Thursday, January 2, 2014

SUMAQ Machu Picchu - Hotel Review

Mrs. Pointsninja and I decided to overnight in Aguas Calientes (or "AC") in order to get up to Machu Picchu at a reasonable hour the next morning.  We had tickets for the Huayna Picchu climb as well, so I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time at the site.  The problem is that the hotel market in Aguas Calientes is rather limited.  There are absolutely no chain hotels, unless you count the Orient Express managed Sanctuary Lodge up on the mountain itself.  Since rates at the Sanctuary Lodge were over $600 for the night we needed, I decided to look elsewhere.  Your choices seem to consist mostly of hostel or B&B type places with a few (usually pricy) hotels thrown in.

After much agonizing, I settled on the SUMAQ Hotel Machu Picchu.  It had decent reviews on Tripadvisor, and the rate for a queen bed room, which included half board, was not shockingly indecent (for Aguas Calientes) at around $300.  Since the hotel was half-board, I figured that we would get a decent dinner and not have to hunt around for somewhere to eat when we arrived. 

One of the nice features of the SUMAQ is that a staff member will meet you at the train station and take you back to the hotel.  This service was welcome, since we had never been to Aguas Calientes before.  Our guide brought along a cart for luggage, but we were traveling light with just backpacks, so the cart ended up holding only the hotel's greeting sign.  On the way back to the hotel, I asked about where to purchase bus tickets for the next morning, and our guide offered to assist us.  Knowing the cost of the tickets, I gave him $40 and we waited by the cart while he picked up the tickets from a nearby booth.  We were charged the face cost of $18.50 per ticket..  The hotel itself is just on the edge of AC, down the road that leads to Machu Picchu itself. 
The SUMAQ is visible at the end of the left-hand road.
Overall, I was pleased with the hotel and the level of service we received.  However, our experience was definitely mixed with two major issues. For one thing, AC is in the jungle and it was warm during the day in early November.  The SUMAQ, for all that it is fairly new and expensive, is not air conditioned.  That didn't end up being fatal on our visit since things cooled down at night, but it might be a problem during the high summer. 

The second problem was with the room itself.  The room itself was fine on the surface, clean and in good shape, if nothing special:
Visible to the right of the picture is a balcony overlooking the Urubamba River.  The views from here were quite nice.
View towards AC

View towards Machu Picchu
 The main problem with the room was the flowery "air freshener" scent that hit us like a brick wall when we walked in.  It smelled so strongly, that I quickly realized that I wasn't going to be able to stay in the room.  From talking to the staff, the air freshener is used every time they clean the rooms.  If you are at all sensitive to fragrances, I would avoid this hotel.

That said, the hotel redeemed itself with the way they handled the problem.  I alerted the front desk staff to the problem and they said they would check it out.  A housekeeping crew was sent up to "work on it" while we went to dinner.  I have no idea what they did, but unfortunately, it didn't help.  It was during this time that I learned that the "air freshening" was a regular "feature" of the housekeeping process and that all the rooms would likely have the same issue.  After some discussions, the hotel offered to let me try another room.  The only one available was a small suite, also on the river side of the hotel.  Happily, the wretched floral scent was not as strong there (presumably because it had been vacant and, thus, not cleaned immediately before our arrival).  Unfortunately, I neglected to take any pictures of the room because we were rather tired by this point.

On a more positive note, I could not have been more pleased with the hotel's restaurant.  Our rate (and I believe all of the hotel's rates) included dinner for two in the hotel restaurant.  I expected either a limited menu or some sort of prix fixe menu for guests, but I was wrong.  Dinner included a choice of appetizer, main, and dessert from an impressive menu.  I ended up having an alpaca "steak frites" for dinner and was very pleased with it.  Dessert, however, was superb.  I had the Andean rice pudding with a chicha morada (purple corn) granita that was simply delicious.

Another high point of the stay was the fact that the hotel has an arrangement with Consettur, the agency that runs the shuttle bus service to Machu Picchu.  Hotel guests can reserve a bus pickup from the front door of the hotel at no cost beyond the price of the bus ticket.  We went with this option and were picked up promptly at the time we selected.  There was one minor drawback though.  The bus had exactly two seats left and since they weren't together, I didn't get to sit with Mrs. Andyandy for the ride up.

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