Photo:  Casa Andina Colco Peru

In Peru, colorful stone casitas encircle Casa Andina Colca’s peaceful courtyard.

Photograph courtesy Casa Andina Colca

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The most authentic and unique hotels in Peru, chosen by National Geographic Traveler editors for the 2011 Stay List

1. Casa Andina Arequipa, Arequipa

A highlight in the city's rich historic center, this 18th-century colonial mansion made of white volcanic stone was once a mint and now a National Historic Monument. A 2008 remodeling—after more than a century of neglect—revealed frescoes, reliefs, and even a chapel not seen for decades. Rooms vary in terms of size. The courtyard provides the perfect spot for unwinding (with or without a drink) after exploring the nearby cathedral and convent. Restaurant, bar, lounge. 41 rooms; from $262, incl. breakfast and Wi-Fi.

2. Casa Andina Colca Lodge, Chivay

Perched at almost 12,000 feet in southern Peru, the property lies at the gateway to the Colca Valley, called the “Valley of Wonder” by famed Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa. Personal stone casitas with thatched roofs and ceramic floors open onto a tranquil garden patio. Clear atmosphere permits nightly stargazing and talks on Inca cosmology at the hotel’s planetarium. Learn traditional embroidery at the local village or purchase authentic dress items from the local artisan who weaves daily in the hotel’s fireplace lounge. Restaurant. Massage room. 51 rooms; from $78, incl. breakfast.

3. Casa Andina Hotel Isla Suasi, Lake Titicaca

The hotel, which operates solely on solar energy, was built using materials on the privately owned island: wood, mud, and rocks. All rooms have views of the world highest-altitude navigable body of water, Lake Titicaca. Take a canoe for a spin. Property residents include eight alpacas, seven vicuñas, and various birds. Terraced gardens. Sustainable tourism and cultural preservation are the real engines here. Massage room, Restaurant. 24 rooms; from $349, incl. transport by boat to and from island, meals, and beverages.

4. Casa Cartagena, Cusco

Mid-17th-century architecture plus up-the-the-minute creature comforts in one of Cusco's most elegant neighborhoods. (Writer Pablo Neruda once lived in this rambling home.) Not only is there a wealth of historic sites to explore in the area; the steep-cobblestone-alley neighborhood of San Blas—filled with artists and their workshops—is a short walk away. An oxygen-enrichment system (costs extra) helps guests acclimate to the high altitude. Spa. Restaurant. 16 suites; from $330, incl. breakfast, sauna, hydromassage, daily aperitif and hors d'oeuvres, Wi-Fi, local phone calls.

5. Colca Lodge, Arequipa

Located in the Andes of southwestern Peru. Surrounded by pre-Inca agricultural terraces, the riverside lodge is made of area stone, mud, and straw. The style was inspired by ancient Inca buildings, though the feel is country elegant rather than wildly rustic. Terrifically stylish interiors. Two- to six-day treks to one of the world's deepest canyons. True Peruvian fare, with local quinoa, Andean trout, and alpaca meat the star ingredients. Gift shop stocked with woolens from alpaca and vicuña fleece. Hot springs. Spa. 45 rooms; from $145, incl. breakfast.

6. Explorer’s Inn Eco Lodge, Madre de Dios, Tambopata National Reserve

Located in a national park that is the meeting of three major ecosystems: lowland Amazon forest, Andean foothills, and savanna. The rainforest retreat, built in part from certified forest wood, relies on solar panels and candles for light. It is a short walk from an oxbow lake, home to giant river otters, tiny tamarind monkeys, and hundreds of bird species. The lodge and its surroundings are pure Amazon, basic in design with fauna all around. Resident naturalists provide fine insight. 30 rooms; from $230, two-night minimum, all-inclusive.

7. Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Cusco

Twelve acres of the cloud forest were restored during the construction of this boutique property. Built by artisans using local materials, and constructed to resemble a traditional Andean village. Hotel grounds blend into the natural ecosystem alive with 192 species of birds, 111 species of butterflies, 372 orchid species, and other lush flora. On-site nature excursions included. Offsite visits to museums and markets, or hikes to the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu may be arranged. 85 rooms; from $498.

8. Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica, Puerto Maldonado

Tree-trunk walkways connect the many thatched-roof structures in this rain forest reserve. It's all about the natural world, with a mind-boggling assortment of flora and fauna. Management policies covering water and energy consumption and sustainability are posted in the staff areas of this carbon-neutral enterprise. The property maintains a nearby organic farm. Spa. Restaurant. 35 cabins; $612 for two days, all inclusive.

9. Mountain Lodges of Peru, Cusco region

Four eco-conscious lodges built in 2006 and 2007 along the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu are the accommodations for a seven-day itinerary from and back to Cusco. The plan was to have each lodge seem embedded in the environment—to be part of the surroundings rather than a disruption. For example, the first lodge—the Salkantay Lodge and Adventure Resort—sits on an important pilgrimage site and was designed to reflect an Inca palace. Food served at all four lodges. 30 rooms (in four lodges); from $5,700 for a seven-day, lodge-to-lodge trek, all-inclusive.

10. Posada Amazonas, Puerto Maldonado

Wood, palm fronds, wild cane, and clay went into the construction of this cold-water-only rain forest property. No electricity; light from kerosene lamps and candles. And how's this for an address: "left side of the river as you sail the Tambopata River toward the native community of Infierno." Yes, the wilds. Plenty of fauna and lots of great walking. Activity highlight: a night trek through the forest—a good time to spot mammals and hear frogs. Posada gets points for sincere involvement in the community. 30 rooms; from $335, two-night minimum, incl. activities and meals.

11. Tambo del Inka, Urubamba

A contemporary hotel and spa infused with the color, texture, and spirit of Inca culture. Plush rooms are situated with marvelous views of the Andes and Vilcanota River. Operating under LEED-certification standards, the hotel’s high-bar eco-practices include maintaining a water treatment system that recycles water for garden use. Ten hotel shops designated for local artisans to display and sell handicrafts. Impeccable service. Restaurant. Spa. Indoor pool. 128 rooms; from $385.

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