The Marriott corporation’s hotels don’t exactly have a reputation for stylishness or a strong sense of place. With properties like the JW Marriott El Convento in Cusco, Peru, they’ve been trying to shake the reputation of being about as exciting as a blue banker’s suit. Their Cusco hotel, which opened in late 2012, is an architectural marvel, a modern hotel housed in a Spanish colonial convent that eventually fell into ruins and was abandoned.

The convent itself was built on top of something else, of course, as many buildings were when the foreign marauders routed the Inca empire and immediately started showing everyone who was boss. There are still Inca walls incorporated into the property here and there. You can walk out the front door here and pass more of them on your five-minute walk to the main plaza in the historic center.

The entrance here is unusual for a chain hotel in the sense that you could walk right past it five times without knowing it’s there. A wall of arches separates the front door from the street. The quietest rooms inside are ones that face the ample courtyard instead of the street, but all have very effective soundproofed windows.

El Convento really is the best of both worlds for tourists who are not used to stepping out of their comfort zone, but still want to know they’re not in Cleveland when they walk into the lobby. What you get from the international chain aspect is great bilingual service from a well-trained staff, impeccable maintenance and housekeeping, and a sense that if there’s a problem, it’ll get fixed in a timely manner. And, sigh, you can watch sports events on giant TVs in the bar if you must.

JW Marriott Cusco Pirqa

One of the real standout aspects of this Cusco JW Marriott though is the surprisingly locavore restaurant, Pirqa (Quechua word for “wall”). The talented chef, who trained with some of the greats in Lima, serves up dishes as beautiful as the candlelit convent wall surroundings.

Pirqa restaurant

There are very few staid international dishes on the menu though. Nearly everything incorporates Peruvian potatoes, quinoa varieties, local berries, or exotic fruits, leading to interesting taste sensations that will remind you that you’ve flown to another continent. Most of the ingredients are organic and sourced from local farms.

Click on the video at the top of this post to take a tour around the property. Or check out our full review of JW Marriott El Convento in Cusco.