Top Luxury Hotels in South America

Welcome to man versus nature in perhaps the biggest contest for glory on earth. In man’s corner, you have Machu Picchu, salsa music (and tango, samba, forró – the list goes on), plus millennia’s worth of indigenous culture and colonial influence. In mother nature’s corner, you have the Galápagos, Patagonia, the Amazon, and the Andes. Whatever the outcome, for the traveler there’s nothing to lose, and absolutely everything to gain (including a guaranteed lifelong addiction to all things Latino).

Brazil may own the lion’s share of the land mass (and most of its global sporting headlines), but once you start looking around this astonishing continent, you’d be hard pressed to identify just one or two places to visit. The range of wonders – natural and manmade – is as diverse as it is enticing. Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital of tango, mysterious pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial ruins in Peru, the gargantuan scale of the wilderness in Chile, each attraction is just as beguiling as the next.

South America may not be the most accessible destination in the world in terms of transportation, but once you get there, the palpable South American rhythm of life will take your passion for travel and set it a-blazing.

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Top Picks

Anguilla

At first glance, choosing between the Caribbean islands seems an impossible task – caster sugar beach or icing sugar beach? Shimmering turquoise seas or sparkling aquamarine waters? Once you recover from the spell-binding sea breeze and intoxicating fun of the beach bars, you’ll notice the slight nuances of each island, all ever so slight but enough that one will emerge the winner. And if you happily rest in the shadows of flashier nearby islands – the British Caribbean island of Anguilla, with its 33 beaches, might just win.

“If this island is so amazing, where are all the people?” you ask. But then again, you are not “all the people”, nor do you want to be. You want an island where jet-skis are banned, where the only blinding thing is the white of the sand, not the flash of the bling. This is where coconut breakfasts meld into crayfish lunches with just a few turns of the holiday page.

Beaches aside, the food here is excellent. Just as well, because you'll soon work up an appetite with that Caribbean pool-ocean shuffle, if not out on the waters kayaking or paddle boarding.

Argentina

Just like the dance, the football and the beef it’s so famous for, an Argentine experience is sultry, spectacular and succulent. Nestled into the southern tip of the Americas – save for a slither of Chile hugging the western coastline – this is the place to go if you’re looking for colossal natural adventures mixed with cultural highs and city whirls.

To the south there’s Patagonia (which in itself warrants an entire holiday spent sighing at its wild beauty). Then there’s the majestic Andes to the west, and the breathtaking spectacle of Iguazú Falls tucked in the country’s northeast corner – an understatement perhaps, because the region includes mountains, glaciers, lakes, rainforests, and waterfalls, all with a string of superlatives to their fame.

​In the capital city, there is a pedestrianized big-name shopping strip, as well as open-air markets full of crafts and music. By day visitors can explore the charming cobblestoned district, and drift through the gentrified port area. After dark, the theaters are divine and the nightlife gets feisty, proving that as with all of the world’s best cities, Buenos Aires is a two-faced beauty.

Brazil

As a general rule of life, if you follow the music you won’t be disappointed. And once the samba beats that bring you here, you’ll find a Pandora’s box of other traveler’s treasures – long white beaches, towering waterfalls, and steaming tropical rainforests. With a country as big as the United States (sans Alaska), you’d be forgiven in thinking you are visiting a continent. Excitement? You bet your last caiprinha.

Copacabana. Ipanema. Christ the Redeemer. Sugarloaf Mountain. Carnaval. You may not have been to Rio de Janeiro, but inklings of the Brazilian capital probably already exist in your mind in shimmer-and-feather flurries. The cariocas have the beach lifestyle down to an art form, so head to any of the 23 sandy playgrounds and do like the locals do. You’re in the Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvelous City), so living life to the full is the only way to go.

​From pretty cobblestone-lined colonial towns such as Paraty and Salvador to heaving Sao Paulo and other metropolises, the land is filled with a palpable love of live as told through its living culture and arts. And if you’re after wilder adventures, answer the call and embark on an expedition to the biodiverse Pantanal Wetlands, the mighty Amazon River, or the thundering Iguaçu Falls.

Chile

Chile maybe tall and slender, but her attractions are multi-dimensional – we’re talking tricontinental. The core of the country is cozily tucked between the Andes and the Pacific, while its chilly territory (pun intended) sits in Antarctica, and a smattering of offshore volcanic islands, some Polynesian, are geographically considered part of Oceania.

A sizeable chunk of the Chilean population makes Santiago their home, and like its neighbors, the Chilean capital is home to grand architecture and vibrant districts, each with its own take on latin city life. Modern skyscrapers ambitiously reach towards the clouds in a never-to-be-won race against the snow-capped Andean mountain range that shimmers in the background. Closer to the ground, sidewalk restaurants, craft markets and leafy urban parks combine to form the pulse of the city.

​Come winter, swathes of the country transform into magnificent ski terrain. Offshore, the Chilean outcrop of Easter Island casts her spell on seafarers with its enigmatic stone figures year-round. From the driest desert in the world to the icy fjords of Patagonia, from sea lion colonies to Spanish colonial architecture, all are welcome to explore the birthplace of Pablo Neruda, and to taste the famous wine he once described as “the earthly splendor of life”.

Cuba

All that glitters is not gold. At least not in Cuba, where travel gold is dilapidated and timeworn in a time capsule of a destination where antique cars and crumbling colonial architecture are still the norm, decades on. They still have their cigars, their rum, and the omnipresent music, so you can be certain there’s a good time waiting to be discovered.

As with all roads less traveled, it’s best to arrive in Cuba without a preconceived notion. Havana is not one for the grasping. It’s far from glitzy, but the arts scene is rich. In the absence of global brands, the local café scene shines. Colonial squares look like they’ve had some TLC, but elsewhere, the history of the nation is told through its crumbling buildings. The economic disparity is jarring if you look too close, but how can you take your eyes away?

If you manage to make it out of Havana, the coast offers a naturally refreshing contrast from urban challenge, where white sandy shores and clear turquoise waters are as gorgeously Caribbean cliché as they come.

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