At a Glance
- Prime location just outside the gates of Machu Picchu
- Some suites with patios and cloud forest views
- Spa services for weary hikers
Location, location, location. Sitting just outside the entrance gates of one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world can do a lot for a hotel’s reputation. The Sanctuary Lodge, now run by Belmond, has always been the only hotel to offer beds within walking distance of Machu Picchu. It sits in a cloud forest high above Aguas Calientes, the town in which the trains arrive and only steps from the visitors’ entrance to the site of Machu Picchu.
Over the years, the building, which was built in the early '40s to house the archaeologists excavating the ruins, has been renovated and upgraded. Its thirty-one rooms now have TVs and some Andean touches, like alpaca blankets and framed textiles, but they still feel quite simple. Aside from the walls of vintage photos that show Hiram Bingham and his team during the earliest excavations, in the 1910s, the interior of the hotel lacks a true sense of place. The dining room resembles an attractive cafeteria, and the property's front doors open out to the gates of Machu Picchu—as well as all of the site's visitors. But there are now a range of massage and aromatherapy services for weary hikers on-site.
Today a building could not be erected so close to a UNESCO World Heritage site, and this one will never be expanded, so proximity, not opulence, is why you pay the high room price. While it used to be that guests staying here could have Machu Picchu to themselves after the day-trippers had returned down the mountain, the closing time was changed to 5:30 pm, ruling out these exclusive night visits. Buses now continue to run until after the site’s main gates close and before they open, so you no longer have more exclusive access to the ruins than do those who choose to stay at the Sumaq Machu Picchu or Inkaterra’s Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. Guests of Belmond Sanctuary Lodge do, however, have the benefit of only taking one bus up and one bus down, which is particularly useful if visiting Machu Picchu more than once. Avoiding the lengthy bus lines for multiple visits makes it worthwhile.
Note: Book early, as this is one of the toughest reservations in Peru to secure.
Who Should Stay
Those who want to be as close as possible to Machu Picchu and want to avoid many bus rides up and down the mountain to and from Aguas Calientes, but who don’t mind paying a lot for small, simple rooms.
Who Should Not Stay
Those who would rather be in a more family friendly resort-like hotel should choose the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel.
Indagare Tips: Contact our bookings team for advice on the best rooms to book. In order to be first in line for entrance into the park, you must be outside the lodge by 5:40am, as the first van from Aguas Calientes arrives at 5:45am (suffice it to say that when my companion and I emerged from our hotel at 5:50am, there were already at least 60 people ahead of us).
Written by Indagare