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Peru Lodging: Jungle Cabanas, Colonial Mansions and More

cuzco hotel historic courtyard nightLodging in Peru is as varied as this South American country's landscape. You could spend one night enveloped in mosquito netting in a rustic thatch-roof hut in the middle of the Amazon rain forest and the next night in a Spanish colonial monastery 7,000 feet above sea level.

Summer is the most popular time of year to visit Peru, and the best hotels in the Machu Picchu, Nazca and Cuzco areas tend to fill quickly. Book as far in advance as possible if you're visiting these destinations.

Hotels

Hotels in Peru are rated from zero to five stars. Zero-star properties are best avoided, unless poor services, ramshackle rooms of questionable cleanliness and sketchy neighborhoods are the attributes you seek.

Tourist-quality hotels tend to start at three stars, but note that not all three-star hotels are oriented to foreign travelers; some appeal to budget-minded South American business travelers and may not offer the basics you'd want (such as English-speaking clerks). If you find a three-star property you like, you'll know it's oriented to tourists if it has English-speaking staff. Expect basic but clean accommodations with air-conditioning or a fan, television and breakfast.

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Top-end hotels used to be practically nonexistent in Peru, but several chains have developed properties in recent years, providing nicer and even luxurious accommodations in the main cities. They appeal to business travelers and tourists alike.

When you enter the Swissotel in Lima, for example, you'll be welcomed by alarmingly good-looking English-speaking greeters in morning suits standing next to massive floral bouquets. The hotel has an award-winning restaurant with American and Peruvian food, a business center, huge guestrooms with European-style ensuite bathrooms, fitness and business centers, shops, and a swimming pool. That's pretty typical of hotels of its ilk in Peru.

The 85-room Casa Andina Valle Sagrado in the Sacred Valley, on the other hand, is a chalet-style retreat high in the mountains with a full-service spa and a planetarium.

Note that tour operators tend to use hotels like the Casa Andina property for tour groups and thus reserve large blocks of rooms during the summer. So book rooms well in advance -- six months or more -- to get the hotels you want.

Peru Hotel Resources:
Peru-Hotels.com
VisitPeru.com

Historic Lodging

Peru's history dates back several millennia. The remnants of pre-Columbian and Incan buildings are preserved as archeological sites, but some of the remaining buildings from the Spanish invasion in the mid-1500s have been converted into hotels. The most popular among them are in Cuzco, which was the center of the Incan empire when the Spanish conquerors took over.

The 11-room Inkaterra La Casona in Cuzco is housed in a restored, 16th-century colonial manor house on a former Incan settlement near the city's main plaza. The nearby Hotel Monasterio is a former monastery dating back to 1595.

Outside of Cuzco, most historic properties are converted mansions from later centuries. Casa Arequipa, in the city of the same name, is a neo-colonial mansion from the mid-1900s and is built of crushed ash from surrounding dormant volcanoes.

Peru Historic Lodging Resources:
FiveStarAlliance.com
HistoricHotelsWorldwide.com

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Jungle and Ecolodges

About 60 percent of Peru is covered by the Amazon rain forest, and as centuries of explorers can attest, travel into the jungle is an arduous journey. But given the demand over the past several decades, lodges have been developed in the rain forest, giving hardy travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the thick of the flora and observe an abundance of wildlife. Many of these lodges are eco-minded properties, with buildings constructed of sustainably sourced materials in harmony with the environment.

ecolodge peruPeru's top Amazon destinations are the regions of Tambopata and Manu, plus Iquitos and Madre de Dios. The Tambopata Eco Lodge is one of the most established, housing up to 59 guests in thatch-roof, screened-in cabanas. The lodge doesn't have electricity, and meals are served communal style in the large dining room. Also housing guests in thatch-roof cabanas, the 35-room Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica on the Madre de Dios River offers a more posh experience, with ceiling fans, warm showers, organic bath products and plunge pools.

A few ecolodges outside of jungle locales have started popping up in recent years. They tend to be in scenic natural settings, such as Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca.

Peru Ecolodge Resources:
InternationalEcolodges.com

Beach Resorts

With a 1,500-mile coastline, Peru's beachside resorts have some of the best views in the country. Some sit on tall cliffs and others have accessible beaches.

In the southern coastal city of Ica, the 120-room Hotel Paracas is ideally situated to take a sail to the islands of the Paracas Nature Reserve, go horseback riding on the beach or fly over the famous Nazca Lines. The resort also has its own spa, and the coastline tends to be rugged and wild.

By contrast, in northern Peru the coastal resorts are more tropical. The modern, 19-room Las Arennas Hotel in Mancora has palm tree-lined gardens sitting at the edge of the beach, multiple swimming pools, outdoor bars and plenty of chaise lounges and hammocks to laze away a day.

Peru Beach Resort Resources:
Peru-Hotels.com

Guesthouses

Called alojamientos or hospedajes, guesthouses in Peru can be like charming B&Bs or small hotels. Guesthouses tend to be family-run properties with 10 or fewer rooms and are unassumingly embedded in neighborhoods. It's common to find expats running them.

The Second Home guesthouse in the Barranco neighborhood of Lima, for instance, was once the home of Peruvian sculptor Victor Delfin and includes artistic touches in its eight rooms overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Quality varies greatly, and it's especially important to vet the neighborhood for safety. Also, some guesthouses would be better called hostels, offering dormitory-style housing, so be certain to ask if they have private rooms if that's what you're seeking.

Peru Guesthouse Resources:
Peru.travel

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Hostels

Hostels are worth just a brief mention for the most budget-minded among travelers. Attracting mostly young travelers, they offer dormitory-style shared rooms for $4 to $20 a night and are common in big cities.

Peru Hostels Resources:
Hostels.com/peru

Homestays

Used frequently by international students studying abroad, homestays are also an option for adult travelers seeking an authentic cultural experience, especially for stays of a week or more. Homestays are common in the Cuzco and Lake Titicaca regions but not necessarily throughout the rest of the country.

Arrangements are made through specialist companies, and the quality of the accommodations can vary wildly, especially in rural areas.

Peru Homestay Resources:
HostFamilyPeru.com

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--written by Elissa Leibowitz Poma

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