South America

South America

South America

5 of the best Ecuadorian eco-lodge experiences


The very notion of luxury travel is being re-worked. Old-fashioned, ostentatious “luxury” hotels are clearly outmoded, as today’s high-end travelers are searching for experiential adventure. They are looking to “get inside” a destination – connecting with the indigenous culture, sampling the local food, and appreciating local designs. These modern-day explorers pursue not just vacations, but life-changing experiences. We should note, though, that this search for authentic experience and adventure is inclined to be balanced with the desire for responsible and environmentally conscious travel.

Suramerica, Ecuador, Amazonia

For these reasons, the Latin American “eco-lodges” are increasingly attractive. A host of these jungle lodges can be found in and near the Amazonian rainforest, as this region stretches across several countries and over thousands of square miles. We’ve picked out our five best eco-lodges in the country where the Amazon is most accessible: Ecuador.

1. Hamadryade Lodge – grand luxury, Amazon style

Here, you will also find “luxurious” qualities that are increasingly scarce: time, pause and the chance to disconnect. Only 3½ hours from the Ecuadorian capital city of Quito, this primeval world awaits deep in the Amazonian rainforest, though your stay will be in the elegant and urbane ambiance of the Hamadryade Lodge.

Hamadryade Lodge

Exclusive and exceedingly private, the five spacious bungalows at Hamadryade eco-lodge provide for the perfect blend of such adventure and luxury. The smart accommodations come with Italian linen, large windows that look out onto a majestic tributary of the Amazon River, and luxurious bathrooms. Indeed, the spacious showers feature natural stones for a private, soothing experience. Yet for those guests requiring deeper relaxation, there’s an on-site massage hut.

Each of the bungalows forms a harmonious alliance between tradition and modern design, as their traditional toquilla roofs and interior decorations pay homage to the mysterious cultures of various Amazonian ethnic groups. Meals are prepared on-site by the eco-lodge’s French owner-managers, who are known especially for their three-course candlelight dinners in the middle of the world’s most famous jungle.

Hamadryade Lodge

As the lodge is situated in the High Amazon at a 1,500-foot altitude, the ecosystem here is quite different from the lower regions. All year round, the temperature in this area averages a pleasant 75°F (24°C), while the absence of swamps means the area doesn’t suffer from the presence of annoying mosquitoes.

This undulating topography also offers the chance to enjoy pristine whitewater rivers during day trips, whether by rafting, kayaking or “tubing.” However the wider range of activities includes everything from hikes in the primary and secondary forest, to specialized tours (ornithology or entomology, among others), as well as visits to indigenous Kichwa and Waorani communities, and night walks to discover the nocturnal wildlife of the rainforest jungle.

2. Mashpi Lodge – a big-city hotel… in the jungle

Though situated in the Ecuadorian cloud forest – rather than the Amazonian rainforest – this jewel of a property is internationally recognized as one of Latin America’s most upscale eco-lodges. This is no stripped-down, sweaty jungle refuge. Instead, with amenities on par with a big-city guesthouse, this boutique hotel is designed in glass set within a steel framework to give guests a front-row seat to one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet.

Mashpi Lodge

Two-and-a-half hours from Quito, Mashpi Lodge is a wondrous, modern escape in the heart of an Ecuadorian Andes cloud forest. Perched at 3,116 feet (900 m) above sea level, the lodge’s grounds cover over 2,500 acres of the endangered Choco forest. Within this, an incredible 500 species of birds (36 of which are endemic) call it home. Meanwhile monkeys, peccaries and even puma also inhabit the reserve, as do a profusion of plant species – from ferns and bromeliads to hundreds of orchid species, many newly-discovered ones.

Mashpi Jungle Lodge

Here, you awake with nature within arms reach of your floor-to-ceiling windows. The lodge itself was constructed employing the latest techniques in sustainable building, after being fashioned to sensitively blend into its natural surroundings. Here, you are not going to a rustic, Accommodating a maximum of 44 visitors,  Mashpi Lodge’s 22 luxurious rooms and suites each looking out on the cacophony of trees, vines, and birds just a few feet away. Indeed, each of the guest quarters feature minimalist decor, mixing warm earth tones, notes of bright color, clean lines and striking angles and vistas to form a “luxury cocoon in the cloud forest”.

Dining is a gourmet affair that spotlights regional cuisine prepared with fresh local products and served in the stunning two-story dining room, while the daily cloud forest excursions are led by professional guides who can take you on fascinating treks along nature trails, dips in waterfalls, and introduce you to a completely different world on nocturnal cloud forest walks. The setting provides an ideal place for contemplation and relaxation for those travelers with discerning tastes.

3. Selva Lodge – the best of Yasuni Reserve

The Selva (“jungle”) eco-lodge is one of those destinations where one truly feels more like a true traveler rather than a simple “tourist”. This 30-year-old lodge is located in near eastern Ecuador’s border with Peru in Yasuni National Park, which itself covers more than 3,600 square miles (9,820 km2) of primarily rainforest.

Selva Lodge

This reserve – considered one of the most biologically diverse spots on the planet – was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989 and lies within the claimed ancestral territory of the Huaorani indigenous people and two “uncontacted” tribes. Yet, despite its remote location, the recently renovated La Selva is now the most luxurious eco-lodge in the Yasuni.

Distributed across the lodge’s grounds in a number of structures are 18 deluxe suites built in part from local materials like bamboo and thatching. Nevertheless, lodge’s European owner has imported a host of stylish elements, such as fine linens, good reading lights, L’Occitane toiletries, and hard-wood and marble tile floors. Still, you’re more likely to spend more of your down time out on your balcony or deck, or relaxing in a hot tub with a glass of good wine after the day’s rainforest excursion.

Selva Lodge 2

But the lavish pampering doesn’t stop there. You can get a massage at the on-site spa, or participate in one of the daily Selva Lodge yoga classes. Plus, the cuisine here also gets high marks – as does the lodge’s lounge, restaurant and bar facilities.

On top of all this, La Selva Lodge offers observation tower that provides an eye-level view of rainforest birds and wildlife from above the rainforest canopy. Such biodiversity can also be revealed to you from the ground level during one of the naturalist guided hikes provided at the La Selva eco-lodge. After hours of treetop observations, an excursion to local villages, a swim in the lake, and a night hike with flashlight in hand, you’ll be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the jungle – a special way to end the day.

4. Napo Wildlife Center Eco-lodge – in touch with ancestral traditions

Owned and managed by the local indigenous community itself, travelers are given an authentic introduction to life in the Amazon at the Napo Wildlife Center & Eco-lodge. The complex’s “Interpretation Centre” is one of the main attractions, as it is a place where you can learn about ancestral traditions and the way of life of the Kichwa Añangu community, the plants and wildlife of the region, surviving in the jungle, medicinal plants, and more.

Napo Wildlife Center

Built according to traditional architectural principles – but with all the modern conveniences included – the Napo Wildlife Center Eco-Lodge consists of 16 luxury thatched bungalows, each with a private bathroom, insect screens, mosquito nets, and views of the forest and the center’s own private lake (Lake Añangucocha).

Napo Wildlife Center

The lodge has a large open-air restaurant/dining area, a reading room and a well-stocked bar, in addition to providing laundry service and Internet access (charges payable on site). There are also two observation towers: one next to public rooms and another one in the forest. The one attached to the bar is a 15-meter-high (50-foot) viewing tower. Deep in the forest nearby, there’s also a 36.5 meter (120-foot) stainless steel canopy tower built next to a giant 47-meter high (155-foot) kapok tree with a viewing platform, allowing guests to observe the wildlife above the forest floor.

5. Sacha Lodge – a diamond in the rough

Sacha Lodge can pretty much be summed up in the expression “Roughing it in style.” You won’t get a bath butler, a pillow menu or room service – in fact you may even find a frog hopping into your shower; but, at this 5,000-acre private reserve, you’ll be surrounded by all the amazing biodiversity that the rainforest has to offer – including eight monkey species, exotic birds, bats, frogs, caimans and tapirs.

Sacha Lodge

Getting there means a 25-minute flight from Quito to the provincial capital, followed by a 2½-hour ride downriver in a motorized canoe, and ending with a 20 minute walk through the rainforest. But the scenic trip is more than worth the effort.

Sacha Lodge offers its guests comfortable accommodations and hearty meals in a true jungle setting. Each of its 26 cabins is built on a boardwalk and has a view of the jungle rainforest from its terrace. Activities at Sacha Lodge include birdwatching, hiking, night walks and nocturnal canoe trips for caimans spotting.

Sacha Lodge canopy

A lovely view over the adjacent lake can be taken in from the open-air restaurant and bar area, while Sacha’s “canopy walk” – 275 meters (902 feet) long and 30 meters (98 feet) above the ground – provides a unique and amazing opportunity to view the tropical rainforest from a totally different perspective (because it was been built for stability, it’s even accessible to those people who are nervous of heights). The services of bilingual naturalists and native guides are also available.

Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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South America

Top 6 riverside towns


London isn’t the only city famed for its river, with the Thames flowing past attractions like the Houses of Parliament and the Eye. All around the world there are cities and towns with locals whose lives revolve around the waters – from Varanasi where the sacred Ganges is a pilgrimage site, to architecturally splendid bridges in Prague where people of all ages flock. These waterways allow travellers to explore the area from a fresh perspective; by waking early and wandering the banks, or by taking a boat ride downstream. Here we round-up six of the best riverside cities and towns.

Varanasi, India

On the banks of the sacred Ganges, Varanasi is the ultimate pilgrimage site for many Hindus and best experienced from the river. An early morning boat trip along the riverside ghats offers a glimpse of the city’s spirituality, with pilgrims performing their ablutions, funeral pyres blazing on the steps, incense wafting and music playing. Varanasi is an intriguing mix of life, death and religion, with the Ganges at its very heart.

The ghats in Varanasi, India

Quebec, Canada

Situated on the St Lawrence river, Quebec City is North America’s only walled city outside of Mexico. Walking around the narrow Old Town streets and along the Rue du Petit- Champlain, it is easy to imagine that you have been transported back in time to a rural French department. The food in Quebec is delicious, and often features fresh seafood from the Gulf of St Lawrence. A lobster roll on the Rue du Petit-Champlain is a particular highlight.

Quebec, Canada

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Colonia overlooks the River Plate, which separates Uruguay and Argentina. Called the ‘Silver River’ (Río de la Plata) by early explorers who traded silver with indigenous tribes, the vast river is more like a sea: on a clear day, Buenos Aires appears tiny across the water. It is easy to fall in love with Colonia with its laid-back feel and picturesque cobbled streets featuring old colonial houses (now luxury hotels) overlooking the river.

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Aswan, Egypt

This fascinating city, on the banks of the Nile, feels a world away from the busy capital of Cairo. Aswan offers both modern and ancient Egyptian history, from the High Dam, which led to the creation of Lake Nasser, to the Temple of Philae, one of the country’s most beautiful ancient sites. A not-to-be-missed experience is a felucca ride on the river: sailing around Elephantine Island, followed by a gin and tonic at the Movenpick hotel to watch the sunset.

Feluccas in Aswan, Egypt

Luang Prabang, Laos

At the meeting of the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, Luang Prabang is a melting pot of architecture, culture, quaint streets, bustling markets and sumptuous street food. An early morning walk along the tree-lined river bank is the best way to start the day in the town, soaking up the perfume of frangipani and watching the monks and novices heading to their splendid gold and claret wats as the town wakes up for another languid day.

Luang Prabang, Laos

Prague, Czech Republic

A stroll across the famous Charles Bridge is obligatory on any trip to Prague. The 14th-century bridge connects the picturesque Old Town with the New Town and castle. By day, the bridge is teeming with street artists and musicians vying for passing tourists’ attention (and donations). One of the best ways to experience the city is by getting up early and going for a dawn walk. You’ll avoid the crowds and have the bridge with its stunning views all to yourself.

Charles Bridge, Prauge, Czech Republic

Katie Cosstick is the PR Manager at Cox & Kings.

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South America

Brazil's top 5 celebrations


World famous for its colourful carnivals and fabulous parties, Brazil is already preparing for the celebrations of 2016. Visitors to this diverse and fascinating country can expect flamboyant outfits bedecked with glitter and sequins, extravagant make up and endless parades of beautifully crafted floats. With carnivals taking place all over the country it can be difficult to choose where to go, so here we have created a quick guide to five of the best;

Festival Smile

1. Rio Carnival

The most famous carnival in the world attracts millions of visitors every year from all 4 corners of the globe.

Carnival Costumes

The streets fill with the sound of drums as samba schools all over the city prepare to take part in the Sambadrome Parade – an astounding performance of exotic dance, music and creativity. Beaches are packed with revellers and hundreds of street parties, known as ‘blocos’, take place from dusk until dawn. Glitzy, glamourous and unashamedly outrageous, this event should be on every travellers bucket list.

Carnival Float

When? Celebrations begin 40 days before Easter.

How to get there: fly direct into Rio de Janeiro; a taxi takes around 1 hour to get into the city.

2. Olinda & Recife Carnival

Known as the ‘Carnival of Participation’, this raucous party sees the locals take to the streets in their finest celebration outfits and samba the night away.

Olinda Carnival

Huge papier-mâché puppets seem to ‘dance’ through the crowd to the beat of drums – the imposing ‘Rooster of the Dawn’ symbolises the beginning of the festivities. Over 1 million people will enjoy the revelry over 6 days and 6 nights and the atmosphere is electric.

Recife Masks

When? Festivities begin as early as December, but the main parties and parades are in the final days running up to lent.

How to get there: fly direct to Recife, optional short 20 minute taxi journey to get to Olinda.

3. Parintins Folklore Festival

Situated in the heart of the Amazon, ‘Boi Bumba’ celebrates the unique culture of the people who live in this fascinating environment through ancient stories, myths and legends.


Throughout the celebrations storytellers, impressive floats and bewitching costumes fill the streets, many of which boast replicas of the colourful wildlife and tribes that live in the rainforest. This is the only carnival that doesn’t take place in respect of Easter, and it attracts huge crowds. Due to it’s unique jungle location, this carnival presents a chance to try some fantastic local foods as street vendors are packed along the streets selling their finest dishes.

Carnival Ox

When? Last weekend of June. If you are unable to make the February carnivals, this is the best choice for you as it is the only carnival to take place outside of the regular dates.

How to get there: you can take a short 1 hour flight from Manaus, but many people would rather enjoy a scenic 2 day boat journey along the river to reach this waterside city.

4. Sao Paulo Gay Pride

Widely known as the biggest and most extravagant gay pride parade in the world, the event attracts an astonishing 5 million people to the streets of Sao Paulo.

Carnival Street

Ornate outfits and dazzling make up are on display for all to see, and visitors to this spectacular parade can expect rainbow colours, friendly revellers and a once in a lifetime experience by joining in with this impressive show of unity.

Carnival Makeup

When? Usually in early June

How to get there: fly to Sao Paulo and take a 30 minute taxi ride into the city.

5. Oktoberfest in Blumenau

Well known in Europe, this beer centered celebration began when German immigrants living in Blumenau, Brazil decided to host their own version of this popular festival.


Now the event attracts almost 1 million people who come to feast on traditional German cuisine whilst drinking merrily from large steins of beer. Other highlights include a drinking competition where participants race against the clock to finish a ‘yard of ale’, and the crowning of the most beautiful ‘Oktoberfest Princess’.


When? The festival runs for 3 weeks during October.

How to get there: fly to Navegantes and then take a 30 minute taxi ride into town.


Simon Williams is Director of The Bespoke Travel Group.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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South America

5 Andean markets that will take you back in time


If you want a souvenir of your trip to the Andes, don’t settle for a last-minute purchase at the duty-free shop. Ever since the Spanish imposed their city-planning styles on Andean communities, the central square has served as a gathering place where people can peddle their wares and catch up with their neighbors. Marketplaces in the Andes are places to shop as well as experience Andean culture – much of the art and the produce you will see are completely unique to the region.

Visiting these markets brings you to a place where you can purchase one-of-a-kind gifts for friends and family back home, and simultaneously support local communities. Keeping the demand for these types of crafts will help ensure that Andean craftsmen and women continue to pass down their traditions to new generations.

Otavalo Market, Imbabura, Ecuador

Otavalo Market is one of the most well known cultural attractions in Ecuador’s highlands. Indigenous peoples descend from their remote homes in the mountains to sell their colorful textiles in Otavalo’s main square.

Ecuador Otavalo Market Above

This is primarily a textile market, with different types of crafts – like homemade dolls and jewelry – breaking up the stacks of woven colors. As you stroll through this market you’ll probably start to feel dizzy at the sight of so many bright colors. Peruvians favor neon pink and orange, punctuated by sharp shades of blue.

Ecuador Otavalo Textile Market Man

Otavalo Market is also a good destination for purchasing Panama hats – known more accurately as “paja toquilla” hats. Paja toquilla is the name of the palm tree with stiff fronds that haberdashers weave to make these iconic hats. These types of hats originated in Ecuador, and then made their may way to Panama, where most American visitors first encountered them – hence the misnomer.

This market is at its peak on Saturdays, early in the morning. If you arrive early enough you’ll also get to see local livestock, including pens of squeaking guinea pigs.

Chichicastenango Market, El Quiché, Guatemala

Chichicastenango Market is known more commonly as ChiChi Market. It takes place on Thursdays and Sundays.

Here you’ll see flower sellers proffering giant baskets of brightly colored blooms. Visitors also come to admire the displays of wooden ceremonial masks, which are painted to look like Maya gods and goddesses. Some you can wear, and others are purely decorative. Locals wear them during religious dance performances.

Chichicastenango Flowers

Santo Tomás Catholic Church looms over the market square. Like so many Catholic churches in Central America, this one was built on the ruins of a Maya temple that the Spanish conquistadors destroyed. Catholicism and Maya religion live side by side in this part of the Andes. Locals gather on the steps of this church to perform Maya religious rites – burning incense and candles in prayer to both Catholic saints and Maya deities.

Chichicastenango Saint Tomas Church

San Isidro Market, Lima, Peru

San Isidro Market is named for the surrounding neighborhood, the San Isidro district of Lima. Like most central markets in Peru, this market has a large selection of fresh food. Visiting this market is an exciting introduction to the world of Peruvian produce.

San Isidro Market

If you can cook in your accommodations, go hunt for black ears of corn and purple carrots to sample. Peru also has a rainbow of potato varieties. Ingredients like rocoto peppers are difficult to find in Europe and the U.S., and feature prominently in mouth-watering Peruvian dishes like rocotos rellenos – a type of stuffed pepper that will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about stuffed peppers.

Stop by the pescadería section of the market to check out the catch of the day. Early in the day you will see impressive specimens on display.

San Isidro Fish

Chinchero, Sacred Valley of the Inca, Peru

There is a long tradition of weaving in the Andes. Although traditional methods of weaving and dying wool have become increasingly rare, you can still visit markets where proprietors offer weaving demonstrations and use natural dye that is made from plants. Chinchero is one of the best places in Peru to see one of these demonstrations.

At Chinchero market, weavers set up their looms between trees and make intricate weft patterns out of hand-spun yarn. Chinchero women wear their creations, topped with wide-brimmed hats that keep the sun out of their eyes as they sit at their looms. They harvest the yarn from their sheep and alpacas, and they make the dye by soaking local plants in boiling water.

Peru Chinchero Weavers

There are an incredible variety of dyes made possible by the plants in the surrounding landscape. An insect called a cochineal produces red dye. Motemote seeds create a rosy shade of pink, and a local variety of moss called “beard of the rock” produces a rusty orange. Turquoise, green, yellow, purple – all these colors are made from the flowers and leaves of Chinchero’s flora.

Chinchero Market Woman

Although the market is also open on Tuesday and Thursday, you should visit on a Sunday for your best chance to see a weaving demonstration. You may even get to see the Chinchero weavers making dyes, and hanging the freshly dyed wool up to dry.

Pisac Market, Sacred Valley of the Inca, Peru

Pisac Market is one of the busiest markets you will find in the Sacred Valley of the Inca. You’ll find the small village of Pisac in between the cities of Cusco and Ollantaytambo. It’s at its height on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. This market also has a good selection of woven goods – check out the ponchos and hats – in addition to handmade wooden instruments.

Peru Pisac Market

Once you look closely at these fabrics, you’ll notice that different weavers share a symbolic language. These textiles feature plants and animals of the Andes, and some of these figures have transformed into mesmerizing abstractions over the years. Complicated patterns often symbolize the mountains, the rivers, the springtime flowers, and the sky.

This is one of Peru’s larger markets, and makes for a good place to simply meander through the stalls, surrounded by textiles with patterns inspired by the powerful landscape of the Sacred Valley.

Zach Smith is CEO of Anywhere.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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South America

5 of the best hacienda/hotels in the Ecuadorian Andes


In the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Ecuadorian highlands you can discover the rustic charm of Andean haciendas filled with Spanish colonial history and natural splendor. Yet, a closer look will reveal that these one-time mountain hacienda/hotels have been converted into stylish boutique hideaways.

These chic oases retain their wood and brick rooms, working fireplaces, antique beds and warm blankets; however, all of this has been complemented with all the amenities and creature comforts you might find in any big-city hotel. In any case, brisk evenings give way to brilliant sierra sunrises with delicious breakfasts and singing birds, followed by activities that range from horseback riding and hiking to exhilarating white water rafting.

The following are just five of the best of these luxury haciendas in the Ecuadorian highlands.

1 INTRO - volcano

Hacienda Manteles, Patate, Ecuador

The unique name of this hacienda/hotel (meaning “tablecloths” in Spanish) refers to the surrounding hills and fields, which from a distance form the image of table coverings of differing shades of green.

Built in 1965, the Manteles Hacienda is located in the center of Ecuadorian “Sierra” (highlands), which is strategic because of its proximity to several regional tourist attractions, including the resort-town of Banos, two national parks, a traditional indigenous-run market, and the mysterious Amazonian rainforest.

The interior of this hacienda/hotel has been completely remodeled, with all of its 16 rooms provided with private bathrooms, steaming hot water, Wi-Fi and panoramic views of the region. Surrounded by gardens, the hacienda also allows a direct view of the still active Tungurahua Volcano.

2 Manteles - active volcano in back

Besides the main house, the hacienda has a family home with four bedrooms that share a central hall. There, travelers can relax in the warmth of a fireplace or step outside to enjoy the terrace.

Hearty breakfasts at Hacienda Manteles are another reason to come to this serene and appealing retreat in the Ecuadorian Andes. Every morning, travelers can start the day with pancakes, eggs, fruit juice and homemade bread. The dishes here are prepared with organic ingredients harvested from the hacienda’s gardens and served in its restaurant, which has also maintained its original style.

This luxurious yet authentic hacienda is the perfect place to unwind and get away from city life. However, if you want more activities, you can take part in walks to nearby waterfalls, participate in farm tours or walks to nearby cities like Banos or Riobamba. In addition, you can take cooking classes or go bird watching, horseback riding, camping and even do some ziplining (thanks to a cable system that crosses a gorge on the hacienda).

The Manteles is built in a valley that was once home to the Panzaleo civilization. Therefore, it is not uncommon for visitors taking tours of the area to find archaeological remnants on the grounds. Several of these are on display in the social areas of the hacienda.

In short, Manteles Hacienda is the ideal place to relax, as it provides a comfortable stay and contact with nature in the middle of an Andean cloud forest.

Hacienda Zuleta, Zuleta, Ecuador

Situated at an altitude of 1.8 miles above sea level (2,900 meters), and located only two hours from Quito, the Zuleta Hacienda dates back to the late 17th century.

Its history is linked to a former president of Ecuador, whose descendants still own this traditional hacienda that is accessed through a beautiful eucalyptus bordered roadway.

The hacienda is located on land that has become an organic farm, which is the principal supplier of the dishes served at the on-site restaurant. Completing the setting of this ranch is the famous Zuleta cheese factory and the warm and luxurious interiors of this hacienda/hotel.

If your intention is to learn about rural life at Zuleta, then you can participate in harvesting crops, milking cows, meeting people from the community, learning how cheese is made, or going horseback riding or mountain biking. You can also visit the Huasi Condor Project, which is working to repopulate the Andean condor.

3 Zuleta - woman in bedroom

The rooms of the hacienda are rustic yet comfortable. Each one features a fireplace and Wi-Fi, in addition to parquet floors, sloped ceilings, elegant furnishings and appointments, as well as a private bathroom to guarantee guests’ comfort.

In the dining room, guests will find a cozy and elegant ambiance. La Hacienda Zuleta has been recognized for its personalized service in a tranquil and comfortable environment.

Moreover, there is an additional feature that makes this hacienda a special place. Born on the grounds of this hacienda was the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation, which runs social development initiatives in the interest of the local community. An embroidery project that involves women from the community and an organized effort to maintain the condors are two of these efforts. The foundation also supports schools, community libraries, an archaeological project and a volunteer program in schools.

All this makes the Hacienda Zuleta a special place that combines the comfort of a good stay with a social mission that leaves its mark on the community.

Hacienda La Mirage, Cotacachi, Ecuador

Nestled in a stunning Andean landscape, just an hour from Quito’s new international airport, this 200-year-old hacienda has been transformed into a chic oasis where guests are met with delicious food, elegant surroundings and irresistible hospitality.

One of the most elegant and prestigious hotels in Ecuador, La Mirage is the only member of the Relais & Chateauxen chain in this country.

The La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa is a perfect blend of tradition and classicism. Antique furniture, crystal chandeliers, high ceilings, spacious seating areas, and fresh flowers give each room a warm touch as every detail is seen to.

4 La Mirage - bedroom rafters

Each of the hotel’s 23 rooms and suites, in addition to its four-guest family suite, is arranged differently, though each has a fireplace, separate social area, telephone, internet access, cable TV and a private bathroom.

Then too, the fine cuisine served at The Mirage is one of its unquestionable strengths. Dining under the stained-glass ceiling of its exquisite restaurant, guests can revel in sumptuous gourmet specialties, with dishes like fresh quail and turkey baked golden over open fire.

On the grounds of the hotel is a water lily covered pond, as well as beautiful gardens with unique flowers. Other features include a Jacuzzi, a lounge, a pool and a spa area where 11 types of treatments are provided.

The La Mirage Hotel-Spa is located near the town of Cotacachi, famous for its leather goods and American expats, though guests can also visit the Otavalo market – the largest, most colorful and most important of the country’s traditional, indigenous-run markets.

Hacienda Chillo Jijon, Pichincha, Ecuador

Arguably, guests are privileged when staying in this old farmhouse, converted into an exclusive hotel. It is not an exaggeration, if one thinks that only 20 people can stay at the ago-old hacienda that was built in 1730.

Hacienda Chillo Jijon has always been owned by the same family, which just recently decided to open it up to small groups – always by reservation – and give them warm attention, personalized service and guaranteed comfort.

The farm is located in the Valley of the Chillos, a 30-minute drive from the capital city of Quito. The hacienda/hotel has ten very exclusive and comfortable suites, and welcomes guests in all inclusive. Each of the suites has a comfortable yet luxurious decor with canopy beds, colonial art, antiques and fine furnishings. They also have fireplaces and private bathrooms.

5 Chillo Jijon - outdoor walkway

The tranquillity of the colonial corridors and patios of this hacienda, as well as the grounds 20 acres of woods and fields, give the visitor the feeling that time has stopped. In addition, a charming Italian-style church attracts the attention of guests.

The hacienda, built of wood, tiles and adobe, was constructed on sloping land. The hacienda has an outdoor courtyard that features a stone cross, a detail that characterizes many Andean haciendas. A second courtyard, at the lowest level, has an octagonal basin and carved stone benches. This space is part of the Italian church, an exquisite building, which was built to service both the family and the surrounding rural population.

Hacienda Chillo Jijon also has a dining room, a bar, lounges, gardens and trails.

Luna Runtun, Banos, Ecuador

Perched high above an Andean valley, the rustic and natural feel of the Luna Runtun is complemented by all the bells and whistles of a contemporary boutique resort.

As the story goes, in 1914 the settlement of Banos was divided into nine estates, one of which belonged to a man named Angel Luna, the grandfather of the current owner of the luxurious Luna Runtun hacienda.

The construction of this mountain hotel itself began in 1992, when fifty workers began erecting the 18 structures of the hacienda. Using materials from the immediate environment – such as locally fashioned bricks, handmade tiles, wrought stones, eucalyptus wood and handcrafted mosaics – as the architects aimed for a building that harmonized with the landscape and vegetation of the land. In April 1994, the Luna Runtun resort and adventure spa was ready to open its doors to the public, enveloped in a generous supply of aromatic flowers and fruits.

6 Luna Runtun - panoramic view

Luna Runtun, which translates as “fortress of the moon,” is also synonymous with the impeccable blend of comfort and nature. A 10-minute drive from the resort town of Banos, this deluxe hotel is situated within the Sangay National Park and a close but safe distance from and active Tungurahua Volcano.

At the Luna Runtun, its 30 spacious guestrooms and suites offer panoramic views of either the city of Banos or the Tungurahua Volcano. These accommodations feature fireplaces, terraces, and private bathrooms possessing bathtubs as well as all the amenities of a big-city luxury hotel.

One of the biggest attractions of this hacienda is its spa. Its attractions include 11 treatment rooms that offer more than 20 relaxation techniques, as well as four pools, whirlpools, a cafe overlooking the large nearby volcano, gardens for a chance to further disconnect, and a restaurant that serves gourmet dishes.

In addition, travelers can choose any of the 25 adventure activities offered at the hotel – anything from adventure mountain-biking to ziplining, as well as horseback riding, bird watching, and whitewater rafting.

Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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South America

Top 5 adventurous holidays


For those looking for something a bit different to your typical beach holidays, we have compiled our favourite adventurous holidays, perfect for those wanting to experience something unique. From an exploration of the South eastern nation of Burma, the depths of the vast Antarctica to an epic rail journey across several countries and a trek into the Amazon rainforest, the world is truly your oyster!


Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is located in the Far East and offers highlights such as the beautiful Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon and the stunning freshwater Inle Lake comprising of floating gardens and Buddhist temples. Visit Burma and be welcomed by the friendly, hospitable Burmese people as you explore a place largely untouched by mass tourism.



The Antarctica is the world’s 7th continent and remains a place few will ever venture to. Discover Antarctica onboard an expedition ship as you journey into a land of wildlife including penguins, seabirds, seals and whales. See the impressive frozen wonderland of the Antarctic Circle surrounded by the epic icebergs as you delve into the coldest place on earth.


Amazon rainforest

The Amazon is the most well known rainforest, home to a wealth of wildlife, it is a great opportunity to explore the natural habitat of the world’s largest rainforest. The Amazon rainforest covers many countries in South America, from Brazil, Peru and Columbia, to Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Guyana! Enjoy activities such as staying in an eco-lodge, guided river cruises on the Amazon River and seeing a diverse array of flora and fauna.


Trans-Siberian Railway

The Trans-Siberian Railway offers the most epic rail journey ever! Starting off in Russia, the Trans-Siberian Railway has connections to Mongolia and China. Journey of this exceptional expedition through rural life and see sights you would not normally see otherwise as you travel through several destinations on rail. The Trans-Siberian Express line encompasses of a journey spanning 80 towns and cities, and eight time zones!



Peru is an ideal holiday destination for anyone seeking fascinating culture, colonial architecture and rich history. From the vibrant city of Cusco the former Inca capital, the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, to the lively city of Lima, the White City of Arequipa, the Sacred Valley and of course the impressive ruins of Machu Picchu. Embark on a rewarding Inca walking trail to the ‘Lost City of the Inca’s, Machu Picchu and be in awe of the city that once stood there.

Machu Picchu

Colin Matthews is the Managing Director at Travel Club Elite.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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South America

5 of the best UNESCO World Heritage Site tours


There are literally hundreds of UNESCO World Heritage Sites spread across all five continents with more being designated ever year. Each site offers a unique and fascinating experience to discover more about our history, culture and biodiversity. Every traveller has different interests, Battered Suitcase specialises in personalised itineraries, tailoring tours and holidays to suit the individual; there are no large groups. Local tour guides and smaller boutique, privately run hotels are sourced so that independent travellers benefit from their wealth of knowledge. I have selected five tours which don’t compromise on luxury yet provide the chance to immerse in a passion for culture.

Cultural and natural heritage tours of Argentina

Argentina is a vast and varied country with diverse terrains and different climates from one end to the other. Both the Cultural and Heritage 14-day tours start and end in Buenos Aires and include a visit to Iguazu with its ‘must see’ dramatic waterfalls and San Antonio de Areco, one of the country’s oldest towns, but that’s where the similarities end. The Cultural Heritage Tour has been designed for travellers who wish to discover more about the country’s native and Jesuit legacy taking in a ranch in the Pampas and San Ignacio before moving north to Cordoba. In contrast the Natural Heritage Tour includes a boat trip over to Colonia del Sacremento in Uruguay, a few days on the coast at Puerto Madryn observing the huge variety of marine flora and fauna and a flight down to El Calafate for an exciting river trip on board a catamaran amongst the icebergs.

Argentina cultural and heritage tour - Iguazu waterfall Devils Throat

Australia Kakadu and the Kimberley

This 18-day, self-drive tour is a once in a life time experience taking in Australia’s Kakadu National Park and the Kimberley region. Located in a protected area of the Northern Territory, Kakadu covers an area nearly half the size of Switzerland. Renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites, the entire National Park was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1992. It borders the Kimberley, one of the nine regions of Western Australia. Due to its isolation, the Kimberley’s awe inspiring landscape with its old rock formations, magnificent rivers and vast savannahs, is described as a wilderness. Both areas are home to a remarkable variety of wildlife as well as fresh and salt water crocodiles. Available May to October, the tours take in a variety of experiences including guided wilderness safaris; a crocodile cruise; the City of Ruins, a natural sandstone formation resembling an ancient city, and Gregory’s Tree. This large boab stands on the campsite occupied by explorer Augustus Charles Gregory in the 1850s.

Australia Kakadu and the Kimberley tour - boab tree, Kimberley National Park, Australia

Sicilian culture tour

As the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily has attracted a diverse range of visitors over the centuries resulting in a fascinating mix of cultures and historic gems, many designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. This 10-day tour is taken at a relaxed pace with time to enjoy some of the best food and wine the Italian island has to offer. Highlights include a guided walking tour of the capital Palermo, a visit to the mountain top town of Erice and the Valley of the Temples as well as the third century Roman Villa del Casale, famed for its extraordinary floor mosaics, and the ancient Greek city of Syracuse, which flourished on the Sicilian coast. No trip to Sicily would be complete without spending time in Catania and nearby Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano, which rains ash upon the city’s streets every so often. And finally the famous city of Taormina; dating from the third and fourth centuries BC, it’s home to the ancient Greek amphitheatre – Teatro Greco – one of the most well-preserved ruins on the island built early in the seventh century BC.

Sicilian culture tour - Greek amphitheatre at Taormina

South Korea discovery tour

A fascinating country with a rich history and a wealth of attractions South Korea has vibrant modern cities, ancient sites, Buddhist temples, national parks and delicious food. Packed full with cultural experiences, the 11-day tour begins in the 600 year old capital city of Seoul with its many palaces and temples. It then moves on to a traditional Korean Folk Village and Beopjusa Temple before visiting Gyeongu; capital of the ancient Silla Kingdom. This city is also known as the ‘Museum without Walls’ due to its amazing number of historic sites. Here the Temple of Bulguksa and the Grotto of Seokguram, which contains a monumental statue of a Buddha looking out to sea, were the first places in South Korea to be designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Other highlights include a visit to the well-preserved village of Andong and an overnight stay in either Samhwasa or Woljeongsa Temple before the final visit to the Demilitarised Zone on the east coast for a close view of North Korea.

South Korea tour - traditional fan dance

America’s Deep South

Discover the culture and heritage of America’s Deep South on this 14-day, self-drive heritage journey through Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee. Starting in the city of Lafayette, it includes an airboat tour of one of America’s greatest swamps before moving onto New Orleans. Famous for its jazz, French influence and Creole cuisine, the city was also home to some of the wealthiest families who employed slaves on their huge plantations. Follow the history of one of the world’s most renowned Civil Rights leaders, Martin Luther King, and those who joined him in the Civil Rights Movement; visit the American Civil War battlefield of Chickamauga and explore the Great Smoky Mountain national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Options on this tour also include a private tasting at the Jack Daniels Distillery and a visit to the Tabasco factory, while music enthusiasts will relish time spent in the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame, which tells the story of country music from its 19th century roots. There’s also a tour of the Historic RCA Studio B, once the recording home of Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, Eddy Arnold and the Everly Brothers.

Americas Deep South tour - Andrew Jackson statue, Jackson Square, New Orleans

This post is sponsored by Battered Suitcase.

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South America

6 secret beaches from around the world


If you ever wanted to spend time on stunning beaches away from the usual tourist hotspots, and experience a Robinson Crusoe beach setting, then take a look at some of the world’s beaches which currently remain under the radar. Here’s our list of six little-known beaches from around the world.

Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam

A close distance to the popular Thailand destinations of Phuket and Koh Samui, lies Phu Quoc Island. Located in Vietnam, it offers a secluded paradise with plenty of pristine beaches and stunning surroundings. It is the biggest island in the Gulf of Thailand and there are many opportunities to explore the underwater marine life.

Phuc Quoc Island

Hidden Beach, Puerto Vallarta

Once a site for testing bombs during the early 1990s, Hidden Beach is a unique and isolated beach accessible through a water tunnel. Situated on the Marieta Islands, off the coast of Mexico, visitors can enjoy the idyllic surroundings of this distinctive beach and experience the surreal feel of being inside a ‘hidden beach’.

hidden beach

Agonda Beach, Goa

Set in the south of Goa lies the tranquil Agonda Beach. It is the ideal beach location for anyone searching for a beach paradise. Imagine the pure white sands and calm warm waters surrounding you as you lie back and soak in the laidback atmosphere. Agonda Beach has fascinating wildlife, from turtles to dolphins swimming freely in the sea.

agonda beach

Shipwreck Beach, Greece

Shipwreck Beach is a beach only accessible by boat and is based on the coast of Zakynthos. The star attraction at Shipwreck Beach is the ruins of the Panagiotis, which has remained since it shipwrecked there in 1983. Encircled by clifftops, Shipwreck Beach is a hidden gem and visitors will be rewarded with a private beach experience enclosed with glimmering water and unspoiled suroundings.

Shipwreck beach

Alter do Chão, Brazil

Away from the lively and bustling capital of Rio de Janeiro which has popular beaches such as Ipanema and Copacabana, is the stunning beach Alter do Chão in Brazil. Step onto the Island of Love and settle in the white soft sandy beach or enjoy an Amazon River cruise for splendid sights.

Alter do Chao

Isla Bastimentos, Panama

Isla Bastimentos is a lesser known island in the Caribbean, overshadowed by the likes of the Bahamas, St Lucia and Barbados. Isla Bastimentos is one of the 9 islands of Bocas del Toro, an archipelago in the Caribbean. Visitors will be spoilt for choice at Isla Bastimentos with a choice of 5 stunning beaches; Wizard Beach, Red Frog Beach, North Beach, Playa Larga and Turtle Beach. Wizard Beach is ideal for surfing with an array of surf spots and assorted of flora and fauna.

Isla Bastimentos

Colin Matthews is the Managing Director at Travel Club Elite.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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South America

6 of the best hotels in Quito, Ecuador


For the third year in a row, Quito has won the “Oscar” of the tourism awards. Competing in the World Travel Awards with other attractive destinations such as Rio de Janeiro, Lima, Bogota, Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires, the Ecuadorian capital was declared the “Destination Leader of South America” for 2015. Having also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1978, this Andean city has excellent tourism infrastructure, which contributed to its winning the more recent award.

Though situated at almost 2-miles above sea level, Quito possesses accommodations for all tastes and pocketbooks. In recent years, new hotels have been built, but what is especially noteworthy is the abundance of heritage hotels, which offer guests all the creature comforts and services of the world’s finest hotels. Here we present a collection six upscale hotels in the Ecuadorian capital: from colonial-style mansions transformed into boutique hotels, to updated haciendas in the middle of expansive wildlife reserves, and spa hotels. Experience these charming guest accommodations that combine elegance and comfort with the warmth of personalized service and the friendly touches of the people of Quito.

1. Casa Gangotena

The Casa Gangotena Boutique Hotel is full of history and traditions. This imposing structure – a former mansion of a prestigious local family – is part of the landscape of the city’s historic district. Located on San Francisco Plaza, next to the church and convent of the same name, the building was built on the ruins of an ancient tianguez (an indigenous market). It’s even said that the site might have later been that of an Inca temple, in the 15th century.

1 Casa-Gangotena Quito

In the centuries that followed, many wealthy families of the city built their mansions around San Francisco Plaza. One of those was the Gangotena family, whose members included politicians, academics, industrialists, poets and landowners. In 1914, their stately mansion was seriously damaged by a fire, but the building regained its splendor by 1924 with the help of Italian architect Antonio Russo, whose family ordered its meticulous reconstruction.

Nonetheless, the immense mansion later closed its doors for several decades, which is why the recent reopening of the building became a source of pride and delight for many people of Quito. The regal and historic home was converted into a stunning hotel with eclectic décor and an intimate atmosphere. Its 31 rooms reflect both classic and contemporary architectural, which are combined with all the amenities to ensure maximum comfort. An inner courtyard with lush native flowers, an elegant salon, and a terrace with a wonderful view of San Francisco Plaza are elements that entice all its guests.

Casa Gangotena

3 Casa-Gangotena Quito

For its gourmet cuisine, the hotel received “The Golden Rose” award in both 2014 and 2015. Its “Cedron” restaurant provides guests dining experiences of varying textures, colors and flavors. In Casa Gangotena’s kitchen, traditional knowledge and modern techniques are used, as the dining staff is committed to maintaining Ecuadorian culinary heritage at gourmet standards. Their fusion cuisine incorporates flavors that come from the Andes and Ecuador’s Pacific Rim. All of this is accompanied by more than 100 brands of wines, while guests are assisted with special recommendations from the chief chef and expert sommeliers

This new page in the history of Casa Gangotena has been exceedingly successful. Since its inauguration in 2011, the hotel has won several major awards and honors, including recognition as the “Best Hotel in Ecuador,” the “Best Hotel in South America” (Trip Advisor) and one of the “25 Best Hotels in the World.”

This virtual tour will give you a closer look, but only by staying at Casa Gangotena can you enjoy this environment that combines history, sophistication and warmth in the heart of one of the most beautiful and best preserved historic centers in Latin America.

2. Hacienda Rumiloma

Imagine this: You can relish every comfort while staying at a plush hotel on the slopes of a volcano in the middle of an ecological reserve in an Andean forest. That’s the experience provided at Hacienda Rumiloma.

With the charm of an Andean hacienda, and all services and details of a first-class hotel, Rumiloma has a perfect location: only ten minutes from Quito’s historic district, while perched on the inclines of Pichincha Volcano, thus allowing guests a spectacular view of the city.

4 Rumiloma Quito

5 Rumiloma Quito

Hacienda Rumiloma possesses six suites, each appointed with a unique combination of antiques and art from the country’s various regions. With all the amenities of a five-star hotel, these guest accommodations are comfortable and spacious – each measuring at least 1,900 feet. They are designed like small houses, crafted of adobe and stones from the area. Each has a fireplace, social areas, its own private bathroom, a terrace and an interior garden.

The Hacienda’s restaurant deserves its own chapter. With colorful, highly detailed decor, a spectacular view of the city, a private area for up to 16 people, and an authentic Irish pub, this is an elegant and charming estate. Guests can order masterfully prepared national and international cuisine, cocktails, music and wine from Argentina, Chile, Spain and Italy. The hotel also has a conference room, a VIP room and large green areas.

Rumiloma also offers such interesting experiences as its Chocolate Tasting Tour (with a visit to the local farmers market included); a Culinary Tour (accompanied by a cooking class and wine tasting); and a visit to the Chaupi Winery to learn the process of producing one of the most important Ecuadorian wines.

An experience that combines nature, serenity, delicious food, spectacular views, elegant rooms and a chance to learn about the local culture are some of what Quito’s Hacienda Rumiloma has to offer the discerning guest.

3. JW Marriott Hotel 

It’s impossible not to gawk. The imposing building is located in the center of Quito’s modern north-side, where it occupies a large area that’s close to shopping centers, an expansive park, offices and residential areas. Nonetheless, it’s less than 15 short minutes from the city’s historic district.

The JW Marriott Hotel, which has received awards from Trip Advisor and Frommers, is the definition of a first-class stay. With all the amenities of a five-star hotel, the property includes several theme restaurants and an elegant full-service spa.

6 Marriott Quito

7 Marriott Quito

The JW Marriott has 257 rooms, each featuring a marble bathroom, cable TV, a mini bar, coffee, soundproof windows, individual climate control, two telephone lines, Internet, AM/FM radio, a safe, and access to the Executive Lounge.

In the Health Club, you can take advantage of a variety of services, including manicures, pedicures, and facials employing various techniques and products. In the gym, you can request a personally instructed aerobics workout, or relax in either the indoor Jacuzzi or the beautiful heated outdoor hot tub that is back-dropped by waterfalls and footbridges.

The cuisine deserves a separate point. Served in the five restaurants at JW Marriott are a variety of Ecuadorian dishes, as well as Argentine, Mexican, Peruvian, Japanese and international fusion cuisine, which can be accompanied by fine wines and cocktails. The Café Gourmet is dedicated to the lovers of coffee, while breakfasts served at Bistro Latino are a healthy and delicious buffet.

The hotel also has another highly demanded service: organizing professional and social events. In fact, some 1,200 square meters (13,000 square feet) of the hotel (32 rooms) are used for all kinds of events – from conventions to lavish weddings. For these activities, guests will find themselves surprised by the menus that can be designed with the help of the hotel’s expert chefs (for example).

In summary: elegance, comfort, relaxation, a good location, fast and stable connectivity, and delicious food – all in one place.

4. Swissôtel Quito

One of the most luxurious hotels in the city, Swissôtel Quito combines the elements of a five-star stay with elegant spa services (its name – the “Amrita Spa” – honors the immortality-giving drink of the gods, according to legend).

Swissôtel is located in the Floresta district, one Quito’s cultural areas where art coexists with good food. It’s less than 20 minutes from city’s historic district and 5 minutes from the Fosch district, Quito’s zona rosa(“pink zone,” or entertainment area).

8 Swissotel Quito

9 Swissotel Quito

Swissôtel has 232 rooms, 43 executive apartments, the full services of a first-class hotel, and beautiful views of the city – all in a warm environment that guarantees cheery, personal attention. Guests of the executive rooms and suites have access to the services of the Executive Lounge, an ideal place to read, relax, work, eat a snack, have a drink, or simply enjoy the panoramic view of the city.

But, undoubtedly, the Amrita Spa is the star of the hotel. This facility is also the reason why many executives, in addition to usual guests, have become hooked on this health center. A gym equipped with modern machines and qualified instructors; squash, tennis and racquetball facilities; a bubble bath, polar bath, swimming pool, sauna and 80 (!) relaxation treatments are part of the spa’s services.

In the hotel are five restaurants, a deli, a coffee shop and a bar. From a casual meal with friends, to celebrating a milestone event, everything can be found and enjoyed at this first-class hotel.

5. Hotel Plaza Grande

The Hotel Plaza Grande can count five centuries of history. The building that houses it was the first to be built during the Spanish founding of the city, in the 16th century. As in most of the imposing houses of Quito’s historic district, in this building once lived some of the city’s richest families of colonial times.

10 Plaza-Grande Quito

11 Plaza Grande Quito

This property, in particular, was the home of Juan Díaz de Hidalgo, one of the founders of the city and later the first judge of Quito. In the early 20th century, the mansion became the first luxury hotel in the city.

Located on “Independence Square” (or Plaza Grande), the walls, corridors, and rooms of this building’s eclectic architecture breathe history. Staying here is an experience that allows travelers to palpably sense the very spirit of this ancient city.

Then too, Hotel Plaza Grande has some important “neighbors.” In front of it are the Government Palace and the Cathedral; while on its left is the Municipio (“City Hall”) of Quito. The surrounding landscape – which can be appreciated from the suites – is framed by the domes of churches and the sculpture of the colossal “Virgin of Quito” statue, which stands above the city on Panecillo Hill. This five-star hotel is really in the heart of Quito’s historic center – the largest in South America and one of the best preserved in the world.

In Plaza Grande Hotel are 15 suites, each decorated in colonial style. All have private bathrooms, a Jacuzzi, linen bedding (for allergy sufferers), a safe, air conditioning and the other amenities of a first-class hotel. But perhaps the most attractive detail of the suites is the view of the city’s main square. At night, the magic of the illuminated “Old Town” gives the hotel a special charm.

And how about live opera while you eat and appreciate the architectural beauty of the historic district? That’s the wonder of the hotel’s restaurant – La Belle Epoque. With classic decor, the atmosphere of the 1940s has been re-created with an elegant atmosphere and warm service. The hotel also features the Café Plaza Grande and the Cava del Claustro, where guests can enjoy a variety of fine wines and cocktails.

The Salón San Francisco is the outdoor terrace that the Hotel Plaza Grande uses for special events. From there, you can see the bright domes of the churches of the area, colonial buildings and the legendary Independence Plaza, which has witnessed many political and social events that marked the life of the city and nation.

In addition, guests can undergo health treatments and therapies in the spa and take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic district of Quito. Take a peek here.

6. Hotel Patio Andaluz

This hotel is a historic and architectural jewel located in the heart of Quito’s historic district, also known as the Ciudad Vieja (the “Old City”). Occupying a building with several centuries of history, its walls and facade witnessed the Spanish founding of the city.

El Patio Andaluz is the first boutique hotel the Old City of Quito, and one of the most luxurious and comfortable in town. It is located just 150 meters from Independence Square, and minutes from historical sites such as the San Francisco Plaza, the Church de la Compañía (a jewel of Baroque art), and Sucre Theater (one of the largest and most important in the city).

12 Patio Anduluz Quito

The Hotel Patio Andaluz is a 16th century colonial-style mansion. Its architecture, with large arches and courtyards, provides comfortable rooms with classic and ornate colonial-style furniture, polished wood floors, private bathrooms and cable television service. There is free Wi-Fi in the public areas, laundry service and a 24-hour reception desk.

Its restaurant, the Rincón de Cantuña, is situated in the courtyard and is another of the high points of the hotel. Spanish cuisine, local specialties and a variety of wines from its own cellar are served in the smart and classic atmosphere there. The hotel also has a Latin tapas (“snack bar”) serving delicious treats.

The Patio Andaluz has 32 rooms, 11 of which are suites and 21 standard rooms. There is a reading room, space for relaxation and a crafts shop – all in a comfortable and stylish atmosphere.

Another “plus” of Hotel Patio Andaluz is its promotion of the Rainforest Alliance’s best practices program of sustainable tourism. The managers and employees are committed to generating the least possible environmental impact in the operation of this boutique hotel. Through commitments like water conservation, rational energy use, waste reduction, recycling, and others, Patio Andaluz contributes to protecting the environment.

Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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South America

5 unique, lesser-known destinations


The worst part of being a tourist visiting the worlds most popular attractions is all the other tourists. Long lines, crowded spaces, having to stand on a friend or relative to prevent people from obscuring your photographs. The solution then, is to go somewhere quiet and less travelled, but of course you still want to see something unique and amazing. To help you our, weary traveller, we bring you our top 5 unique lesser known destinations!

Quinta de Regaleira, Portugal

What a destination to start this list on! Just a peek at the photo below should already get your travel bug fluttering! There are some incredible things to see when you visit this estate located near the historic town of Sintra, Portugal. Among attractions are The Regaleira Palace, The Regaleira Chapel, a Roman Catholic Chapel and a park that spans 4 hectares and contains an extensive network of tunnels. But of course, you are still intrigued by the photo, aren’t you? They are known as the Initiation Wells, which were used not for water gathering, but for Tarot initiation rites. The tunnel system connects the two wells and other monuments to each other, and the the larger of the two wells contains a 27-meter spiral staircase with several small landings.


Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Bali

Located in Bali, which as you already know, is a major tourist destination, this lesser known Shiva and water temple sits on the shores of Lake Bratan in the mountains near Bedugul. Due to the importance of Lake Bratan as a main source of irrigation in central Bali, this temple was built in 1663 and is used for offerings to the Balinese water, lake and river goddess, Dewi Danu. While out of the way of the major tourism areas, this temple is also features on the Indonesian 50,000-rupiah banknote.


Huacachina, Peru

From a water temple near a lake to and oasis in the Peru desert. This town in the Ica region has a population of 115, and just like the temple, is featured on the back of a bank note. Tourists usually visit this town for sandboarding (like snowboarding, but on sand) and to go for rides through the endless dunes on a dune buggy. Legends say that the lagoon got its start from hunter finding a beautiful princess bathing in a pool of water. When she fled, the pool of water became the lagoon, and the folds of her mantle as she ran away, became the surrounding dunes. She is rumoured to still live in the lagoon… as a mermaid.


Marieta Islands, Mexico

This is one for the marine lover. The Marieta Islands in Mexico requires a permit to visit, and the area surrounding the island is teeming with marine life, as it is protected from fishing and hunting by the Mexican government. Marieta Islands are several small uninhabited islands formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago a few miles off the coast of Nayarit, Mexico. The protection of the eco system makes for amazing scuba diving and snorkelling, and is easily reached by an hour long boat ride from the coast of Puerto Vallarta. Visitors often report seeing Octopus, Manta Rays, Sea Turtles, Dolphins and Humpback Whales, and of course, many species of tropical fish.


Hang Son Doong, Vietnam

son Doong Cave is located in the Quang Binh Province in Vietnam and it has the largest known cave passage cross-section in the world. Inside the cave is a large, fast-flowing subterranean river. The cave was discovered by a local man named Hồ-Khanh in 1991, and in August 2013 the first tourist group explored the cave on a guided tour cat the price of US$3,000 each. Like the islands in Mexico, you need a permit in order to visit the cave, and only 500 permits were issued for the 2015 season, which runs from February till August. After August, seasonal rain makes the cave largely unaccessible. The cave also boasts some of the tallest stalagmites in the world, some reaching up to 70m tall.


Campbell Bevan is Founder and Managing Director at Amazing Accom.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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