The Essentials
January 03, 2019

By: Nick Dall

4 indulgent South American lodges for some serious R&R

Secondary Categories: Chile, Ecuador, Iguazu Falls, Patagonia

Start the year off on the right note with a few nights at one – or more! – of these splendid bucket list lodges. From birdwatching to flyfishing; wine-tasting to waterfall gazing, we’ve got you covered.

Vik, Chile – For the wining, dining sophisticate

Perched atop a hill in one of Chile’s most picturesque and celebrated winemaking valleys, Vik Chile is a country retreat with a difference. Its scalloped titanium roof takes inspiration from the Andes and its transparent living spaces allow guests to appreciate the beauty of the natural landscapes beyond and the central Zen garden within from all quarters. No two rooms are the same, with all 22 suites featuring their own unique design aspects and original, site-specific artwork. The futuristic, hammock-shaped bathtub in the Vik Master Suite could not be more different from the ornate, handpainted vineyard scene that adorns the bathroom walls in the Azulejo Suite. But both are gorgeous.

Fine wine and gourmet cuisine are central to the Vik experience. Viña Vik – the onsite winery that’s housed in an ephemeral white edifice which evokes the wing of an albatross – is much more than a pretty face: Milla Cala, their signature red blend, came in at #22 on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list of 2018 (a global ranking). The spellbinding winery tour engages all five senses and culminates in a gourmet lunch at Milla Milla, the brainchild of head chef Acuña Bravo, who has taken the “farm to table” and “zero kilometer” philosophies to the next level by using only local ingredients (the farm produces 250 organic varieties of fresh produce) and changing his menu every day.

Despite being one of Latin America’s most luxurious and opulent addresses, Vik Chile welcomes guests of all ages. Youngsters can enjoy a “smell don’t taste” wine tour featuring yoghurts made from the different grape varietals. If that sounds too much for your brood, how about a game of paintball or capture the flag?

Vik Chile is a two-hour drive from Santiago. As such, it dovetails seamlessly with all of our Chile itineraries.

Awasi Iguazu, Argentina – For the unabashed nature lover

The breathtaking Iguazu Falls are widely regarded as one of the most magnificent natural wonders on the planet. And with good reason. Despite – or perhaps because of – this most visitors only spend one or two nights in the area, contenting themselves with visits to the Argentine and Brazilian sides of the Falls.

Awasi Iguazu, a magnificent eco-friendly lodge set amongst the jungle, begs you to slow down and linger longer. Built from wood and other local materials, the 14 separate villas (each with their own private plunge pools) maintain a connection with nature without compromising at all on luxury. Add to this the ethical, elegant cuisine of chef Aarón Castillo Tellería and the surprise touches laid on by a staff who have ‘going the extra mile’ hardwired into their DNA, and it’s no surprise the property has earned the Relais & Chateaux seal of approval.

If you can tear yourself away from the lodge, your private guide (and complementary 4X4) will show off the area’s incredible nature (cut off from other biomes on the continent, the Atlantic Rainforest features hundreds of endemic species of plants, animals, birds and insects), history (the nearby Jesuit mission ruins are some of the largest and best-preserved in the world) and culture (the Guarani people continue an ancient way of life that has been all but lost to modernity).

Awasi Iguazu is located 20 minutes from the Iguazu Falls on the Argentine side. It can be incorporated into any of our Iguazu itineraries.

Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador – For the bells-and-whistles birdwatcher

“There are times and places in our travels when we wonder just how in the world they pulled it off. Mashpi Lodge is one of those places,” wrote John Oseid in Forbes. Bringing the sleek lines, industrial finishes and creature comforts of modern, urban life to a pristine Edenic forest that’s wrapped in a near-perpetual cloud, Mashpi gives new meaning to the term ‘urban jungle.’

The modern and exceedingly comfortable lodge features beautiful panoramic views pretty much everywhere. Guests always comment on how the huge floor-to-ceiling windows in the rooms allow you to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the jungle without having to worry about bugs or other critters. The combination of glass and steel achieves a dramatic crescendo in the cathedral-like restaurant. And the food – subtle, innovative, copious – lives up to the setting.

If the lodge itself is a hermetic escape from the jungle, the vast array of activities on offer (all led by passionate, local guides) will coax you, little by little, to delve deeper and dirtier. Start by marveling at macaws from the balcony of the Life Center, then zoom above the canopy in the Dragonfly, an exciting open-air cable car that threads its way over, through and around the treetops. Later, pluck up the courage to propel yourself through the skies on the Sky Bike or hike to one of two nearby waterfalls for a swim in an impossibly picturesque natural plunge-pool. You may arrive at Mashpi a city slicker, but the staggering kaleidoscope of birds (there are more than 400 species including 36 endemics) will ensure you leave a twitcher.

Mashpi Lodge is a four-hour drive (including stop-offs at a volcano and a ‘geobotanic reserve’) from Quito, Ecuador’s fascinating capital city. It’s a wonderful way to start or end your Galapagos adventure.

Aguas Arriba, Patagonia – For the get-away-from-it-all fly fisherman

Not as luxurious as the other lodges featured in this blog, but smaller and even more remote, Aguas Arriba is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if the idea of actually hiking to your hotel (your bags will go by boat) appeals, then read on.  Located in the otherworldly mountain region of El Chalten, on the shores of its own private lake, this 6-room lodge is so close to the water’s edge that you can spy trout (rainbows and browns) from your bedroom window!

With mesmerizing views of several glaciers as well as Mount Fitz Roy (Argentina’s answer to Torres del Paine), a few days at Aguas Arriba will make you forget all about those city stresses. While you will be tempted to curl up in front of one of several fires with a good book, we’d highly recommend trekking to one of the nearby peaks or glaciers or fishing in Lago del Desierto. However you fill your day, however, you can bank on three hearty, farm-fresh meals a day. Not everyone has the time to include this sort of place on their itinerary, but those who make the effort are never disappointed.

Aguas Arriba is a four-hour drive from El Calafate, the gateway to the Perito Moreno Glacier. It’s a delightful add-on to any of our Patagonia itineraries.

All images in this blog were provided by the lodges in question - including the title image of Mashpi Lodge.

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