Top 5 Hidden Lodging Gems of
Oftentimes, the deciding factor that really makes a trip great is finding something special that others have somehow overlooked. So, if you’re planning to visit South America for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero—or if you just can’t wait that long—be sure to discover these five unique lodging experiences all across the continent.
Private custom-travel company Vaya Adventures, founded by Jim Lutz in 2004, offers bespoke vacations in South America with a focus on the unfamiliar and the extraordinary. The company makes a point of emphasizing accommodations, restaurants and neighborhoods that best embrace location, sustainability, culture and wildlife. Here, a short list of relatively unknown gems—each thoroughly researched and curated by Lutz and his team, and each revealing secrets of its own.
Nestled within a private rainforest reserve and ecological sanctuary in the southern Brazilian Amazon (in the state of Mato Grosso), Cristalino Jungle Lodge is one of only a few places in the Amazon that successfully combines luxe design and comfort with a top-notch ecotourism and wildlife experience. The only way to get to the lodge is via boat on the River Cristalino. Once there, you’ll find wooden bungalows with ceramic tile flooring, and a nearly 150-foot observation tower that provides spectacular viewing over the forest canopy and indigenous species. Be sure to look for the white-cheeked spider monkey, red-nosed saki, cryptic forest falcon, crimson-bellied conure and black-girdled barbet—all of which can only be found in this area of the Amazon. Three-night package starting at $1,140
Be one of the few in-the-know travelers to visit Chiloé’s archipelago in Chilean Patagonia—an area that’s often overlooked on typical trips to nearby Santiago or Patagonia. While there, book a stay at Tierra Chiloé (previously known as Refugia). This avant-garde, 12-room luxury hotel makes use of local materials to blend into the landscape of green hills and rivers, lakes, lagoons and canals. With all of that water, it’s no surprise that fresh seafood abounds. You’ll likely try a traditional dish of curanto—a stew of shellfish, fish, potato and meat, cooked in the ground and covered with Chilean rhubarb leaves. Nearby, you’ll find Colonial-era wooden churches in Achao, Chonchi and Quinchao (all are UNESCO World Heritage sites). Two-night package starting at $1,150
A trip to Peru just isn’t complete without a visit to the mythic Lake Titicaca in the high Andes. And a stay at Titilaka Lodge (located on a private peninsula with four acres of grounds, two private beaches and a private jetty) makes the visit that much better. Here, you’ll find 18 lake-view accommodations with wrap-around terraces. While the lodge features a stunning and modern design aesthetic, it is also steeped in local folk art. Packages include meals and excursions to local cultural and historical sites—such as Taquile Island (the nearly 2,200 inhabitants, known as Taquileños, are famous for their fine hand-woven textiles)—and nearby towns and villages. While you’re here, be sure to go sailing on Lake Titicaca before heading off to visit other nearby areas (such as Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley). Two-night package starting at $910
Experience true South American hospitality with a stay at Hacienda Zuleta, a restored 17th century country estate owned by the family of two former Ecuadorian presidents. Located in an Andean valley just two hours from Quito, the estate rests upon 4,000 acres with a dairy and cheese factory, a trout farm, a flock of sheep, an embroidery shop and a stable of Zuleteño horses that guests are welcome to ride. This working hacienda features 14 guest rooms surrounded by native forest, and it has its own Andean condor recovery project. Nearby areas of interest include several pre-Colombian burial mounds. During your dinner of organic cuisine, the hacienda’s staff will be busy cozying up your room by lighting the in-room fireplace and tucking hot water bottles wrapped in embroidered sheaths into your bed. Two-night package starting at $885
One of the oldest pioneer ranches in Patagonia, Estancia Cristina features 20 guest accommodations in five first-class cabins on a lake that adjoins Los Glaciares National Park. You’ll arrive at the lodge after a two-hour boat ride from El Calafate, and, from here, you can explore the largest glacier in South America (the 35-mile-long Upsala Glacier, which is just off of the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap). Be sure to take in the expansive views of the wilderness to remind yourself why you came here in the first place. Two-night package starting at $1,000
Note: All prices are rack rates, and include meals and activities—almost a must when visiting these remote places.