There are three ways to reach Machu Picchu: by hiking the Inca Trail hike, flying in by helicopter, or most commonly, by train. The train leaves only from the town of Ollantayatambo, making the tiny hamlet nestled in the Sacred Valley of Peru a destination as frequented as Machu Picchu itself.
As the oldest hotel in Ollantaytambo, El Albergue is planted right along the train tracks. The inside of its restaurant is an ideal spot for enjoying a glass of wine, and on a recent visit I took advantage of the location for prime people-watching. Seeing tourists going to and from Machu Picchu is a funny thing–on the departing trains, it’s all nervous energy and excited chatter; on the arrivals, everyone is sunburned, haggard, and asleep with their faces pressed against the glass.
The hotel was originally built in the 1920s and was turned over in the ’70s to a young artist from Seattle, Wendy Weeks. Weeks and her husband lived there alone for a bit–painting, enjoying the views, and listening to the hum and whistle of the train going by–before restoring and reopening the property to the public.
They couldn’t have made it any dreamier if they’d tried. Hummingbirds, passionfruit, and bougainvillea fill the courtyard, and their candle-lit dining room serves gorgeous Peruvian fare grown primarily on the organic farm they maintain out back.
Photographs by Olivia Rae James for Gardenista.
Above: The hand-painted sign outside the hotel, adjacent to the train platform.
Above: Agave plants and bougainvillea are nestled into various corners of the El Albergue courtyard.
Above: Pots of succulents line the pathways throughout the property.
Above: Narrow passageways lead to secret gardens and courtyards.
Above: A wall engulfed in blossoms inside one of the hidden gardens.
Above: A view of the Andes Mountains from my room. The hotel maintains 16 guest rooms, smartly appointed with simple furnishings and Peruvian blankets. Room fare includes a full breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, and granola, eggs, espresso, and juice.
Above: The red tin roof of the hotel below the Andes Mountains.
Above: The hotel’s organic farm which supplies much of the restaurant fare, against the backdrop of the Andes Mountains. The farm operation opened in 2011, and guests who aren’t too weary from their travels can volunteer to help with farm chores. If chores aren’t your idea of fun, consider heading to the wood-fired eucalyptus steam sauna instead.
Above: A greenhouse, used primarily for growing tomatoes and peppers for hungry guests. The hotel maintains the farm without the use of synthetic fertilizers or agrochemicals, relying on oxen for plowing and crop rotation for soil health and pest management.
Above: One of El Albergue’s sheep grazing near the corn field.
Above: The train to Machu Picchu.
The hotel restaurant is open daily from 5 am to 9 pm. For more information and lodging options, visit El Albergue.
See the map below for the precise location:
N.B.: Hunting for even more adventure? See Earn Your Wilderness Stripes at the Minam River Lodge and browse all of our Hotels & Lodging posts.