Palacio del Inca hotel Peru

If you were inside the Palacio del Inka hotel in Cusco before August of 2013, wipe all those images from your mind and follow that link to our new review. The formerly tired and dowdy looking hotel is now gloriously beautiful and has gone from also-ran to top-tier.

Palacio del Inka has a storied (and politically incorrect) history swirling around the great Spanish conqueror himself, Francisco Pizarro. You can read all about his Peru exploits in The Last Days of the Incas, but let’s just say that this building was once his manor, built on top of a local temple. Let’s look on the positive side of that though: you can have a drink in the bar next to an Inca wall that’s been there since before the first Spaniard arrived.

This property is part of the Starwood Luxury Collection and is one of the best of the lot in South America if you’re either cashing in loyalty points or looking to earn some new ones. The hotel is owned by Peruvian chain Libertador, which also owns the stunning Hotel Paracas and the high-rise Westin Lima. Both companies in this partnership know what they’re doing and you can expect reliably good service, in English when necessary.

Starwood Luxury Collection Peru

In many ways though you’re entering what feels like a brand new hotel. Some $15 million went into renovations, so we’re not talking about just some new light fixtures and bedding. The transformation has been breathtaking, from a look that seemed lost in decades past to one that seems to have taken the rash of recent competitors as a challenge to do something fantastic. The lobby, the rooms, the restaurants—everything got an update. We have a few photos in our review, but go to the hotel site to see a full gallery in full screen mode, including the striking spa.

Out are the generic–issue luxury hotel furnishings and conservative color palette, in are a gloriously unique range of decorative details. Check out the exquisitely hand–painted ceilings and walls: they’re the product of countless hours of work by local artisans. Note the lavish gold–leaf bed frames and columns rising up over the Luxury Collection signature beds, and the motif of the Inca cross, and the bedside tables modeled on a much larger antique table (on display in a ground–level hallway) original to the property. The look is glamorous but fresh, even whimsical — probably unlike any other hotel interior you’ve seen.

Cusco is loaded with great luxury hotels now. Some would even call it over-saturated. If you’ve got the means to stay anywhere you want though, this high-end competition means you would stay in a glorious room and receive terrific service even if your first choice is sold out. I have a feeling that many ended up at the old version of this hotel by default and were disappointed. Now they may actually put it at the top of their list.

See our full revised review of Palacio del Inka Hotel in Cuzco.