Shaman and Sacred Rock Ceremony
Now, here’s what you (and pretty much everyone else) planned your trip around—the actual Machu Picchu experience. Sumaq will take care of all the logistical planning, and they have a few different options for how you can see the magical site. On my recent trip to Machu Picchu, I embarked on the “Mystical Tour,” where you’ll meet your private guide and shaman (yes, shaman, and no, this isn’t gimmicky) before getting onto the bus that takes you up the mountain. The experience, which is a bit over five hours when you factor in travel to and from the site, is both historical and spiritual, and includes a ceremony at a sacred rock, cleansing ritual and, of course, plenty of background on the Incan citadel.
A Shaman Will Also Perform an Earth Offering Ritual and Aura Cleansing
If you’re looking to add another level to the more spiritual experience, book the “Offer to the Earth” ritual, where the shaman who took you around Machu Picchu will come to Sumaq and perform a ceremony with an offering to the earth, including coca leaves, palo santo, crystals, shells and other items. Sumaq also offers aura cleansing sessions and coca leaf readings, both of which are completed by a private shaman.
Indulge in a Massage With Natural Honey and Coca Oil
After you’ve traveled the three-and-half-hour train journey from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, and then spent over five hours hiking around Machu Picchu, it’ll be hard to resist a stop at the spa. Sumaq’s Aqlla Spa is located on the lower level of the hotel, with a treatment room, steam sauna and Jacuzzi. The treatments, including facials, massages and scrubs, are all about embracing the local culture and ancient Inca practices, and include floral essences, natural coca oil and Cusco honey.