In Latin America, luxury has tamed the wilderness experience, or at least made it much more comfortable to go exploring in style amidst the region’s remote celebrated natural landscape.
peruColca Canyon, located in southern Peru, is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, but not as steep. It cuts a 70-mile-long path forming the Colca Valley where condors soar and vicunas graze, snowy volcanoes line the horizon, river waters plunge and little colonial churches dot the landscape. All these elements combine to take your breath away, not because of a rarefied altitude, but for the grandeur of the landscapes and the fascinating local Aymara culture. But visitors can catch their breath while staying at Las Casitas del Colca, an Orient-Express property. Lodgings are in 20 large casitas, set along landscaped walkways that lace the 40-acre property. Casitas are built in the local rustic style with brick walls and orange-red roofs, but offering modern perks like heated floors, iPOD docks, indoor and outdoor showers, a glass roof over the bathtub—perfect for star gazing—terraces and heated plunge pools. The presidential casita has separate living and dining rooms with grand views of the Colca River. Spa Samay offers a signature ALTU high-altitude massage—complete with coca leaves at your temples—while the restaurant focuses on Peruvian cuisine, prepared with produce from the hotel’s extensive farm. The menu of activities ranges from cooking lessons and feeding the alpacas, to exploring the vast canyon by foot, cycle or Peruvian Paso horse. A casita per night for two persons is $900, including meals and activities.
costa rica Rafting down the Rio Pacuare is a world-class white-water experience, as any rafter will tell you. What may be less familiar is that amidst the thickly forested, wildlife-rich gorges and amazing rapids, there are calm stretches, one of which is home base to the Pacuare Jungle Lodge. Located deep within a 25,000-acre protected zone in the mountainous Central Highlands, the lodge most recently added to its present 19 palm-thatched, garden-view bungalows and super-spacious River View jr. suites, four huge and beautifully decorated hilltop Linda Vista Suites. They come with unforgettable rainforest and river views from each bedroom, living room, bathroom, grand deck and private spring-fed pools. Additional amenities range from a mini-bar to a telephone for communicating with the Eco-Concierge who helps with guest activities including canopy touring, rappelling, horseback riding, jungle and waterfall hikes, birdwatching, visits to the Cabecar Indian Village (where the lodge supports the local school), massage treatments and, of course, rafting. In the main lodge are a bar, lounge and open-air restaurant serving up jungle gourmet cuisine by candlelight. And getting here is half the fun: raft in on class II-III rapids and raft out past waterfalls and through canyons on class III-IV waters. Alternative access is overland in a 4×4 vehicle.
For a 3-day package, Linda Vista Suites are priced from $730 pp dbl and from $562 pp dbl for a River View jr. suite. Rates are all-inclusive, with transfers from/to San Jose.
ecuador Lying 2.5 hours north of Quito and surrounded by the beauty of the Andes Mountains, the 17th century Hacienda Zuleta sits on 4,000 acres of a private estate, which completely supports the hacienda’s inhabitants and guests. Zuleta is owned by the family of Galo Plaza Lasso—a former president of Ecuador—and guests are accommodated in 15 rooms, each with its own fireplace and exquisitely decorated with antiques and hand-embroidered linen. The personalized service aims to make you feel like one of the family, inviting you to relax in the living and reading rooms and to a dining table set with delicious home cooking and regional cuisine prepared from fresh milk and cream from the onsite dairy, trout caught moments before serving and organic fruits and vegetables picked straight from the garden. Guests enjoy archaeological tours of the onsite Caraqui pyramaids, birdwatching, visits to the different areas of the farm on a horse-drawn carriage, hiking and biking along extensive trails, and guided horseback adventures throughout the property. Guests—this is a perfect place for families, incidentally—also take time to visit some of the sustainable activities: the women’s embroidery project and shop run by the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation; the Cheese Factory, organic garden and milking shed; and the condor rehabilitation project. Room rates range from $175 to $299 pp sharing, and include meals, snacks and refreshments, as well as farm visits.