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Inside El Retablo, The Most Colorful Boutique Hotel in Cusco

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Obsessed. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of El Retablo, the beautiful bed and breakfast I stayed in on my last night in Cusco, Peru. El Retablo is a 17-room bed and breakfast with decor from famous Peruvian artist Fernando Flores. Read on to hear my thoughts and see some of my photographs from this adorable, colorful gem of a hotel.

My Experience

As a money-conscious traveler who enjoys a bit of comfort, I was looking for a higher-end option following a multi-day trek to Machu Picchu. I was so excited to book a nice place after hiking, camping, and sweating for 4 days straight. When searching for a place to stay, I stumbled upon El Retablo and was enamored by photos of its bright-colored murals and spacious rooms. With rooms ranging from $70-120 per night, it seemed like a unique place to spend a night, so I made a booking for my last night in Cusco.

I arrived at El Retablo late at night upon returning from Aguas Calientes, so naturally I was exhausted and craving a warm, comfortable bed. The first person to greet me was a security guard who was stationed at the front door, who escorted me to the reception area. Walking into the reception area, I looked around to find hundreds of painted Peruvian retablos. What exactly is a retablo, you may ask? It’s a traditional diorama created inside a small box, and it looks like this:

After checking in, the receptionist led me through the main courtyard up to the second floor, where my room was located. I booked the Deluxe Double room for an extra large, open space and a king bed. (Gotta treat yourself…right?!) Based on the photos I’d seen online, I was pretty excited to see what the room would actually look like.

It didn’t disappoint. When I entered the space, high ceilings, stunning flowered murals, and a sparkling city view awaited me. Every piece of decoration in the room, from the ceilings to the floors, seemed to be very intentional. In addition to the beautiful room murals, chocolate and warm lighting awaited me.  It was a burst of color in my moment of exhaustion, and definitely a photo-worthy stay.

After a long, deep sleep, I woke up to sunshine streaming through the giant windows. I treated myself to a hot rain shower in the room’s spacious bathroom, packed my things, and headed downstairs for breakfast, which was included in my stay. Breakfast consisted of several fruits, bread, cheese, meats, with juices, coffee, and tea. You can also order your choice of various crepes and omelettes. Does that sound like a lot? It was.

At breakfast I overheard some people preparing to check out of their room and realized I didn’t know what time check out was. I asked my waitress and she notified me that check out was at 10 AM. I checked the time – 9:47 AM – and realized I hadn’t finished packing. I scarfed down the rest of my food and coffee, ran upstairs, shoved my things in a bag, and made my way to reception just in time. In retrospect, I probably should have inquired about a late checkout, but I just wasn’t expecting it to be that early.

Aside from the minor checkout mishap, reception was fantastic, organizing a taxi to the airport for me for 30 soles and providing me with some recommendations for my last few hours in Cusco.

The Location

Located up a hill near the San Blas area, El Retablo is located in a small, quiet alleyway between two main cobblestoned streets. There aren’t a ton of restaurants and shops in the immediate vicinity, but depending on what you’re looking for that could actually be a good thing, as there’s less tourist congestion. It also makes for stunning city views. Carrying my backpack up that hill was definitely a workout, though!

The Amenities

Since El Retablo is more of a bed and breakfast than a full-service hotel, there aren’t hotel amenities like a gym or spa. However, breakfast is included in the price of the room, and there’s a 24-hour front desk and security for inquiries and safety at any time of day. Of course, the standard amenities of hot water, Internet, TV, etc. are included. And the turn-down service chocolate was a really nice touch!

The Bottom Line

There is really no other accommodation in Cusco like El Retablo. With its colorful decor, incredible rooms, and friendly staff, El Retable is a boutique hotel that offers guests a slice of Peruvian tradition. Although check out is a bit early, and it’s pretty high-end relative to other places in the area, El Retablo provided a great value for the money, and I would definitely stay here again in future visits to Cusco.

In Summary

TripAdvisor Review Score: 4.5/5
Booking.com Review Score: 9.4/10
Price per night: $70-120, depending on the room

Pros

  • Absolutely beautiful, traditional Peruvian decor
  • Spacious, light-filled rooms (many with beautiful city views)
  • Excellent free breakfast

Cons

  • Early check-out time
  • Location somewhat removed from city center (but still very much walkable)

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We did not receive any sort of compensation from El Retablo for our review – we paid for the room out of pocket. We thought you’d like to know our opinion of the hotel. As you can always expect, all opinions are 100% our own.

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Kay is a full-time working professional located in Washington DC who takes every spare vacation day to get outside and explore the world. When she travels, she loves visiting the most iconic and naturally beautiful destinations in the USA and abroad. You can typically find her wandering the streets of a city, running through a park, taking ridiculous self portraits, or hiking a mountain somewhere. Connect with Kay: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

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