The remarkable Casa Cartagena hotel in central Cusco, just a couple of blocks from the Plaza de Armas, is packed with surprises. Behind the heavy wooden doors and the gabled façade of a colonial mansion, supported by Inca walls, you might expect to find a style inspired by the Spanish imperial age. But no – this is a boutique hotel where contemporary designers have been allowed to let their imagination loose, and they have come up with something really special.
A first class establishment, it offers the high level of comfort, service and facilities you'd expect, but in its striking décor, defined by geometric designs and modern, boxy furniture, it is unique in Cusco. Colours are bold – reds, golds, rich browns and salt-bright white, with large checks and patterns. There's nothing remotely Peruvian about the style, but if you like the design hotel concept you won't be disappointed.
The 16 luxury suites are huge, with a balcony or terrace and the option of an oxygen-enrichment system to combat altitude sickness. There's also a comprehensive spa complete with Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna rooms.
The well-established restaurant has a good reputation and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda apparently used to eat here long before the building became a hotel. It serves a sophisticated menu making imaginative use of local produce.