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A beautiful place in Peru
Just 100 miles or a four hour car journey north of Arequipa, Peru, lies a stunning natural phenomenon, the Colca Canyon, the deepest canyons in the world. This is home of the Andean condor and a rich, fertile land where centuries of agriculture on pre-Inca terraces sustain the traditional villages that dot this magical landscape. It is also home to one the people closest to our hearts, Mother Antonia, who has run a soup kitchen for over 30 years in the Valley. Now this and the many charms of the Colca Valley have been embraced by the Orient Express Hotel Group, which opens the first luxury hotel in the area this April.
The spiritual ambience of the Valley has certainly left its mark on the development of ‘Las Casitas del Colca’. Set high in the Andes, some 3,260 metres above sea level, the hotel is nestled in 25 hectares of stunning landscape on the left bank of the Colca river. Inspired by this haven of peace and tranquillity, accommodation has been designed around 20 individual ‘casitas’ (small houses) built from natural materials offering total privacy and exclusivity. Each beautifully decorated Casita has its own private terrace, a heated plunge pool, indoor and outdoor showers and spacious internal accommodation including a foyer and a lounge.
The inspiration continues with the fine fare grown and produced on the estate’s farm and in the surrounding fields. Not only are the dishes delicious, but you can also benefit from this self-sufficiency by enjoying cookery lessons from the top hotel chefs, or feeding the baby alpacas down on the farm. However, if you want to simply ‘retreat’, you can lie by the pool or stroll down to the Spa Samay (‘samay’ meaning ‘rest’ in the local language Quechua) which offers many treatments using local indigenous methods.
If walking, horse riding, fly fishing, or watching the famous condors do not tempt you, you could volunteer to help Mother Antonia, an extraordinary 85 year old New Yorker and member of the Order of the Maryknoll, who has tirelessly run a soup kitchen for the poor of the local Yanque community for over 50 years. Producing a staggering 600 breakfasts a day, Mother Antonia and her helpers grow soup ingredients in fields nearby and bake bread daily. Heralded as the lady of the Colca Valley by novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, Mother Antonia is tough, witty and the arbitrator of many a fight. A force of nature, she is famous for having sorted out a threatening trio of village bullies, by standing on her tiptoes to punch the ringleader!
One thing’s for certain: a stay at Las Casitas del Colca seems set to gives guests a new and refreshing view of Peru and luxury travel in the coming years.
Update: As of 2017, Las Casitas del Colca forms part of the luxury Belmond group