On the eve of my trip to South America, I had barely any idea what I’d be doing upon arriving in the southern hemisphere, save departing from Rio de Janeiro two months later. At a late dinner the night before my flight to Lima, my friend William gave me but a single tangible piece of advice amid several anecdotes about his previous travels on the continent. “Stay at Loki Hostels in Peru and Bolivia,” he said. “Trust me — they’re amazing.”
The next morning as I was waiting for my taxi to the airport, I booked three nights at Loki Lima. After 16 nights stayed in three different Loki properties, I can safely say the chain provides the best overall hostel experience I’ve come across so far.
For my money, my week-long stay at Loki Cusco comprised the best single hostel stay of my life. Several factors influenced this, some of which had to do with Loki’s across-the-board way of operating and others specific to the Cusco location.
Like the properties in La Paz and Lima, Loki Cusco has its own full bar, which is connected to a full kitchen open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. As is also the case at other Loki locations, the staff is a combination of locals and tourists, who are able to volunteer to work bar and reception shifts in exchange for free accommodation and meals. To answer the question I’m sure you’re asking: yes, you too can work at Loki if your desired time commitment matches the needs of the management at the property where you want to work.
Beyond the fabulous cuisine — which included a rotating daily, often local special in addition to the rest of the eclectic food — Loki Cusco benefits from its large footprint, which allows those travelers who don’t wish to participate in the hostel’s nonstop party to sleep peacefully. Loki’s location, near the precipice of Cusco’s own mountain-with-a-virgin-on-top-of it, also provides calm and serenity, although the hike up the hill to get there from the center of the city is one you should take slowly if you discover you’re prone to altitude sickness.
Loki Cusco offers a huge variety of rooms, from private one-, two- and three- person ensuites all the way up the 10- and 12- person dorms. Showers are extremely hot and it’s possible to rent a towel if you didn’t bring one from home. Cost-wise, the hostel is affordable and on par with local competitors, with a 4-6 person dorm going for around 30 soles per night. As a convenience, Loki allows you to charge food and alcohol purchases to your room, allowing you to pay everything you owe at check-out. Word to the wise, though: keep a mental tally unless you want to be surprised with a four-figure bill.
Set in a historic building with an all-glass ceiling, Loki La Paz sits less than 15 minutes walking distance from the city’s famous “Witch’s Market” among other famous attractions and vantage points. The surrounding neighborhood is clean and safe — by La Paz standards, anyway — and houses a colorful mélange of well-maintained buildings.
Thanks to the high ceilings that were apparently popular around the time the building that houses it was put up, Loki La Paz is incredibly roomy, both within the dorm rooms themselves and in the central common area, whose aforementioned glass ceiling rises three stories above the comfy bean bigs strewn over the file floors. Service and food at its bar, which sits on the upper floor, are excellent, although the general ambiance within dining and drinking areas isn’t as friend or even social as in Cusco.
Loki is literally right around the corner from its competitor Wild Rover, an Irish-owned hostel chain that also has several locations through Peru and Bolivia. The first night my group and I arrived in La Paz Loki was full, so we had no choice but to stay at Wild Rover.
While its building is comparably awesome in architecture and design, several things about my time there bothered me — namely bad service, bland food and the fact that they only sell British black tea. By comparison, all Loki Hostels offer your choice of Anise, Chamomile or Orange Spice in addition to traditional black tea. In terms of price, Loki La Paz is exactly the same as Wild Rover, to the boliviano. In March 2011, I paid Bs. 48 for a spot in a 10-person dorm.
Loki Lima was literally my first stop in South America and for that, will always hold a special place in my heart. Beyond this sentimental endorsement, however, I can recommend the hostel to you on its own merits.
Nestled on a quiet street in Lima’s posh Miraflores district, the hostel is only minutes by foot from the picturesque Parque Kennedy and Lima’s interesting black rock beaches. A quick collectivo ride to the north or south will take you to the city’s center or its Barranco district, respectively. Alternatively, walking solely within Miraflores is a pleasant, relaxing way to spend a morning, afternoon or evening.
In terms of bar/restaurant mechanism, Loki Lima functions much in the same way — and serves mostly the same cuisine — as its counterparts in Cusco and La Paz. One notable — and delightful — difference is that Loki Lima has a frozen drink machine, which squirted out tall, frosty cocktails for just S./6 a pop when I was there. Another cool feature of the hostel is that it has a rooftop terrace, one which provides a stunning, panoramic view of the surrounding Miraflores district.
I can’t personally comment on Loki Máncora, the outfit’s newest and (from what I hear) nicest hostel. What I do know is that it sits directly on the beach, has a swimming pool and even its large dorm rooms have ensuite bathrooms. A hostel-hotel, as it were, although I’m told the price is the usual Loki low.
Robert Schrader is a travel writer and photographer who’s been roaming the world independently since 2005, writing for publications such as “CNNGo” and “Shanghaiist” along the way. His blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, provides a mix of travel advice, destination guides and personal essays covering the more esoteric aspects of life as a traveler.