Monday, March 26, 2007

The Hacienda Cantayo

While in Peru recently I was offered the opportunity of spending a weekend away from Lima down south in the Hacienda Cantayo. I’d heard great stories about this enchanting hotel located on the outskirts of Nazca, and so naturally I jumped on the invitation. Owing to the famous and mysterious Geogylphic Lines located on the plains outside the town, Nazca has grown to be rather popular with tourists and hotels have been sprouting up around the area ever since I started working in Peru. Of all the hotels in the area however, the Hacienda Cantayo is easily the finest. Besides being exceptionally comfortable, it has a number of subtle charms that give it a distinctive and noteworthy character. So remarkable in fact is this little hacienda that I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s blog entry to its review.

Now, a few of you may remember an article I wrote a few months back regarding flying from Lima to Ica and on to a flight over the lines before returning back to Lima the same day. While this is still a very credible travel option and highly recommendable for those pressed for time, the Hacienda Cantayo makes the long and tedious bus ride very worth your while.

Surrounded by the ubiquity of the Nazca plains, the Hacienda’s lackluster surrounding only adds to its charm. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to claim the hotel is perfect because it’s not. Like most places it does have its flaws. Where the Cantayo however excels is in its seemingly inane ability to put all its guests at complete ease. I don’t know whether this is due in some part to its old world charisma, lavish comforts, or because of its oasis-like setting; but upon walking through the Hacienda’s heavy hardwood gates a sense of tranquility melts you over. Something about the white washed walls and the fresh scent of bougainvillea put one at complete ease; it’s an oddly comforting experience and feels strangely like déjà vu or maybe a dream.

Whatever the reasons it became immediately apparent to me that the hotel was a little more special than I’d been told. Arriving at dusk I ambled through the outer corridors as I was shown to my room. I don’t know if this is just me – but a hotel room without a television is something I’ve come to greatly admire. Traveling half way around the world to sit and watch your favorite television shows just seems crass and unimaginative to me. There is no room for that kind of behavior at the Cantayo; the rooms, while very comfortable, are sparsely decorated and functional. The idea I imagine is that – unless bathing, relaxing, or romanticizing – the Hacienda’s rooms essentially cater for sleeping purposes. All other activities can be done elsewhere.

Following a look around my room I ventured out briefly onto the grounds. I couldn’t see very much of the gardens as the sun had already set by this time. It seemed peaceful enough though and as I walked out further passing over a few fences I could quite literally feel my stress levels decreasing – that was until I tripped over an ostrich. It was quite possibly the last thing I’d been expecting to find in Peru, let alone trip over. The Hacienda Cantayo actually has a whole flock of Ostriches (kept behind a fence ofcourse), and after the poor bird and I had finished screaming at each other in dumb founded shock, I noticed that Giant African birds were not the only animals the Hacienda includes within its sanctuary. Llamas, alpacas, horses, monkeys and an array or other animals live in a sectored off corner of the grounds. By day they’re a fantastic diversion for the kids, and at night a bit of a hazard for those silly enough to walk into their living area.

I returned to the Hacienda and bee-lined for the bar needing a little something to dull both the shock of just having met the world’s largest bird, and the pain from having tripped over it. The barmen cooked up a magnificent pisco sour and by the time my food had arrived I’d settled down substantially and was falling back into the tranquil hacienda groove. The food was much better than I’d expected – a prime cut of Argentinean beef cooked to perfection in the Peruvian desert. The restaurant itself has a great hacienda-like vibe to it, and with saddles on the wall and a welcoming fireplace with some comfortable looking sofas I felt very much at home.

Being close to the Nazca Lines, tours run straight from the hotel directly to the airport – where passengers board a light aircraft for their flight over the lines. I’ve flown over the lines enough times in the past to know them fairly well. They still however hold a lot of attraction and I never get bored seeing them again. Following the flight I returned to lodge and spent the rest of the day lounging by the hotel’s phenomenal swimming pool. I believe this swimming pool has actually featured on the cover of guidebooks. However, it’s not the sprawling pool waters as much as the giant ficus tree that towers above it that serves as the main attraction. I spent the better part of an afternoon lounging about beneath this amazing tree while enjoying both the clear blue water and the hotel’s excellent pool side service.

The Hacienda Cantayo really is the perfect getaway for anyone traveling to Nazca. A world within a world, the Cantayo serves as a sanctuary and provides the type of comfort and service you’d expect from a hotel in a 19th century novel. I was sad to leave on a Sunday after breakfast and as I made my way back to Lima it began to dawn on me how the Cantayo could just be one of the best hotel finds in the country. I think I may be heading back there soon and strongly encourage anyone traveling to Nazca to consider staying in this fine establishment.

All the best to you travelers



Rcon Franchesca Pascua said...

Hi again! Your story and description about the place is fantastic! If ever I'd go visit Peru, I'd definitely stay at your recommended accommodation establishment.

A.H said...

Bart, your write up was most most entertaining and
enlightening. It makes me want to step away form this
work desk and head strainght to the Hacienda
Cantayo, sounds like my kind of place. I've lived on
the Texas Gulf Coast my enitre life and enjoy my quick
trips to the Mexican borders, a far cry from Lima.
Thanks for sharing this information!

Anonymous said...

Hola Don Bart,
love this blog ... it's showing me all the places Bine and me never got to see while we were around ... ;-)

Big hug from Hamburg,

Karina said...

Wow - looks and sounds amazing.
I've linked you up - hope thats ok =)

Rcon said...

can't wait to read more of your travel escapades and adventures!

moro said...

So many beautiful stories and photos from Peru, an enchanting country we travelled till some weeks ago... we also tried to share our emotions in a blog of our nomadic travel along the americas (USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia Ecuador and Peru)!

Rcon Pascua said...

the photos together with the description of the place made me want to go packing right away and fly to Peru... but then I saw about the work-related papers piled up on my table.. *sigh* maybe next year I'll have the time.

Konstantine said...

That looks so beautiful...what's the cost of this?

Bart de Graaf said...

Konstantine - it's a great hotel in the middle of an amazing part of Peru. For more information you can contact Thanks for posting mate!