Ah, Machu Picchu–it's no wonder why even in their skeletal state, the ruins, carved into lush green terraces against the mist-shrouded mountains, are considered one of the seven “new” wonders of the world and figure prominently on so many travelers' bucket lists. For a once in a lifetime trip, it's worth a small splurge to stay in the best Machu Picchu hotels, in the Valle Sagrado, or Sacred Valley, and nearby Cusco (or Cuzco), which offer more than luxury and access to the incredible City of the Incas. They provide truly personalized service in lodges that range from the aristocratic and historical to airy and modern. Don't underestimate the need to acclimate to the higher altitude in Cusco before visiting Machu Picchu, and make this time spent acclimating all the more pleasant with a spacious room or suite, the cozy warmth of fireplaces, and, from Tambo del Inka, beautiful views.
A Luxury Collection hotel, at least one night at Tambo del Inka is a must when venturing to Machu Picchu. It's set right in the Valle Sagrado and is the only hotel there to have its own private train station, making it convenient for visiting Machu Picchu, as well as for exploring nearby towns and hiking, cycling, and kayaking. Even entry level Superior Rooms are a spacious 440 square feet, with a hardwood floor, Peruvian fabrics and design, and a sunlit balcony from which to enjoy the views of the valley and fresh air over a cup of morning coffee or tea. You'll sleep soundly on pillowtop beds dressed in 400 thread count linens, and the airy bathroom includes a separate shower and soaking tub. We also love the spa, arguably the best in the entire Machu Picchu area, which offers restorative treatments that use indigenous ingredients, such as the Firming Coca Massage and Andean Chocolate Facial, as well as traditional Thai Massage, Shiatsu, and Foot Reflexology. Or go for a refreshing swim in the heated indoor/outdoor pool. Hawa Restaurant serves innovative “nouveau Incan” dishes prepared with mostly local, organic ingredients, though there are also other good restaurants nearby such as El Huacatay and Tres Keros. TravelSort offers the best cash rates, but of course if you have SPG points you're best off planning in advance so you can book the Cash & Points rate, or, if you're too late for that, a free night, which is 10,000 SPG points.
Inkaterra La Casona
With just 11 spacious suites set in a beautifully restored former conquistador's mansion, the Inkaterra La Casona epitomizes discreet, bespoke luxury. Enjoy a warm welcome and hot cup of coca tea, the local antidote to altitude sickness. Should you nevertheless suffer from the high altitude, however, the concierge or butler can provide oxygen enrichment. The location is perfect, on the peaceful Plaza Las Nazarenas yet just one block to Cusco's present-day main square and also close to the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art and excellent restaurants. Each suite effortlessly melds graceful antiques with modern comforts. The king bed or two twin beds are dressed with the softest pima cotton and down duvet, while the marble bath features dual vanities, free standing soaking tubs, shower, and plush towels. Ward off the chill by the stone fireplace (each suite has its own) heated floors, or with the hot water bottle thoughtfully provided during the nightly turndown service. WiFi is complimentary, as is the delicious breakfast with egg dishes cooked to order.
Not to worry if Tambo del Inka and Inkaterra La Casona are out of your price range; Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel is the perfect 4-star boutique choice. The 16th century manor, while not as intimate or luxurious as Inkaterra La Casona, offers 43 very comfortable rooms and suites that are oxygen-enriched to help you acclimate and sleep better, and additional oxygen is available from the front desk. Classic Rooms are quite cozy at 250 square feet, so we would suggest a Deluxe Room, at 280 square feet, or better, a Deluxe Superior Room at 380 square feet. We especially like the spa-like bathrooms, with their heated floors and towel racks, jacuzzi tubs, massage showers, and organic bath products (why can't more hotels have these?) The hotel is also planning to open a spa, although it's not yet operational. Don't miss having dinner at Mishti-Mestizo, with delicious Peruvian specialties such as pumpkin stew with grilled shrimp; Alpaca tenderloin with andean cheese in port wine and Peruvian elderberry sauce; and tarte tatin made with creole apples and served with panna ice cream.
Getting to Machu Picchu with Miles and Points
Your best option for getting to Machu Picchu comfortably is to fly business class on LAN, since LAN has flat-bed seats on its Miami-Lima route, but AA does not.
Using British Airways Avios
50,000 Avios for Miami – Lima roundtrip in business class on LAN
9000 Avios for Lima – Cusco roundtrip in economy
So, total of 59,000 Avios if you're flying from Miami.
Pro: It's easier to plan a stopover in Lima, since BA prices segment by segment
Con: If you're departing from somewhere else in the U.S., you need to factor in the cost of getting yourself to Miami, either with miles/points or with a cheap revenue ticket.
Earning the miles:
The British Airways Visa 100,000 Avios offer has ended, so the best current offer for the BA Visa is for 50,000 bonus Avios. Don't forget that there's currently a 40% AMEX Membership Rewards transfer bonus to British Airways Avios
, so if you have plenty of MR points and will need to use Avios for an award soon, this is a good time to transfer points.
Using American AAdvantage Miles
Pro: By using AA, your award will cover your flights to/from Miami from your home airport–even if you live in Hawaii or Alaska. Specifically, AA considers “North America” as including the Continental U.S., Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, The Bahamas and the Caribbean.
Cons: You'll need to call AA to book AA awards on LAN, and this will cost you $25 per ticket. You also may not be able to have a stopover in Lima, since your final destination is Cusco and it's not a segment by segment booking as the BA award is.
Earning the miles:
Check our Best Travel Credit Cards
page to apply for Citi AAdvantage cards to earn AA miles. Or open a BankDirect
Using United Miles
70,000 United MileagePlus miles for U.S.-Cusco roundtrip in business class.
I haven't looked up specific awards, but there are United flights nonstop out of EWR and IAH to Lima. And I assume that since TACA Airlines, a new Star Alliance member, flies from Miami to Lima and from Lima to Cusco an award on them is possible. I'm betting business on TACA is not as good as on LAN, but would love anyone who's flown both of them to chime in.
Pros: As with AA, if you live elsewhere in the U.S. (or in Canada) you get your flights from your home airport covered, either all the way to Cusco if flying on TACA, or at least to Lima, if flying on United. And the United 757-200s usually used on the routes to Lima have BusinessFirst flat bed seats that are better than AA (but service is likely better if you can fly LAN in business).
Con: It costs more United miles than either British Airways or AA. And unless your award is on TACA, you'll need to add on an award for Lima-Cusco–your best bet is to use 9000 BA Avios for the roundtrip.
Earning the miles:
You can earn the miles both through credit card bonuses – Sapphire Preferred
, Ink Bold
, Ink Plus
, United MileagePlus Explorer
– and through bonus spend using your Ink Bold or Ink Plus to buy gift cards to get 5X spend on Amazon and even general purchases with refills for the AMEX Prepaid. Don't forget the current 20X bonus opportunity for Sears
spend via the Ultimate Rewards Mall and the Freedom