When planning my trip to Peru, I always knew that I wanted to stay somewhere in the Sacred Valley. This was due to the fact that it’s strongly recommended to adapt to the high altitude since some places there are lower than the popular destination of Cusco (whose altitude is over 11,000 feet). Although I came across a slew of great sounding hotels, ones with absolutely gorgeous grounds, they were in more rural areas (well, all of the Sacred Valley is rural in a sense but I’ll explain more on this in just a bit). I knew that of the three nights I was going to allocate for the Sacred Valley, one of those days I planned to visit Machu Picchu. As I had no plans on hiking the Inca Trail, the only way that would get me to the most famous Inca ruins would be via rail. There are two places in the Sacred Valley where you can get the train to Machu Picchu-Poroy, which is a small town near Cusco, and Ollantaytambo. I opted for the latter.
There aren’t a huge number of accommodation options in Ollantaytambo, but considering the town itself is home to only 2,000 residents I think you still have a decent selection. The one lodging that always had interested me was El Albergue. When I say it’s literally at the train station, I mean it. El Albergue was built in the 1920s since up until that time, there hadn’t been any lodging for those travelers taking the train. Fast forward some 90 years later and El Albergue is still fulfilling that role.
As I mentioned above, El Albergue is located literally at the train station, which means it’s about a 12 minute walk from the town square (the Plaza de Armas). If you are coming in or leaving the station you will need to exit the train area as vehicles are only able to drive up to the gates for the station entrance. The area is flat though, with no stairs or hills to climb. On the day we went to Machu Picchu, we caught the 5:07 AM train although our tickets advised us to be at the station by 4:40 AM. Since we were staying right there, we didn’t have to leave our room until 4:35, whereas had we been coming from anywhere else, we would have needed to hire a taxi. Alternatively, since our visit coincided with Peru’s winter (it is south of the equator), it was completely dark by 6 PM. Two of the three nights we dined at the hotel’s restaurant but on our second night we wanted something else. Being a small rural town, lighting on the streets was nonexistent. We wandered a short distance but didn’t feel comfortable making the full trek into the Plaza de Armas area since the road was dark and we found the streets to be deserted. When you’re in a foreign country and you stand out already, this can be a tad unnerving. We probably would have been fine but just decided to err on the side of caution. I would recommend trying some of Ollantaytambo’s restaurants for lunch when there is natural light.
When you stay two nights, prices are 10% off and when you stay three or more nights, prices are 15% off. By staying three nights there, our superior room came out to only $125 a night which was really quite the bargain (normally rates can range anywhere from $150 to $180 a night). Superior rooms are on the second floor while standard rooms can be found on the ground floor. Our room had a queen bed as well as a twin bed which I dubbed the day bed. There was no tv (this was perfectly fine) although there was WIFI access (somewhat slow but hey, you were in the Andes). The bathroom was spacious although my only complaint is that they could have provided a larger wastebasket since you are asked to not flush toilet paper (unfortunately, small wastebaskets were a theme at all of the hotels we stayed at). Being in the country, I noticed some bugs (all in the bathroom), but thankfully they were small, nothing large and creepy. I can’t stress this enough-if you travel to the Sacred Valley during its winter, bring lots of warm clothing. While the weather and temperatures are pleasant during the day (anywhere from the 60s-70s F), once the sun goes down, it is cold, very very cold. I brought fleece bed pants for both D and myself as they were very much needed and two of the nights I actually went to bed in a sweater on top of a t shirt because I was so cold. A space heater was provided but as the room was large with vaulted ceilings, it warmed only the corner where it was plugged in. Two bottles of water were restocked each day with our room’s cleaning.
This was probably one of my favorite parts about El Albergue. The hotel is nestled amongst beautiful gardens which I loved walking through and taking photographs of. Also, the view from the balcony outside of our room just could not be beat. Anytime you can look at snow capped mountains, well it’s a truly fantastic sight indeed. The stunning grounds definitely are a terrific reminder of why a stay in the countryside is definitely needed once in a while.
Thankfully on the grounds of the hotel there is a lovely small restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is only open to hotel guests as it is complimentary. You get to choose your entree along with two sides (while it seems like a lot of food, portions were small, which was good). You also have access to fresh fruit and granola along with juices, coffee, and tea selections. Lunch and dinner are open to non-hotel guests as well, but as the dining area space is small, reservations are recommended. I’ll be blogging about our two dinners in a separate post.
By the train platform area, the hotel also operates a small cafe (no seating, just pickup) serving a variety of hot drinks and other beverages. While I would have liked to try a hot drink, I took the recommendation of avoiding caffeine while acclimatizing to the high altitudes to heart. I saw others indulging however, so who knows.
As they promote eco-friendly practices, plastic bottles of water are not sold on the hotel grounds. Instead, for one sole, the Peruvian currency, you can refill your one liter water bottle from the jug that is located in the reception area. We took advantage of this numerous times.
The hotel staff can arrange transfers and tours for you. I had them arrange our transfers between the Cusco airport and the hotel as well as back to Cusco. It cost $50 USD for a sedan transfer, and $65 USD for a van (if you have more than 2 or 3 people).
Noise-you are literally at the train station, so yes, you will hear the trains. Between arriving and departing, there are many of them. So if you’re looking for quiet nap time at 2 PM, well, you’re not going to have it. The first night I had difficulty falling asleep between being cold, hearing the late trains come in, and some local dogs fighting. But by the second and third nights, the outside noises didn’t bother me. Ear plugs are probably not a bad idea if you’re a light sleeper.
Sure, there are fancier hotels in the Sacred Valley. But when it comes to a unique ambiance and an absolutely terrific location, El Albergue can’t be beat, especially considering its friendly rates. Staying at El Albergue was a great way to start our Peruvian adventure!
Ollantaytambo train station between Cusco & Machu Picchu