When it comes to luxury travel experiences, of course there are the old standbys of the French Riviera, Necker Island or Mustique, and the world-class capitals of Paris, London and New York, but the most unexpected and beautiful luxury travel experiences of my life have been in South America.
Spending two months in South America gave me a feeling I have never had before; a feeling of discovering hidden gems that are not only astoundingly beautiful, but uncrowded and untouched. South America made me feel as if I were a modern day Christopher Columbus, experiencing a world I had never known. The pace is relaxed and lavish, the people are friendly and open, and the food is simply fresh and wonderful.
Here are my tips on how and where to experience the best of a South American luxury holiday.
There is a charm in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and the walled city of Cartagena that you simply can’t find anywhere else. A relaxed blend of cultures and times, each city has its own delights. In Rio, the grand statute of Christ the Redeemer watches over the city as the Brazilians play on their world famous beaches. Visit Copacabana and Ipanema for the most beautiful people watching on the planet. Buenos Aires is all about the sexy. Hotels are decadent and flamboyant. Many have their own nightclubs and cabarets, where the who’s who of Argentina come to play. If you really want to have fun in Buenos Aires, sign up for a few tango lessons. Cartagena impresses with its history; an incredibly well-preserved walled city, looking out over the sparkling Caribbean, where boutique hotels are built into lovingly restored colonial mansions.
The Amazon Rainforest are the lungs of the earth, and no one who experiences this beauty first hand leaves here unchanged. At the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica deep in the Peruvian Amazon, you can live right in the heart of the jungle, in cabanas made with native design and natural materials, and offering the modern convenience of fans, hot water, jungle showers and plunge pools. During the day, walk high up in the forest canopy on a series of walkways and cruise right on the river. At night, sleep soundly as birds and frogs sing out their love for this important jungle.
Right on the border of Brazil and Argentina, the thundering Iguassu Falls are a must. They are one of the widest waterfalls in the world, and have recently been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World for obvious reasons. Stay at the Das Cataratas, which is the only hotel right inside the Iguassu National Park. The hotel has recently been renovated, and it offers five-star accommodations in one of the world’s most impressive locations. Go rafting below the incredible waterfall, rappel down the gorge, or simply stand there and take a million pictures.
There are incredible luxury experiences here on some of South America’s best wineries and working ranches. Stay at the Cavas Wine Lodge right at the foot of the Andes near Mendoza, Argentina, surrounded by the beauty of a world class winery. At El Colibri Estancia near Cordoba, Argentina, you can stay on a real working ranch, eating farm fresh food and learning how to play polo.
One of the most unique travel experiences in South American follows in the footsteps of Charles Darwin himself. Cruise around the unique Galapagos Islands on a luxury yacht, and go kayaking with the penguins, hiking with the giant tortoises and snorkelling with the fur seals. Since the Galapagos are right near the Equator, any time of year is perfect for a visit to this wild corner of South America.