If you’re looking for a destination to feed mind, body and soul, Peru and the Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel should be high on your list. For starters, Peru’s high altitude is perfect for cultivating countless nutritious Peruvian superfoods, from Quinoa (considered by ancient Incas to be more valuable than gold) to Maca, crammed with health-giving antioxidants, Peruvian cuisine is a superfood smorgasbord.
As for exercise, the magnificent snow peaked Andean landscape is a hikers’ paradise. Believe me, you’ll be achieving way more than your 10,000 steps a day if you complete the challenging Inca trail. But, there’s more to Peru than physical wellbeing. Those ancient Incas knew a thing or two about spiritual and mental harmony and the Sumaq Hotel is keen to share their mystical secrets.
What’s on offer?
To reach this family run, five-star boutique hotel in Aguas Calientes, the town situated below the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu, we travel first class through jaw-dropping scenery courtesy of Inca Rail.
The lavish vibe is maintained in the Sumaq’s warm atmosphere and vibrant Andean décor which was echoed in our simply furnished room (one of 63) with balcony overlooking the spectacular Vilcanota River. There’s a television, coffee machine and super comfy beds with a choice of pillows, plus robes and slippers. On request, a kettle, tea bags and fresh milk are promptly delivered. As well as the delightful, ‘nothing is too much trouble’ staff, who’s not going to love extra treats such as high tea served every afternoon and a complimentary Pisco Sour?
Pop down those stairs beside the cosy bar and you’ll find the cave like, subterranean Aqlla spa on the lower ground level. Compact, candle lit and unpretentiously decorated with Inca inspired orange and brown colour accents, there’s a timber-clad circular steam hammam with twinkly overhead lighting and a sauna. Centre stage, a recessed, mosaic tile-clad hydrotherapy Jacuzzi is huge enough to share with the entire Peruvian football team.
The spa is part of the Sumaq’s mission to showcase Peru’s ancient culture. In the same way, treatments and massages use locally-sourced, age old medicinal herbs and plants, the hotel also offers a range of mystical and spiritual Incan rites and rituals. Ok, I know this all sounds a bit hippy dippy but since Machu Picchu, a half hour bus ride from the hotel, is a sacred location said to enhance natural healing and purification, why not take full advantage of these opportunities while here?
Tell us about the treatments
We choose an Earth Ritual conducted at the hotel by Daniel, our personal Shaman, during which offerings are made to Pachamama, or Mother Earth. It culminates in a coca leaf reading during which Daniel tells us spookily accurate things about our life and suggests the cleansing ritual, to be conducted at Machu Picchu the following day, will have positive. effects on my future. It does.
According to Incan culture, body and soul should connect in perfect harmony and the Aqlla spa treatments are designed to do just that. After an energetic and emotionally charged day at Machu Picchu, a two-hour body massage using local oils and essences was just the thing to maintain our spiritual connection with the Andes.
In a candle lit room, my therapist Yolanda, used pink salt from Maras -- revered by the Incas for its high energy and mineral content -- to conduct a brisk exfoliation before applying a hydrating and refreshing body mask made from papaya, lemon and lettuce.
Before getting to work on muscles tense from a hard day’s walking, Yolanda placed soothing hot compresses on strategic points of my body before applying essential oils made from coca leaves and muna, a herb said to possess medicinal qualities.
Firm strokes then ensured these oils worked their magic. The treatment ended with a snooze-inducing head massage, allowing me to drift away and contemplate my Machu Picchu experience.
Don’t think about eating anywhere else. By promoting crops grown in the high Andean communities, and researching new culinary techniques, the Sumaq’s menus reflects Peruvian culture past and present. It’s also outrageously delicious.
Having tried the ‘Flavours of the Andes’ tasting menu, a combination of Michelin star-worthy presentation and tastes, I learned more about traditional Andean cuisine during a Pachamanca, or Earth Pot feast cooked outside in an underground oven.
A Chicha tasting revealed this surprisingly delicious fermented drink made from corn, was considered the sacred drink of the Incas. You can learn a lot about a culture from its cuisine and the Sumaq’s talented chefs are keen to share their knowledge – and their talent.
Who do you think would like it?
Adventurous singles and couples with a yearning for learning more about cultural wellness.
Foodies, fitness fans, hikers and anyone with an interest in spiritual awareness will fall in love with Peru.
Mil, a restaurant situated on an Andean plateau in Peru’s Sacred Valley 3,500 meters above sea-level, is elevating Peruvian gastronomy to stratospheric levels. The brain child of wonder chef, Virgilio Martínez, owner of Lima’s Central, the sixth-best restaurant in the world, Mil works with indigenous communities producing ingredients which are then reincarnated into a defiantly intriguing eight course tasting menu.