When Lauren and I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in 2008, we forgot to book a hotel for the following night in Cairo. So with a thick beard (me, not Lauren), dirty clothes and trekking gear, we stumbled into Egypt at 2:00am without a place to sleep. We decided to accept the first hotel/motel/hostel that would take us, which happened to be the Sheraton, and wow, it perfectly capped off a great trek.
Now in Peru, after a tough trek to more than 4,500m elevation, we again had the opportunity to stay somewhere decadent. And as much as we love grass-roots travel, all it takes is a couple of nights in relative luxury to recharge the batteries for another few months on the road. In case you haven’t tried this before, let us give you a hint at what you’re really missing. Welcome to the Aranwa Boutique Hotel in Cusco…
What’s a Pillow Menu?
Yes, that’s right, a pillow menu. Would you like it extra fluffy, not-too-fluffy, non-allergenic, genuine duck down, ergonomic, neck-friendly… the list goes on. In retrospect, I should have opted for a non-standard issue pillow, just for the experience, but after sleeping in a tent for the last few days, I was a little awestruck.
Why is the Floor Hot?
It’s hot because it’s heated, of course. I love floor heating; I’m not sure what it is, but it just warms your entire body almost immediately. Of course in a tent there’s no heating at all. And even in subsequent hotels there wasn’t any heating. So you can imagine how a heated marble-tiled floor can help recharge the batteries.
What would you like for breakfast, Sir?
Before I could say a bowl of cereal would be fine, the exquisitely presented waiter asked if I’d like to start with fruit salad and a fresh fruit juice. Naturally, I said, ‘Sure’. Then he asked whether I’d like to follow that with a coffee, sour dour bread, an jamon y queso omelet, and a few slices of French toast. ‘Umm… sure, why not.’ Without a doubt, it was the best breakfast I’ve ever had.
Is it morning yet? Wow, I feel refreshed.
The way to tell a great hotel from an average one is how dark you can make the room when you want to sleep. Sometimes you have jetlag from a 14 hour flight, sometimes you stay out too late. Either way, pure luxury is the ability to sleep as long as you want.
Now I’ve found the secret. In the Aranwa, the windows are all bay windows; they’re inset by almost a metre. That means that when you close the curtains, the light doesn’t peep through the gaps because it’s blocked by the ‘tunnel’. It’s pure genius and means after a late night of Pisco cocktails and Alpaca appetisers, you can sleep until you’re back in peak condition.
The Total Experience
A true 5-star hotel is about the total experience, not just the food or the service or the quality of the rooms. When you walk through that door, all of your worries should disappear, at least until you leave.
I imagine if you live your life in 5-star hotels, the experience wouldn’t quite be the same. But after a tough high-altitude trek and after sleeping on thin mats in a tent, the contrast has an amazing effect.
The Aranwa Hotels Resorts and Spas are an example of pure decadence. To put it in context, just after leaving, Lauren and I were ready to discuss climbing Cerro Aconcagua (almost 7,000m above sea level). That’s how much it recharged us, enough to forget the struggles of tent life to contemplate one of the toughest expeditions of our life.
If you have the chance to trek any of the Inca Trails or even just visit Machu Picchu, we very highly recommend staying at one of the Aranwa hotels. There are four in total located in Cusco, Sacred Valley, Vichayito and Paracas, and they are well known for spa treatments and massages (exactly what you need after a muscle-straining trek). But don’t blame us if you find yourself atop a huge mountain soon after.