Launching Autumn 2021
One of the great developments in sustainable travel has been the growth of eco-focussed luxury lodges. Here are our favourite examples across South America where sublime comfort blends into pristine nature, and active days turn into relaxing evenings accompanied by delicious cuisine, fine wine, and mesmerising views.
Recognised by National Geographic as one of their “Unique Lodges of The World”, and featured in the BBCs Amazing Hotels series, the cloud forest hideaway of Mashpi is one of the most striking and impressive hotels in Latin America. Built using the latest sustainable techniques, the steel and glass frame blends beautifully into the lush green surroundings, reflecting the trees from the outside, and inviting them inside through the light-flooded floor to ceiling windows. Beyond the ground-breaking design, the lodge is renowned for it’s outstanding level of service, guided excursions, and delicious inventive cuisine, all included in the cost of your stay.
The property was famously built using the latest sustainable techniques, and today doubles-up as both a hotel and research station, protecting and analysing 2,500 hectares of pristine cloud forest. The project shares its findings with local communities, hotel guests, and scientific institutions around the world.
Life at Mashpi is all about immersing yourself into the flora and fauna of the cloud forest. Alongside the classic dawn birdwatching and night forest walks, you can climb the eight-storey observation tower, glide through the canopy on the iconic Dragonfly Gondola and Sky Bike, visit one of the local waterfalls or lagoons, or just sit back and enjoy the wildlife
Beautifully situated overlooking Lake Toro on the borders of Torres del Paine national park, Patagonia Camp is a unique collection of 20 luxurious Mongolian-style yurts from which to explore the great outdoors. Each spacious yurt features all the modern comforts of a hotel (including central heating), styled with local textiles and handmade furniture, and a dome in the roof for sleeping “under the stars” from the warmth of your bed. Delicious local cuisine and Chilean wines can be enjoyed with panoramic views to the Macizo de Paine from the impressive restaurant and bar, where guests gather to relax after each day of exhilarating adventure.
The camp was built using the most eco-friendly materials and techniques, and designed yurts for maximum heat and light efficiency. They operate a 100% organic water filtration process, a worm-farmed composting initiative that turns waste into fertiliser for their gardens, a range of low-emission policies, and provide reusable expedition water bottles to all guests.
From gentle walks to adventurous full day hikes (including the famous Trek to The Towers), comfortable vehicle tours to kayaking on turquoise lakes, there are activities for every mood and style on the included daily excursion menu. Optional extras include horse-riding and boat cruises.
A model of modern lodge design, Tierra’s desert hideaway is the perfect base for a luxurious exploration of the Atacama’s jaw-dropping landscapes. Rooms have private terraces and views of the Licancabur Volcano or Salt Mountain range, with cosy interiors furnished with authentic crafts from local villages. Open fire pits and far-reaching views make the outdoor lounges the place to gather and relax with Chilean wine after your daily adventures, before enjoying healthy gourmet meals made with the finest regional produce. Should you need a break from it all, there is an excellent onsite spa to soothe your weary body.
From preserving original adobe walls to becoming the first 100% solar powered hotel in South America, Tierra Atacama is an award-winning pioneer in eco-design and sustainable practices. In the middle of the worlds driest desert, a NASA-designed water system provides clean water for the lodge, which is reused to irrigate six hectares of previously abandoned arable land.
Explore the mind-blowing landscapes by hiking, biking or horse riding through lunar canyons and desert valleys. Take trips out to the Tatio Geysers, Atacama Salt Flats, or Altiplano Lagoons. Go stargazing with the region’s largest public telescope. You can even climb a volcano, once you’ve spent five nights acclimatising (we think it’s worth it!)
Owned and run by the indigenous Añangu Kichwa Community, Napo Wildlife Centre is the only lodge within Yasuni National Park, the largest slice of protected tropical rainforest in Ecuador. Situated beautifully on the shores of Lake Anangucocha, your arrival to the lodge is via a mesmerising canoe ride surrounded by the sights and sounds of the Amazon Rainforest. Upon arrival check-in to your luxury private thatched-roof bungalow, soak in the view from your balcony, and spend the next few days immersing yourself in the flora and fauna of a pristine jungle wonderland.
Whilst Napo’s green credentials are evident throughout your stay, from solar panels to eco-sewage treatment, it is the monetary benefits to the Añangu that have the biggest impact. With all profits going to the community, they are able to work towards the long-term conservation of the area, prevent deforestation, and preserve their sacred lands and its precious wildlife.
Packages are for either 3 or 4 nights, providing ample opportunity to meet some of the 173 types of mammals and 600+ bird species in the area. Your local nature guides will keep an eye out for caiman, anacondas, giant river otters, and even jaguars and pumas if you are very lucky, as you explore the jungle by boat, on foot, and from the two canopy towers.
Overlooking the immense River Parana, Puerto Valle is a refurbished estancia from the 1860s positioned on the edge of the Ibera Wetlands; a wildlife paradise that is the largest protected area in Argentina. The 13 spacious and homely rooms are spread across 14-hectares of gardens designed by landscape architect Carlos Thays, all with gorgeous river views. The property features an outdoor pool (again overlooking the river), and superb cuisine served in several different spots using local specialities such as river fish and tropical fruits alongside ingredients from their organic garden. Warmth, hospitality, and stunning wildlife adventures are daily staple here.
Puerto Valle is the only luxury lodge in the Ibera Wetlands, a vast protected area providing refuge for a number of endangered species including the maned wolf, river otter, black- and broad-snouted caiman, pampa and marsh deer, and the reintroduced red macaw.
Your stay includes several half day excursions, from nature walks to kayaking and horse riding. One unmissable highlight is a small boat excursion into Laguna Valle to spot caiman, deer, capybara and birds, culminating in a dramatic wetland sunset with cold beers and snacks… heaven!
Reached by a 45 min boat journey from the frontier town of Puerto Maldonando, Reserva Amazonica is the finest eco-lodge in the Peruvian rainforest and was listed as one of National Geographics Unique Lodge of the World. Rustic thatched-roof cabanas provide low-impact comfortable accommodation, lit at night by lanterns and surrounded by the sounds of the jungle. A small ENA spa offers massages and indigenous plant treatments to soothe the body after a day of jungle exploration, as you make the most of the range of expertly guided activities on offer each day.
Inkaterra have been a pioneer in Peruvian ecotourism since the 1970s, and through their Inkaterra Asociacion NGO carry-out important environmental research at their seven properties across the country. They have removed all single-use plastics, and guests to their Amazon lodges receive their own reusable steel water bottle to take on all excursions.
A selection of quarter, half, and full day excursions are available to choose from throughout your stay, including jungle walks, river trips, and night safaris. The canopy walkways are a must, linking a series of towers with hanging bridges amongst the birds and monkeys high up in the trees.
Described by the New York Times as “Argentina’s Private (and Secret) Answer to the Galapagos”, Bahia Bustamante is a truly unique wilderness escape on Patagonia’s Atlantic coast. Originally a seaweed farm that grew into the world’s first seaweed village, today this historic 40,00 hectare site forms part of the Marine National Park and offers world-class wildlife sightings; iconic guanacos and rheas are plentiful, the bird-watching is outstanding, and from October to April thousands of sea lions and magellanic penguins call this area home. The rooms are rustic and traditional, repurposing the original farm accommodation, and the food is hearty Patagonian fare based around local fish, lamb, seaweed and vegetables. Authenticity and adventure are king here.
Bahia Bustamante is a family-run combination of private wilderness sanctuary, sustainable sheep farm, and charming eco lodge. As well as protecting the local ecosystem and its wildlife, utilising solar power and organic harvesting techniques, they also provide free accommodation and logistics to key biologists working on projects to promote marine wildlife research.
Set sail to the Vernacci Islands’ impressive penguin, sea lion and bird colonies. Wander through a 60-million-year-old petrified forest, or trek along the dry riverbed of beautiful Rock Canyon to the ocean. Explore sandy beaches and geological sites by foot or bike (or horseback for an extra cost), and get cultural with a ranch experience day or historical farm tour.
This special rainforest hideaway is one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of The World, and was awarded the best lodge in Central America by Travel + Leisure magazine. Located in the isolated Osa Peninsula, it protects 1,000 acres of Central Americas last tropical lowland rainforest, and offers a remarkable array of Costa Rica’s famous wildlife on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Accommodation is in the form of gorgeous open-air screened bungalows, dotted along a ridge with private terraces to soak in stunning views over the forest and ocean. The lodge successfully combines authenticity and sustainability with luxury and relaxation.
Lapa Rios was envisioned from the start as a project to protect the local environment, and today is an international poster child for rainforest conservation. They go beyond this with their community work as well, employing only local staff, and educating both them and guests on sustainability, cultural and environmental matters.
Take your pick from guided wildlife-spotting explorations, take a forest trek to quiet beaches, visit local sustainability initiatives, or relax back at the pool. Head out for an extra cost to try mangrove kayaking, canopy zip lines, waterfall rappelling, horse-riding, dolphin and whale watching boat trips, or to visit Corcovado National Park by boat and foot.
Accessible only by a 2-3 hour boat cruise across Lago Argentina, passing glistening icebergs and towering mountains, Estancia Cristina has been a working farm for over 100 years and captures the pioneering spirit of Patagonia like no other property. The 20 rooms here are charming and comfortable, spread across five detached cottages, with the true luxury being found in the breath-taking location and multitude of included activities; guided treks, horse-riding, mountain biking, fly fishing. The food is also excellent, based around local Patagonian recipes, including ingredients from their own kitchen garden. It is now also the only way to visit the immense Upsala Glacier, after the National Park closed tourist boat access in 2018.
With the estancia itself protecting a huge slice of off-the-beaten-track wilderness, Cristina are fully committed to conservation projects and maintaining sustainable ways of exploring with Los Glaciers national park. Their guides are trained to embrace these principles, and to convey the importance of preserving the local ecosystem to visitors.
Having already taken a boat cruise to reach the estancia, you have a dozen guided treks and horse-riding experiences to choose from, plus several self-guided trails to tackle on foot or mountain bike. The flagship activity though is combining a 4x4 trip to the immense Upsala Glacier, with the 8-mile Fossil Canyon trek downhill back to the estancia.
Few properties in the world can match the arrival to Pacuare Lodge, an exhilarating rafting experience along the stunning white-water Pacuare River (it is also possible to arrive by car, but where’s the fun in that). Once at the lodge you’ll find secluded luxury amidst 25,000 acres of protected tropical rainforest. All of the spacious suites have private terraces and charming views, the food is delicious farm-to-table style, and the infinity pool and spa provide the chance for serious post-activity relaxation. The sister property of Lapa Rios, this is also a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.
Pacuare was built using lumber from a reforestation project run by small farmers, and the thatched roofs made by local Cabécar Indians in their traditional style. Showers are solar heated, electricity comes from a turbine in a nearby stream, and the bungalows are lit by lanterns and candles, providing maximum atmosphere for a minimal footprint.
Alongside the white-water rafting arrival (and departure if you choose), activities here include several forest hikes, challenging treks to a hidden waterfall or the indigenous Cabecar community, sustainability tours, birdwatching, or canyoning and zip-lining for extra adrenaline. And at the end of each experience, the pool and spa awaits.