From the ruins of Machu Picchu to the wilds of Tierra del Fuego, South America is a vivid canvas of untapped beauty and charm.
South America is one of the world’s most diverse continents. Home to the biggest rainforest, the highest waterfall and the largest continental mountain range, this vast peninsular is for the most part overlooked for the sake of its more advanced nothern neighbour. South America has only recently emerged as a holiday destination for the well-heeled traveller with top of the line resorts, luxury homestays and chic beach villas popping up from coast to coast. From the ruins of Machu Picchu in the west to the untamed wilderness of Tierra del Fuego in the south, the dramatic beauty of this region makes it the perfect setting for a wild romance.
PERU Machu Picchu, also known as the Lost City of the Incas, was rediscovered by the American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911. Since then, this ancient citadel has become one of the world’s most visited sites. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, a stay here strikes the perfect balance between romance and history. While visiting, stay at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel near the ruins. Wake up and watch the mist wind around the lost city as you sip your coffee, before setting out to explore the ruins. The hotel’s Deluxe Twin Mountain View & Terrace rooms offer great views of the nearby peaks, while its manicured gardens are a great place to unwind after a long day’s sightseeing. Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge Hotel, Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Peru (+51 84 984 816 956; www.sanctuarylodgehtoel.com)
ARGENTINA The tango capital of the world and home to one of the world’s greatest footballers, Argentina is the second largest country in South America and one of the continent’s most vibrant destinations. Its capital, Buenos Aries, boasts neighbourhoods like the famous La Boca, whose pastel-coloured houses resemble crayons in a box-set, and street corners where breaking out into a passionate tango in the middle of the day is perfectly normal. Argentina’s capital city has it all—great bars, restaurants and some fabulous hotels to boot. Stay at the centrally located Alvear Palace Hotel, where rooms combine decadent Louis XV and XVI interiors with plush modern amenities. Look out for the hotel’s impressive art collection— it boasts works from some of Argentina’s biggest names.
From Buenos Aires, head north towards Brazil to experience the awesome power of the Iguazú Falls. Here you’ll find walkways and viewing decks that bring you close enough to hear the thunderous roar of the waterfall, and feel its spray against your skin. If you’d like to spend the night at the falls, the Sheraton Iguazú is the only hotel inside the Parque Nacional Iguazú, and can arrange tours to the falls upon request. Sheraton Iguazú Resort & Spa, Parque Nacional Iguazú, Argentina (+54 3757 491800; www.starwoodhotels.com)
BRAZIL From the bustle of Brasilia to the beaches of Rio, the largest country in South America is also the most culturally diverse—as well as being the continent’s favourite party zone. For a different take on Brazilian culture, leave these cities behind and head to Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia. Not only did this city play a crucial part in its country’s history, it was also the birthplace of Samba. It is a city rich in Afro-Brazilian culture and tradition such as the 100-year-old boat race, whose roots lie in the summer pastime of boys from traditional families. Salvador’s historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city, which is fringed by the Atlantic Ocean, also boasts some of best regional cuisine in Brazil such as caruru, a dish made from okra, shrimp and nuts.
Once you’ve taken in all Salvador has to offer, slip away to the quieter regions of Bahia to experience its romantic side. Stay at the Kiaroa Eco Luxury Resort, tucked away in its own environmentally protected corner of the Maraú Peninsula. With 28 villas—most of which have private pools—this resort prides itself on its warm, Brazilian hospitality and is the perfect setting for a Caipirinha at sunset. Kiaroa Eco Luxury Resort, Loteamento da Costa, area SD6, Barra Grande, Maraú, Bahia, Brazil (+55 73 3258 6213; www.kiaroa.com)
ECUADOR The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most unique ecosystems, and represent a very good reason to visit Ecuador (the country the archipelago is a part of). As the islands were never joined to continental South America, their flora and fauna evolved in a bubble, untroubled by outside influences. So you won’t find species like the giant Galapagos Island tortoise, the Blue-footed booby, the marine iguana and the Galapagos penguin anywhere else. As the islands remain largely undisturbed by mankind, the animals have never learnt to fear humans and are astonishingly approachable, even friendly at times. Exploring this primordial paradise—often referred to as the land that time forgot—is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The islands are accessible from Isla Santa Cruz, and we recommend that you rent a yacht or diving boat—as opposed to booking a cruise—for a more intimate experience. Galapagos Islands cruises Av. Mariscal Foch 265 and 6 de Diciembre, Sonelsa Building, Quito, Ecuador (+593-2-2527-026; www.galapagosislands.com)
Make sure you also see the grassland, lakes, volcanoes and Inca ruins of the Ecuadorean Andes, a vast terrain inhabited by horses, llamas and the endangered Andean condor. If time allows, book a stay at one of the region’s many luxury haciendas. Hacienda Cusin is a vast 16th century estate with 42 guestrooms, stately dining halls, Spanish-style courtyards and assorted artworks that has played host to celebrities like Meg Ryan. If prefer a bit of old world glamour, book in at the Hotel Plaza Grande in Quito. With heated marble floors and bath-butlers on call, this grand hotel in the Ecuadorian capital makes a fitting finale to a tour of the country. Hotel Plaza Grande, Calle García Moreno,Quito, Ecuador (+593 2 2510 777; www.plazagrandequito.com) Hacienda Cusin, San Pablo del Lago, Imbabura, Ecuador (+593 6 291 8013; www.haciendacusin.com)
CHILE South America’s city of love is the Chilean capital of Santiago. Its streets are filled with couples walking arm-in-arm, enjoying the sunshine in the city’s parks or simply dining at cafes. Its restaurants and bars typically feature shows during the evening, but serve some mouth-watering food all day and night. From barbeque to world cuisine, Chile puts its heart into its food —and it shows.
Explore the vast expanse of Chile’s Atacama Desert, where you can witness the flaming skies of a desert sunrise. Stay at the Hotel de Larache, a 50-room lodge in the heart of the desert that sprawls over 42 acres. The hotel offers over 50 different excursions for adventurous couples, ranging from easy horseback riding to the more challenging pursuits like mountaineering. The hotel has a special guide who meets guests at the bar each night to discuss the next day’s activities. After a tiring day of in the desert, come back to your room and relax in your very own in-room hydrotherapy bath before you head to the lodge bar for a drink. Don’t forget to look up: the sky above the Atacama Desert is one of the clearest you’ll ever see, and the stars here are breathtaking. Hotel de Larache, Atacama, Chile (+56 2 395 2800; www.explora.com)