I am being slathered with thermal mud by Carmen, a therapist at Tambo del Inka resort in the heart of Peru’s Sacred Valley. The mud, which has a silky texture, is from Mount Misti, a volcano in southern Peru. After the wrap comes a deep-tissue massage so I am feeling quite blissful, particularly as I had just returned from an exhilarating but long day of touring Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel. I was prepared for the site’s mountainous grandeur and head-scratching feats of engineering, but I wasn’t prepared for its spiritual-ness—not to sound hokey, but I did feel a mystical pull. Unfortunately, with an altitude of 8,000 feet and steep stone steps I also felt the pull of underused muscles so a pampering Misti Mud Therapy was the perfect rejuvenator.
Halfway between the city of Cusco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley is a beautiful and remarkably unspoiled area known for its vast patchwork of agricultural fields and green terraced slopes framed by the peaks of the Andes. Slicing through the valley is the Urubamba River, which the Incas believed symbolized the flow of life from the heavens to the earth. And Tambo del Inka, which opened this past spring, sits in an idyllic spot on the riverbank. And while it is certainly an upscale hotel with all the high-tech amenities you’d expect as a member of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, it is also a green-inspired property very much in synch with its natural surroundings (it’s currently in the process of becoming LEED-certified, making it one of the first Peruvian properties to do so).
The hotel’s exteriors, including its tiled roof, reflect a typical Andean home, while the 128 rooms and the dramatic lobby, in earthy tones like caramel and crimson, feature local granite and chihuahuco wood from certified Peruvian forests. Incan-style textiles with bold geometric patterns and colorfully painted decorative paper mache masks add to the traditional and indigenous décor. When recycling, the hotel uses sustainable practices (separating organic from inorganic materials) and the air-conditioning and refrigeration uses eco-friendly coolants.
These design and environmental elements are a first for the valley, as is a spa of this caliber. The 5,500 square foot bi-level wood-paneled space with 12 treatment rooms incorporates native ingredients in its Incan-inspired treatment menu. In addition to the Misti Mud Therapy, there’s also a facial using quinoa, an Andean grain rich in Vitamin E and B complex, an exfoliating scrub made from cocoa leaves and a hydrating wrap/massage incorporating maracuya (passion fruit) and honey. The signature treatment, Gold from the Gods, is a 150-minute therapy that pays homage to the precious metal so revered by the Incas—legend says that Inca princesses used gold as a secret ingredient to keep their skin smooth and supple. Therapists at Tambo use a gold dust cream combined with rosehip, jojoba, and green tea oils in a cleansing wrap, followed by a soothing massage, meant to give skin that, ahem, golden glow. And paying tribute to the Urubamba, which is in fact, a headwater of the Amazon, is a hydrotherapy circuit complete with hot and cold cobalt blue-tiled plunge pools, an aromatherapy hamman with color therapy, a Vichy shower, and an outdoor deck facing the fast-flowing river.
As I dine on contemporary Peruvian cuisine from executive chef Rafael Cassin (the majority of the menu’s organic ingredients are supplied by local farmers) in the Hawa restaurant with its double-sided granite fireplace and massive columns resembling mahogany trees, I map out a plan for the next day. I could check out the Awanakancha weaving center or explore other important archeological sites like Ollantaytambo, but I opt to go kayaking on nearby Lake Piuray. I suspect it will be a physically challenging few hours, so naturally, I’ll reward myself with a relaxing stretch in the spa upon my return. www.luxurycollection.com