Monday, August 17, 2009

A Peruvian Eco-resort

A couple years ago, my wife and I went to Peru. We roughed it (a home-stay in an unheated guest room at 11,000 feet; and four days in a tent on a trek), but we also splurged – for exactly two nights, at the InkaTerra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel in Aguas Calientes.

The complex of 85 cottages (arranged in four- or five-cottage buildings) sprawls somewhat randomly on 12 acres of high rainforest. The grounds include a shade-grown coffee plantation, a couple of free-standing restaurants, an orchid sanctuary, and miles of trails that wander near the rushing Urubamba River and some of its small tributary creeks.

Of course, the InkaTerra folks (who operate three such eco-resorts) play up both the luxury of the place and its environmental sensitivity. I was most taken, however, with the way the little white villas were scattered on the hillside.

The whole complex is a careful grading study: white stone pathways climb up and around the buildings, wide stairways move from one plaza level to the next, and each “platform” in the forest becomes an intimate space framed by low walls, lush vegetation, and/or the rocky slope of the hillside itself.

Though the phrase “eco-resort” often conjures images of tents on the savanna or thatched huts in the jungle, to me it’s more about how the buildings and other infrastructure embrace the land – functionally, yes, but creatively, too. Tropical resorts, after all, are about being outside, so one would hope there’s a clever merger between building and landscape. Have you stayed somewhere recently (here or afar) that successfully blended indoors and out? Post it here.

(And this, from nature’s tales of the weird: click here for video of InkaTerra’s disco-dancing, pig-grunting, bright orange bird – the Cock of the Rock.)

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