Because I write about tours and hotels a lot, friends or relatives will occasionally send a brochure or link and ask what I think of a tour they’re about to book. A lot of times the itinerary sounds fine, but the nights’ lodging spots seem like an afterthought. Instead of interesting hotels with a sense of place, they’re getting a bed in a boring hotel with no character.
Often this is what separates the great tour companies from the merely adequate: they’ve been on the ground and personally picked out great places for their clients to stay. Vaya Adventures is one of those companies in Latin America and they devote a good bit of their website to covering the specific hotels you may stay in when you book with them.
“Our focus is on finding not necessarily the most luxurious places but the most interesting, charming, culturally and historically significant places to stay,” says Jim Lutz, the founder and president. “We think a lot of discerning travelers aren’t going to South America to just get the five star treatment at the Ritz-Carlton or other five star international chain hotels. “Instead they want luxury defined in more comprehensive, local, and experiential ways, with buildings like historic mansions converted into first class boutique hotels.”
As examples, Jim points to the B Hotel in Lima or Casa Gangotena in Quito. “Even places that aren’t luxurious in a traditional sense but which offer experiences in local life, such as the Casa San Marcos in Quito, also housed in a restored mansion. Other types of places that aren’t traditionally luxurious (though comfortable and well appointed) are some of the estancias in Argentina such as Nibepo Aike, Hosteria Altavista, and Helsingfors. We’ve had many high end travelers end up thinking that their stays at these places were the highlight of their trips despite the lack of many ‘luxury’ amenities. The places and locations are exceptional, the history is real and all around you.”
“We prefer to define ourselves and our type of experiential luxury by finding these types of places rather than by just recommending the most expensive 5-star luxury property in every location, many of which don’t have the same history or local charm.”
We agree and think Latin America is a great region for interesting hotels, where you can often have your cake and eat it too: a strong sense of place, but also high-end comfort, great service, and memorable local food. In every country we cover there are great examples, like Hacienda Sepulveda in Mexico, Hotel Dario in Central America, all the way down to the new Awasi Patagonia.
Vaya Advantures must be doing something right because they are celebrating their 10-year anniversary. They’ve put up a photo gallery with some of their favorite shots from the past 10 year: see it here. The picture at the very top of this post is from there, but here’s another right above that’s some great eye candy. In Torres del Paine Park in Patagonia.