Every continent delivers bespoke luxury. In South America, many of them are free, including vast, wild areas, extraordinary natural attractions like glaciers, deserts and rainforests, and a starry night sky.
But Argentines, Brazilians, Peruvians, and the rest of the citizens of every major country offer added style and service, amusements and perks depending on where you are going. Estancias, haciendas and fincas are variations of the country house style and usually offer old-world comfort with a relaxed new-world accent.
Luxury in the cities is unmistakable. In a carnival city like Rio there are more leisure houses than commercial buildings, and since the Copacabana Palace opened its palatial doors in 1923, hotels have offered the international jet set graceful accommodation and a touch of glamor. Lima, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, and Santiago de Chile all have their grand dame five-star hotels as well as upscale boutique hotels. Almost all major cities have a burgeoning food service scene that builds on the popularity of ceviche, Nikkei cuisine, and Southern Cone wines around the world.
Nowadays the pound and dollar do not necessarily go further in South America than in the north, but the need for information and inspiration from local guides, drivers, hoteliers and experts is almost always greater. Whether private guiding, a dream road trip on one of the empty highways of the continent, glamping in true wilderness or adventure and good life in a remote hill – without lifting a backpack – you will not be disappointed.
For many Europeans, South America is typically on the radar as a backpacker destination. Like those who traveled there in the exciting days of Che Guevara, the Hippie Trail, and the brick-sized South American manual, the continent has grown somewhat and become a mid-life destination to explore and beyond can. It can now rival Asia and Africa for luxury in the wilderness, and its cities can rival Paris or New York for art and music, food and retail. But there is always a feeling of adventure and discovery to be had – and that is priceless.
1. Pampered in the Pampas and Patagonia
The saying âRiche comme un Argentinâ was once enviously whispered in Parisian salons. Argentinians are good at luxury and put it into practice in their big city hotels and estancias with equal serenity. Start a vacation in grand style at the Alvear Palace, Buenos Aires’ most opulent hotel, which opened in 1932 – when the city was among the richest and most progressive in the world. It’s a few hours’ drive to Estancia la Bamba de Areco, a colonial-style Relais & ChÃ¢teaux ranch. Go horseback riding or admire the gauchos before enjoying a memorable outdoor asado barbecue. Swap the grasslands for Patagonia and stay at the cool, modern Eolo Hotel with trips to the glaciers and lakes. Toast your odyssey at Cavas Wine Lodge in Mendoza’s sun-drenched wine regions, where 14 apartments with adobe walls lead onto terraces with views of the Andes.
How it goes: Journey Latin America (020 3733 8024; travellatinamerica.co.uk) offers a 13-day private trip in these four top-end hotels from Â£ 8,960 per person, including flights, transfers, most meals and excursions