FIVE BEST: LUXURY MONASTERY HOTELS ; Monks May Be Known for Their Austerity, but These Monastery Hotels Are Certainly Not

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Cuzco was once the magnificent mountain capital of the Incas - until the Spanish breezed in, erecting their churches and grand colonial buildings on top of the existing Inca foundations. Today, this city high in the Andes is a picturesque maze of cobbled streets and squares and the base for the trek to Machu Picchu. The 17th- century Hotel Monasterio was originally the San Antonio Abad seminary, home to a community of Jesuit monks. Now a luxury hotel, the building has retained much of the original layout and the rooms are decorated with 16th- and 17th-century Cuzquenian paintings and murals. The oxygen supplementation system in the rooms to counteract the effects of altitude sickness is a welcome modern addition.

Hotel Monasterio, Calle Palacios 136 Plazoleta Nazarenas, Cuzco, Peru (020-8604 2242; www.monasterio.orient-express.com). Doubles from pounds 218.85 per night with breakfast LUCY GILLMORE

Hotel Monasterio Peru

San Clemente Palace Italy

The San Clemente Palace sits on its own 17-acre island in the middle of the Venetian lagoon, just a short hop by private launch from St Mark's Square. The site was first occupied by a church built around 1130 to serve as a starting point for pilgrims en route to the Holy Land. The main 17th- century buildings once housed a community of Camaldolese monks. Last year, the buildings were converted into a luxury hotel, although you can only wonder what the monks would make of the opulent interiors - a riot of silk wallpaper, marble and Murano chandeliers.

San Clemente Palace, Isola di San Clemente, Venice, Italy (00 39 041 244 5001; www.sanclemente.thi.it). Doubles from EUR418 (pounds 300) with breakfast AOIFE O'RIORDAIN

Parador de Cangas de Onis Spain

In 1926, King Alfonso XIII of Spain came up with the idea of restoring Spain's palaces, fortresses, convents and monasteries by converting them into hotels. Today there are 90 of these paradors across the country, one of which is the monastery of San Pedro de Villanueva, now known as the Parador de Cangas de Onis. …