Silvia Pisci
Km. 75.8, Carretera Urubamba-Ollantaytambo, Valle Sagrado, Peru
15th November 2016

Baby alpacas grazing around, the sound of Urubamba river, colorful hummingbirds and fragrant orchids… this is the heavenly welcome you get at Belmond Rio Sagrado.  We took off to the Sacred Valley, Peru, to experience one of Belmond’s jewels in the crown… but was it up to our expectations?

Deep in the heart of the Sacred Valley, about 1.15 hour from Cusco (1.30 from the airport), and 30 minutes from the Ollantaytambo, where most of the trains leave to Machu Picchu. It’s a spectacular location in fact, perfect as a base to explore the valley, but also just to relax and acclimate to the altitude before heading to Cusco.
Who stays?
Mostly couples, of different ages and nationalities. I didn’t see any kids nor elderlies - understandably, since most of the activities in the Sacred Valley require some sort of physical involvement and aren't suitable for everybody.
Style and Character
There’s no central building, but a series of free-standing villas connected by footpaths rolling down a flowery hill, towards the river. Despite being a relatively new hotel, there’s nothing strikingly modern or eye-catching about the style, which is in fact quite plain, if not underwhelming.

All the focus is in fact on the natural surroundings, so the nineteen rooms and suites seem to hide within the lush meadows, and all the hotel facilities are designed to offer magnificent views on the Urubamba river. There’s plenty of outdoor space and romantic spots, and even some llamas grazing freely all around. An extremely peaceful environment all in all, and while hotel interiors may not leave you particularly impressed, being immersed in the Sacred Valley is itself a delightful and quite unique treat.
Upon arrival at the hotel, I’ve been invited to wait a few minutes in the lobby, as there was only one guy in charge of check-in / check-out procedures and he was busy with other guests.

The wait wasn’t long, and a welcome drink with refreshing hand-towels made it quite enjoyable. The guy then reached me and started giving a quick introduction of the hotel. He was smiley and friendly, I could clearly recognize the “Belmond-mould” I know and love so much, BUT... He wasn’t very spontaneous, and even his jokes were part of the speech he had ready for each new guest. Nothing he should be blamed for, of course, but if the goal was to put me at ease, it actually had the opposite effect.

Service was in general good, although I can’t say it was faultless. For example, there was no one at the Spa when I went to check it… and no one to pick up the phone when I called the Front Desk for room service.
Privacy is guaranteed, but I felt a bit “left alone” in a couple of occasions and had the impression that a few more Staff more would have been of benefit.
Rooms and Suites
The 10 Deluxe Terrace Rooms and 11 Junior Suites are designed to blend within the landscape, and spread around the hotel retracing the concept of a traditional Andean village.

The interiors are simple and quite plain – nothing particularly elegant, eye-catching or traditional. The bedroom/living area of my room (a Deluxe) wasn’t very spacious: it was in fact big enough for the King-sized bed, the armchair and a desk in the corner, facing the gardens. The small sofa at the end of the bed didn't really fit (it would have been better to have those two square metres more of free space to move around).

On the other end, the bathroom was MUCH bigger than what you’d normally expect from a Deluxe room. I didn’t have a bath tub, but I was absolutely fine with the oversized rain shower with natural light coming from the glass ceiling ;)
The design here is modern, finished with the creamy-white marbles that are so distinctive of Belmond.

The lack of TV in the rooms is compensated by spacious terraces, all facing the river. I guarantee that you won’t miss the cable.

The Junior Suites differ from the Deluxe mostly in terms of space and design (contemporary-minimalistic in the Junior Suites – but again, not really mind-blowing). The 2 two-story villas, located away from the other rooms, are a superb choice for families. They accommodate up to six people and feature spacious living spaces, high ceilings and wonderful windowed roofs bringing in the light and colours of the trees outside. Urubamba river flows right in front of the villas.
Food and Drink
Food is served at “El Huerto”, a cozy restaurant located next to the pool. It’s quite small and again not particularly captivating in terms of décor, but the panoramic windows definitely work in creating a romantic atmosphere…

The kitchen is traditional Peruvian, with most of the ingredients sourced right from the back yard (as the name “El Huerto” itself suggests).

The breakfast buffet isn’t particularly rich, but the freshness of its items is unquestionably something to appreciate (home-made bread is sublime!).

Waiters were attentive, precise and smiling. The only flaw was the music in the background – a compilation I would have played in a business hotel maybe, not really appropriate for an awakening in the Sacred Valley…
Features, Wellness, and Amenities
A few hours of complete relaxation are something not to be missed at Belmond Rio Sagrado, especially if returning from a long day of activities in the Valley.

When I checked the pool it was just me and a Staff lady. She seemed surprised when I asked about the changing room: there was none, so I had to change in a small equipment room (yes, weird…).

The natural surrounding is simply gorgeous, but again I was slightly disturbed by a musical choice that didn’t fit the atmosphere at all… reason why I then moved to the Mayu Wilka Spa. There was no Staff at all there… After a couple of unanswered “hello...” I just took a pair of slippers and a bathrobe and put myself at ease. Wood and natural stone dominate the intimate space, and a wide window opens to an outdoor little terrace with a Jacuzzi. Up there, surrounded by trees and the sound of the river, is where indulgence and relaxation reach the highest peak.
Perceived Value
$300 per night is an adequate price for the entry categories, not very much for the rooms themselves rather for the unique natural environment and the tranquillity you get to enjoy. $850 for the villas is an ever better deal: here, space and design alone worth the price – plus, they accommodate up to 6.
Belmond Rio Sagrado has been for years the undiscussed diamond of the Sacred Valley, and for a reason. While its natural setting remains unique (and always will), the hotel simply can’t rest on its laurels, as the offer of luxury structures in the area is growing rapidly. Service wasn’t perfect and, in general, I felt that the hotel lacked a bit in terms of character and attention to details.