Never underestimate the power of a hotel to capture for guests the specialty adventures of its immediate neighborhood, and to unlock the essence and authenticity of its locale. By opening new hospitality horizons, Latin America hotels continue to change the landscape of vacation planning for the active and adventurous traveler, while also delivering memorable cultural experiences. Let’s consider some prime-time examples…
Wine regions in Argentina and Chile (and now Uruguay) know how to combine engaging wine experiences on local estates with high adventures close-by. One good pick among many in the Argentine wine region of Mendoza is The Vines Resort & Spa, housing guests in 22 spacious, rustically elegant villas. The main lodge houses the dining area (with the accent on beer creations by Francis Mallmann in the Siete Fuegos restaurant), bar and wine cellar, and spa, while other guest amenities include an infinity pool and winery hosting Malbec wine tastings, plus options to pick and punch down grapes to make your own barrel of wine. The Vines’ experiences showcase adventures in the surrounding Uco Valley: exploring the wine routes, fly fishing, rafting, helicopter rides, trekking, mountain biking and polo. The adventure team—aptly called Gauchos—also organizes visits to artisan markets and art galleries, onsite cooking or tango lessons, and nights out on the town. For a single night, a villa is priced from $595 pp dbl, including breakfast, a vineyard tour and wine tasting.
Sophisticated boutique Casa Gangotena occupies a grand restored mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco in Quito’s UNESCO-acclaimed centro historico. Guests are treated to elegantly designed rooms, an award-winning gourmet restaurant, and a garden abloom with native flowers. To give guests a special vision of Ecuadorean culture, the hotel offers Casa Gangotena Quito Experiences daily between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday is “Chocolate Day,” introducing and tasting one of Ecuador’s most famous products; Tuesday is reserved for learning about traditional “Limpias,” body- and spirit-cleansing rituals; Wednesday is “San Francisco from Above” time, a survey of the Plaza’s five centuries of history from the hotel’s panoramic terrace; Thursday offers El Alabado After Hours, a 1-hour immersion in the nearby museum’s collection; Friday features a guided walk, From Plaza Grande to Plaza San Francisco; Saturday is designated History of Casa Gangotena day, with a guided hotel visit; and Sunday’s theme activity is Agua de Frescos, a presentation focused on the herbs and flowers used in the signature house cocktail. Deluxe rooms prices start at $450 per night.
When I first stayed at the enchanting 7-room Posada del Angel in Antigua, Guatemala—some 15 years ago, following in the footsteps of guest Bill Clinton—the owner had already curated a series of connoisseur-led journeys called Authentic Antigua Experiences, introducing its guests and me to the cultural mosaic of this colonial town. Today, you are still invited to Taste Antigua, under the guidance of Desiree Irurbide, a food aficionado and restaurant critic who takes you out exploring markets and dulcerias, and introduces the secrets of tortilla making. Or, guests can experience Authentic Textiles and learn from designer and expert Olga Reiche why weaving is the art that keeps the threads of Mayan culture together. The Authentic Wellbeing experience is customized by David Elron, expert in trigger point therapy, deep-tissue and Swedish massage, and the menu of Countryside Experiences can include a coffee farm visit, a chocolate-making class, a visit to a Mayan weaving community, and even a climb up a volcano. A 3-night package, priced for two, starts at $525 including a bottle of wine, chocolate truffles, fruit plate, and a breakfast for two.
A relative newcomer to the Sacred Valley is Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, a contemporary hotel with colonial inspiration that welcomes its guests with the traditional chichi drink. Casita accommodations come with a choice of eight suites (some with fireplaces) and 28 superior deluxe rooms, all with terraces and gorgeous views. Dining features local and international food using organic ingredients harvested on site, and the bar and lounge come with a fireplace and pisco sours on call. The activities list is long, some free of charge, including learning of medicinal plants and native foods at an ecological farm or during a visit to a native village. The Twilight Mountain excursion focuses on medicinal plants and astronomy, while birdwatching and photography are good reasons to follow the Challa Huasi Trail. Excursions exploring the Sacred Valley range from trips to Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Maras & Moray, and Pisac, as well as adventures in river rafting, horseback riding, mountain biking and a full day birding in Yanacocha. Rates start at $462 pp double or single, including breakfast and a guided excursion on property.