What often makes a trip really special is finding something great that everyone else somehow missed. The hard part is actually finding those gems and recognizing them when you see them.
Vaya Adventures (http://www.vayaadventures.com/), the expert in designing bespoke vacations in South America, makes it their job to uncover the unknown and extraordinary. Founder Jim Lutz shares his short list of distinctive lodgings in five South America and why these relatively undiscovered gems deserve a visit.
Lutz and his seasoned staff draw from years of research and personal travel to arrange discerningly curated experiences for guests that fit their interests and schedules.
“Our preferred list of lesser known boutique hotels, haciendas and eco-lodges embrace tradition, sustainability, location and wildlife,” Lutz said. “Each is unique and compelling, off the mainstream radar, and offers a window onto the history and culture of the region.”
Vaya Adventures’ short list of unknown gems includes:
Chile – Hotel Refugia Chiloe on Chiloe’s archipelago in Chilean Patagonia is an avant-garde, 12-room luxury hotel created of local materials to blend with an off-the-beaten-track landscape dotted about with houses built on stilts. While few people know about this region or include it in their trip to Chile, colonial-era wooden churches in Achao, Chonchi and Quinchao are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Laced with rivers, lakes, lagoons and canals, the green hills here offer peace and tranquility. This hotel has raised the bar on accommodations in this region where fresh seafood abounds. A traditional dish is curanto, a stew of shellfish, fish, potato and meat, cooked in a hole in the ground covered with the leaves of the Chilean rhubarb. The region can easily be combined with Santiago, Patagonia and other better known areas of Chile. For more details please see http://www.refugia.cl/. Sample Trip: http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/chilean-lake-district-patagonia/
Peru – Titilaka Lodge, a stunning modern design embellished with folk art, sits on a private peninsula on mythic Lake Titicaca in the high Andes, with four acres of grounds and two private beaches enjoyed from 18 lake-view accommodations, wrap-around terraces and a private jetty. The lodge offers outstanding packages that include meals and excursions to local cultural and historical sites, such as Taquile Island and nearby towns and villages. There is also the unique option of sailing on Lake Titicaca. A visit here can be paired with visits to Cusco and Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. For more details please see: http://titilaka.com/. Photos, description and sample trip: http://www.vayaadventures.com/accommodations/peru/titilaka-lodge/ and http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/machu-picchu-lake-titicaca/
Ecuador - Hacienda Zuleta is a restored 17th century country estate on 4,000 acres in an Andean valley two hours from Quito. It is owned by the family of two former Ecuadorian presidents. This working hacienda with 14 guest rooms features a dairy and cheese factory, a trout farm, a flock of sheep, an embroidery shop creating exceptionally high quality textiles, and a stable of Zuleteño horses available for guests to ride while gazing at mountains and volcanoes. Active in conservation and preservation, the hacienda surrounded by native forest has its own Andean condor recovery project. Nearby are several pre-Colombian burial mounds that are often studied by visiting archaeologists. As guests dine at night on organic cuisine (much of it from the hacienda itself), the staff places hot water bottles swathed in embroidered cases in guestroom beds while lighting the in-room fireplaces. See: http://zuleta.com/. Photos and trips: http://www.vayaadventures.com/accommodations/ecuador/hacienda-zuleta/ and http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/highlands-haciendas/ and http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/cotopaxi-cuenca/
Brazil - Cristalino Jungle Lodge sits within a private rainforest reserve and ecological sanctuary in the southern Brazilian Amazon. This is one of the very few places in the entire Amazon that successfully manages to combine first class design and comfort with a first rate ecotourism and wildlife experience. Here in the state of Mato Grosso, the River Cristalino provides the only access (by boat) to the lodge, which offers tastefully designed bungalows built of wood, with cool ceramic tile flooring. One highlight is a 50-meter observation tower that rises over the forest canopy, ideal for viewing some of the vast number of bird and animal species that call this area home. A large number of endemic species such as the white-cheeked spider monkey, red-nosed saki, cryptic forest falcon, crimson-bellied conure and black-girdled barbet can be found only in this area of the Amazon. See: http://cristalinolodge.com.br/en. More info: http://www.vayaadventures.com/accommodations/brazil/cristalino-jungle-lodge/ and http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/rio-brazilian-wildlife-highlights-amazon-pantanal/
Argentina - Estancia Cristina, established 100 years ago and among the oldest pioneer ranches in Patagonia, offers accommodations for 20 guests in five first class cabins on a lake adjoining Los Glaciares National Park. The lodge is accessed after a two-hour boat ride from El Calafate. From here guests may explore the 35-mile-long Upsala Glacier, the largest glacier in South America, winding off of the Southern Patagonia Ice Cap. The level of civility and refinement given the location is extraordinary. The wilderness here is so expansive it defies the imagination. See: http://www.estanciacristina.com/. Photos and sample trips: http://www.vayaadventures.com/accommodations/argentina/estancia-cristina/ and http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/highlights-of-chilean-argentine-patagonia/; http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/buenos-aires-iguazu-patagonia-and-lake-district/; http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/buenos-aires-peninsula-valdez-southern-patagonia/; http://www.vayaadventures.com/itineraries/buenos-aires-tierra-del-fuego-argentine-patagonia/