On a recent trip to Peru with our daughter over Spring Break, our arrangements were bundled in order to assure optimal entrance times and a guide at Machu Picchu. My job was limited to making air reservations to Lima and return, which I wrote about last week.
The bundling included hotel reservations in Lima, Cusco, and Aguas Calientes (at the base of Machu Picchu). I had no oversight, or even visibility, until we walked into each property. I had to forget the consistency of a Sheraton; every Peruvian hotel had its own character. Here are my real-time notes:
TAMBO PERU 2 HOTEL, LIMA
Our Lima Airport airport-to-hotel transfer rep met us just outside immigration as planned. Forty-five minutes after leaving the airport, we arrived at our hotel in Lima’s tony Miraflores neighborhood near the Pacific Ocean. The drive was tortuous, but fascinating, through the thriving beat of late Friday night traffic.
I guess the fellow who made the hotel arrangements for us in Lima inadvertently set my expectations at a high level. Because our hotel, the Tambo Peru 2 (of three in Lima), was a letdown. I’m pretty sure a photo of this place appears in the dictionary under the entry “charmless”. Nothing about the physical property is endearing, though the staff is friendly and helpful.
That said, the Tambo Peru 2 is perfectly safe, clean, and serviceable. It just isn’t the level of hotel that I thought we paid for.
The following morning, after a forgettable breakfast at the hotel (included), we had a taxi drop us in downtown (old town) Lima at the Plaza San Martin. The elegant old Gran Hotel Bolivar was our first stop.
Not the fine hotel it once was, but still a beautiful building in the grand early 20th century colonial style. Its faded glory certainly eclipsed that of the Tambo 2 Hotel. .
Back at our hotel later that day, we walked around the Miraflores streets nearby. I was surprised to spot the Mercure Hotel Lima just around the corner. After our fine experience at the Mercure in Vienna in January, I was wishing we had been booked there. The Tambo was clean and safe, but nothing extra whatsoever.
TERRA ANDINA HOTE, CUSCO
The Terra Andina is a grand old building, formerly a large private residence, now converted to a hotel. It’s conveniently located close to Plaza San Pedro, the big local market. Plaza San Francisco and Plaza de Armas (the main square) are with reasonable walking distance.
The hotel is fine, but with the sort of idiosyncrasies that tend to bedevil non-chain properties. Like ’em or hate “em, the Hiltons and Marriotts of the world have standardized the things that ensure our comfort. Our impressive modern-looking shower in the Terra Andina, for instance, dribbled only a pathetic stream of tepid water and never got hot. The mattresses were uncomfortable thick foam that got terribly hot in the night, as did the too-thick foam pillows. The bedside lights were inadequate for reading. The room safe wasn’t bolted down and could have easily been carted away by a thief.
Also, the buffet breakfast didn’t impress me. My wife and daughter found it perfectly acceptable, however, so what do I know?
I have long ago come to take such basic creature comforts for granted in hotels. Even Days Inn does a better job in delivering those basics than the Terra Andina. But, of course, the Andina makes up in unique charm what it lacks in the details.
HANAQPACHA INN HOTEL, AGUAS CALIENTES
We enjoyed a super deluxe hotel in Aguas Calientes…well, okay, a slight exaggeration. Maybe even an outright lie.
At least we have a view now. The hotel initially assigned us a room in the back of the building with no windows at all and only a single dim bulb working. The only other room light was broken. It resembled a forgotten dank storeroom more than a hotel bedroom. I politely but firmly explained our unwillingness to accept that accommodation, resulting in being switched to one of their best rooms on the front. This one has stunning views , such as of the hotplate on the table in the one-room flat across the alley, and at no extra cost!
Deluxe? Not. All kidding aside, though, this is exactly the kind of modest, but clean and safe hotel that my wife and I would have researched and selected for ourselves. The reason I’m grousing is that for this trip, to make it special for our daughter, we opted to let a tour operator arrange everything, and, just like my disappointment in the Lima hotel, we were led to believe this property was much better than it is. It’s a matter of setting expectations.
I looked up the property. The Hanaqpacha Inn Hotel (perhaps management felt two descriptors would attract double the custom), for several dates, including this week (Catholic Holy Week, which is high season). Rooms for two with breakfast were consistently $39/night, for three (2 adults and 1 child), $49 nightly including breakfast. I’m pretty sure a tour operator would get a discount below those public rates.
The Hanqpacha is fine and dandy at those price levels. In addition to breakfast of some sort, the wifi works well, and the amazing shower (lots of hot water and torrential water pressure) almost redeems the dismal location. The staff is super-nice, too, and, to repeat two important base elements of any hotel, it is safe and clean. I just feel we aren’t getting what we paid the tour operator for.
BACK AT TERRA ANDINA, CUSCO
Not sure what we did to deserve this nice suite (208) at the Terra Andina hotel here in Cusco, but it sure was a great surprise to be already checked into it last night when arrived exhausted from the day of climbing at Machu Picchu and then the train and van rides.
Photos don’t do the 2-room suite and luxury bathroom (with huge tub and separate glass shower) justice. Still has the same uncomfortable foam mattresses, but the hot water works well in this room, and with plenty of pressure.
Maybe it was the nice tip I left the staff here before we departed for Aguas Calientes. I think I reported how great the hotel staff is here, nice enough to overcome my nits and make me want to return. So I rewarded them.
All three hotels in Peru were fine because they were safe and clean. As I said about the property in Aguas Calientes, all three were exactly what my wife and I might have selected for ourselves, which is how we ordinarily plan our trips (that is, we arrange most everything). We just didn’t get what we paid for, a different issue. The hotels were fine for holiday travel, but probably not for most business travelers. Each property was a total surprise, a nice contrast from the predictable monotony of major chain hotels,