Galapagos accommodations have indeed gone upscale with the addition of Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel on Isabela Island. Here you find oceanview rooms (one master suite, two jr. suites, 11 doubles), room service, Internet access, a pool, and a rooftop jacuzzi. The hotel sits on a beautiful beach, surrounded by national park wetlands and overlooked by the island’s six volcanoes. Daily activities include horseback riding, mountain biking, snorkeling, and guided nature hikes.
in panama The Bern Hotel Group is again partnering with Starwood Hotels & Resorts to debut the Westin brand in Panama with two new properties slated to open in the next two years. The Westin Playa Bonita Panama will open in 2011, just 20 minutes from downtown, followed by the Westin Panama Hotel in 2012 in the heart of Panama City’s Costa del Este business district. The two hotel companies’ first joint effort is Le Meridien Panama, which opened in September 2009.
in peru Aqua Expeditions will debut a second ship, M/V Aria in April, cruising in the Peruvian Amazon. The expedition vessel has 16 cabins with floor-to-ceiling picture windows, an air-conditioned top deck with observation lounge, as well as the company’s signature Amazon Grill. Aria also has an exercise room, an outdoor jacuzzi with sun deck, an Amazon Wildlife reference library, and an air-conditioned multimedia room. The boat’s itineraries of three, four and seven days will vary from those of its sister ship, the M/V Aqua, but will also explore remote areas of the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve in the upper reaches of the Amazon River.
The Andean Experience Company is restoring a historic mansion in Lima’s neighborhood of Barranco, converting it into an 18-suite Hotel Barranco, named for its artsy seaside neighborhood location. Scheduled to open this year, the 1914 belle epoque-style hotel will feature a spa and a signature restaurant by internationally recognized chef Rafael Osterling. Andean Experience is also the owner and operator of Titilaka, a gorgeous and luxury experience resort on Lake Titicaca.
Perurail has introduced new service, the affordable Expedition, replacing its existing Backpacker service between Cusco and Machu Picchu and operating four times daily and departing two stations—Poroy in Cusco and Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley. Carriages have been refurbished and updated with large panoramic windows, air conditioning and heating. Also on track between Cusco and Machu Picchu, Perurail operates the first class Vista Dome, with 10 daily departures, and the top-luxury Hiram Bingham with one daily departure. The Andean Explorer, meanwhile, equipped with dining cars and an open-air observation bar-car, makes the 10-hour run three times weekly between Cusco and Puno (Lake Titicaca).
The Larco Museum has always been a first-stop visitor attraction in Lima. After five years of extensive renovation, the reopened New Larco Museum (museolarco.org), housed in a renovated 18th century mansion built atop the remains of a seventh century pyramid, offers new state-of-the-art displays in its remarkable overview of 5,000 years of development of Peruvian pre-Columbian history.
in uruguay Lares Tours, a major player in opening up different corners of Uruguay to international visitors, has introduced an Open Voucher program, one of the few self-drive options on the continent. Flexible itineraries feature routings where travelers drive at their own pace and stay at small estancias and cozy posadas. Additionally, auto aficiondos know that Uruguay is the place to go to see antique cars—everywhere—and Lares now offers an Old-times Classic Cars Tour visiting private collections and featuring a drive-yourself classic car experience along the historic streets of Colonia.
Opened last month is the newest of Uruguay’s jet-set hotels, Las Piedras Fasano, whose 20 bungalows and 12 suite bungalows are located on 1,185 acres on the rolling hills and grassy dunes outside Punta del Este. Expect to find two restaurants, a freeform pool, spa, tennis courts, equestrian center, polo fields, and an Arnold Palmer-designed, 9-hole golf course. This is the first Fasano resort hotel outside Brazil (Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro).