Arriving to eleven thousand feet in elevation during a Cusco winter requires certain indulgences: oxygen-infused air, heated floors, relaxing spa treatments, late mornings and long afternoon naps.

Lodgings are scattered up and down the steep streets of the ancient Inca city. But we selected the 43-room Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel, stylishly converted from a 16th century mansion, as much for its modern conveniences –oxygen-enriched rooms, complimentary Wi-Fi, and heated flooring–as its sophisticated aesthetic and ideal downtown address. 

Like many visitors headed to Machu Picchu, we were spending a few days in Cusco to acclimatize before setting off for a walking tour of the Sacred Valley, the Inca Trail and the mythical Inca citadel. Boasting spacious bedrooms, luxuriant bathrooms, and a museum worthy art collection, the Aranwa (a Quechua word for Story or Legend) sits at the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage city, just two blocks off the Plaza de Aramas, providing a superb base from which to explore the Inca’s holiest city.

When the Spanish conquistadors invaded in the sixteenth century and toppled the Inca kingdom, Cusco was changed forever, fusing native and Spanish culture into a vibrant new civilization. Incorporating Incan and colonial influences in its dazzling restoration, restaurant cuisine and spa treatments, the Aranwa beautifully mirrors the city’s unique blend of past and present.

Accommodations have a romantic, colonial-chic vibe with antique furnishings, bedside alpaca foot rugs, crystal chandeliers, fluffy feather duvets with crisp covers, integrated climate controls, plasma televisions and iPod docks. The palatial public areas are dressed with comfortable furniture, elegant trimmings and art from the private collection of the mansion’s former owner, Don Alonso Pérez de Villarejo, Dean of the Cusco Cathedral.

The warm and courteous staff are eager to assist - whether it’s securing a table at their own delectable Mishti Mestizo restaurant, booking a spa treatment, or helping you plan a city walking tour.

But perhaps the finest touch is also the simplest: In the late afternoons, sinking into a cozy lobby chair in front of a flickering fire to enjoy a steaming cup of coca leaf tea (the local cure for altitude sickness).

About Aranwa Hotel Resorts & Spas:  

A growing Lima-based hotel group, Aranwa offers luxury accommodations and service along with authentic immersion into Peruvian culture and the local destination.  The group includes: Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness (opened 2008), a resort located in the Urubamba Valley, and Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel (opened 2010), and others under development. The company’s mission is not only to provide superb hospitality and promote guest wellness and health with state-of-the-art spa treatments, but also to seek harmony with the environment and appreciate and respect the local culture. For more information, please visit:

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".