Gorgeous Photos of Palacio Nazarenas

You may know I was in Peru for the opening party of Palacio Nazarenas, the latest Orient-Express property in Peru. I've said it before and I'll say again - this hotel is spectacular. A former 16th century convent, Palacio Nazarenas is now a 55-key hotel in the center of historic Cusco with a gorgeous outdoor pool, beautiful small spa, herb gardens, rooms that are piped with oxygen, custom furniture from local artists, and alpaca throws in the rooms. I loved seeing original Inca ruins beneath glass floors throughout the hotel. I loved every minute of my three nights there and can't wait to return one day.

The library

Choose what you want in a morning smoothie


The Orient-Express Hiram Bingham Train

I had my first truly luxurious train experience in Peru. Named after Hiram Bingham, who rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911, this is one of the world's great train journeys. You start in Cusco, and it's 3.5 hours each way to a tiny town called Aguas Calientes. After arrival in Aguas Calientes, you board a 20-minute bus ride that takes you to the site of Machu Picchu. On the way there, there is some commentary and you're served a light lunch. I loved the fresh lemonade and hanging out in the back with the open-air observation car to watch the distinctly Andean landscape roll by.

Welcome champagne!

Andean landscapeArrival in Aguas CalientesThe closer you get to Machu Picchu, the more lush and verdant the terrain gets. On the way back, it's completely dark so you're served a longer dinner and the live music really gets everyone going. Two words: DANCE PARTY!! And a fantastic pisco sour. The train also arrives later and leaves later than everyone else - so you have a less crowded site at the end of the day. If you ride the Hiram Bingham, you can have tea in the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel on site, starting at 4 p.m. before the train leaves.

Tea at Machu Picchu Sanctuary LodgeWaiting to board for the ride back to Cusco in Aguas Calientes

A perfect Pisco SourI love moments in life where you are with complete strangers that become very important because of what you're experiencing with them. This train ride was one of those days. I was with a fantastic group of people - much of the Orient-Express executive team that was there for the opening of Palacio Nazarenas, a fabulous British journalist, and the British ambassador to Peru. We were all on this incredible journey to see one of the world's most iconic sites. And it just bonds you in a way that you never forget.

New friends

Forbes - Why You Should Visit Peru Now

Take a look at my latest Forbes post - Why You Should Visit Peru Now -  I tried to capture the opening party for Palacio Nazarenas and what I loved most about the trip. Thank you for following along!

Why You Should Visit Peru Now

“15 years ago, this square was dead,” my guide says as I stand in Cusco’s glorious central square, Plaza de Armas. “There was barely anything here.” I look around. What a difference 15 years has made. There is a palpable energy to Cusco, a UNESCO World Heritage city showing off both its vast history and a joyful South American spirit. Spanish churches and squares are built right on top of centuries-old Inca ruins and the historical city buildings sport pink terracotta roofs.

I’m here for the opening party of Palacio Nazarenas, the first grand opening party that luxury brand Orient-Express has ever thrown. Housed in a former convent next door to Orient-Express’ beloved Hotel Monasterio, Palacio Nazarenas, which soft opened in June, blew me away. The party, held last Thursday night at the hotel, brought 150 heavy hitters from all over the world: fashion designers, dancers, famous Mexican actresses, the mayors of Lima and Cusco, top luxury travel advisors and even the charming British ambassador to Peru, James Dauris. Music and dancing went on into the night, and fireworks were launched over the city.

More here!

Things I Love About Cusco

On my second day in Cusco, I was adjusted to the altitude and ready to go at 8 a.m. The opening party for Palacio Nazarenas was that night, but I had a full day planned beforehand. In the morning, my wonderful guide took me to the oft-called Sexy Woman Ruins (really Saqsaywaman - they have nothing to do with sexy women) with not only fascinating ruins but also the best view of the city. We went into the stunning main cathedral and laughed about The Last Supper painting where Jesus and the disciples are eating guinea pig.

At the Sexy Woman RuinsSexy Woman Ruins

View from Saqsaywaman

The main square from SaqsaywamanThen I was on my own and had lunch at Pacha Papa, a MUST in Cusco in San Blas Square. My server, Ever, was hilarious, kind and gave me the inside scoop on his city as I sat in the courtyard. He also did his best to convince me to try guinea pig, but it wasn't going to happen. I explored the neighborhood of San Blas, known for its tiny art galleries, jewelry and clothing stores. I bought a beautiful throw for our apartment at Sol Alpaca and visited the Museo de Plantas del Cusco, where I spent 45 minutes reading about the magical healing powers and uses of Peru's herbs and plants. There was a great exhibit on coca and how it was/is used in cocaine, Coca-Cola and more. You cannot go to Cusco and miss the ChocoMuseo or CHOCOLATE MUSEUM!! They have chocolate classes and a cute little cafe where you can order a drink and sit outside on the patio. It was one of my favorite stops in Cusco and THE BEST smelling museum ever. And then I was officially knackered and had to get ready for the party.

Lunch at Pacha Papa in San BlasThe courtyard of Pacha PapaSan Blas SquareSol Alpaca

Chocolate classes at ChocoMuseoPerfect view from the ChocoMuseoOne of the MANY dogs of CuscoCusco

Cusco Takes My Breath Away!

Palacio NazerenasAs I mentioned before, arriving in Cusco, 11,000+ feet above sea level, literally took my breath away on the first day. Luckily the altitude headache didn't last long. I was able to explore many corners of this incredibly beautiful and well-preserved city of 500,000 people. Spanish churches and squares are built right on top of centuries-old Inca ruins and almost all of the historical city buildings sport pink terracotta roofs.

First, I drooled over my room at Palacio Nazarenas (full post to come) and got my lists out and camera ready.

Main Square in Cusco - Plaza de ArmasYou have to start a visit to Cusco in the main square, Plaza de Armas. From there, I wandered to the massive central market to look at fruit, vegetables and little oddities to giggle at that are perfectly normal to the locals (example: an avocado that was the size of an adult foot). I discovered a tiny store that specialized in natural healing and picked up coca candy to help with altitude sickness, with the help of a woman that was uncommonly beautiful and smile-y. I would have taken anything she tried to sell me.

Lunch was at Incanto just off the main square, with a menu that would fit right in in NYC or L.A, while adding local specialties like smoked alpaca bruschetta and a stewed and breaded guinea pig. I loved the wood-burning oven and tiles on the wall with Peruvian images.

I did a private tour at the fascinating Coricancha temple, a hugely important worship site for the Inca empire.

Visiting the central marketFruit at the marketView near CoricanchaI'm sucking these babies for altitude sickness Lunch at Incanto