Each continent offers bespoke luxury products. In South America, many are free, including great wilderness, extraordinary natural attractions such as glaciers, deserts, and rainforests, and star-filled night skies.
But Argentines, Brazilians, Peruvians and other citizens of every great country add style and extra services, pleasures and perks, depending on where you travel. Estancias, haciendas, and fincas are variations on the theme of rural estates and tend to offer the comforts of yesteryear with a laid back New World accent.
Luxury in cities is distinctive. In a carnival city like Rio, there are more leisure properties than business establishments, and since the Copacabana Palace opened its grandiose doors in 1923, hotels have offered the international jet set gracious accommodation and a touch of glamor. Lima, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Santiago de Chile all have their five star granddames as well as upscale boutique hotels. Almost every major city has thriving foodie scenes that build on the popularity of ceviche, Nikkei cuisine, and Southern Cone wines across the world.
The pound and dollar don’t necessarily go further in South America than in the North these days, but the degree of effort that local guides, drivers, hoteliers and experts put into informing and inspiring is almost always bigger. Whether you are looking for a private guide, a dream road trip on one of the continent’s deserted highways, glamping in the true wilderness or adventure and a good life in a secluded redoubt – without once lifting a bag backpack – you will not be disappointed.
For many Europeans, South America has usually appeared on their radar as a backpacker destination. Like those who traveled there during the heady days of Che Guevara, the Hippie Trail and the brick-sized South American Handbook, the continent has grown somewhat, becoming a destination worth exploring in the 40s and 12s. beyond. It can now compete with Asia and Africa for wild luxury and its cities can compete with Paris or New York in arts and music, food and retail. Yet, for all that, there is always a sense of adventure and discovery to be had too – and that is priceless.
1. Pamper yourself in the Pampas and Patagonia
The saying “Rich as an Argentinian” was once enviously whispered in Parisian salons. Argentines are gifted with luxury, displaying it in their large hotels and estancias with the same aplomb. Start your vacation in style at Alvear Palace, Buenos Aires’ most opulent hotel, which opened in 1932 – when this city was among the richest and most advanced on the planet. It’s a short drive from Estancia la Bamba de Areco, a colonial-style Relais & Chateaux ranch. Go biking or watch the gauchos doing it, before an unforgettable outdoor barbecue asado. Swap the meadows for Patagonia, staying at the cool and contemporary Eolo Hotel, with trips to glaciers and lakes. Grill your odyssey at Cavas Wine Lodge in the sunny vineyards of Mendoza, where 14 adobe-walled apartments open onto patios facing the Andes.
How to do: Journey Latin America (020 3733 8024; Journeylatinamerica.co.uk) offers a 13-day private trip to these four upscale properties from Â£ 8,960 per person, including flights, transfers, most meals and excursions