peru | el albergue at ollantaytambo

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Even before we got to Peru, the place Harper and I were most looking forward to staying was undoubtedly El Albergue in Ollantaytambo. The hotel is planted right along the only train tracks that lead to Machu Picchu, making the tiny town nestled in the Sacred Valley a destination as frequented as Machu Picchu itself.  Seeing tourists going to and from a world wonder 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. Harper and I spent many hours perched by the windows of their cafe, watching the tourists come and go while anticipating our own turn.

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 more breathtaking 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. It was hard to leave this spot -- it feels like a dream you never want to wake up from, or the flower-heaven that you've been lucky enough to get into.

(More about El Albergue on Gardenista!)