If the architecturally distinguished and phenomenally luxurious Estancia Vik was Alex and Carrie Vik’s idea of a small-scale country-house escape, then Playa Vik is their version of a low-key beach-house getaway. Which is to say it’s a bit like dropping in on an old friend’s vacation home, if your friend is an architectural patron and art collector of phenomenal means, with a stunning parcel of land on the coastline of José Ignacio, Uruguay.
Yes, it’s the same Vik, the one who’s quietly taking over South America. Not with a staggering number of new hotels — for Alexander Vik and his hotel group, it’s about impact. In Uruguay, he’s made a splash with a series of remote and avant-garde beach getaways, known for their dazzling contemporary architecture, over-the-top luxury and lively art collections. He brings the same sense of style and whimsy to one of Chile’s famed wine-growing regions with Vik Chile, a 29-suite hotel and spa perched on a hilltop and surrounded by vineyards.
By now the Vik name ought to ring a bell — Alex and Carrie, purveyors of hip, upscale Uruguayan hospitality, are building a portfolio of luxe and stylish boutique hotels in and around José Ignacio, the happening beachside enclave that’s superseded Punta del Este as Uruguay’s most desirable destination. And like Vik’s other seaside properties, Bahia Vik, set on the dunes beside the ocean, is thoroughly modern, with a firm focus on the notable art collection and ongoing involvement with contemporary artists.
Split between Peru and Bolivia, the magnificent Lake Titicaca, considered by Incas to be the sacred birthplace of human civilization, is one of the largest, deepest, and highest bodies of water on the globe. Backpackers have long made the pilgrimage to the water’s edge; this, by contrast, is a high-end luxury boutique hotel that’s set to bring a whole new audience to these shores.
For all the recent commotion in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires, where every week seemingly marks the opening of another desperately hip little boutique hotel, it would be easy to forget that it’s not the city’s only neighborhood. A little to the east lies Recoleta, a long-established residential district whose stately Belle Époque structures (Algodon Mansion included) are key to Buenos Aires’s status as the most European city in the New World. If Palermo is Clerkenwell then Recoleta is Belgravia or Knightsbridge; if Palermo is SoHo, then Recoleta is the Upper East Side.
Estancia Vik Jose Ignacio isn’t exactly what you’d expect of a high-end Uruguayan ranch. It’s not in the jet-set capital of Punta del Este, for starters — the hotel is located a mere twenty kilometers away, just outside the laid-back beach community of Jose Ignacio — and the aesthetic is a notable departure from the rustic woodwork and cowhides of a traditional estancia. The contemporary colonial-style mansion, set on a sprawling 4,000-acre near-seaside property, is a showcase for edgy South American artwork and innovative interior design.
On its face, Trancoso isn’t very different from any of the other charming coastal villages in the northeastern state of Bahia, Brazil. It just happens to be the one that A-list celebrities have heard about. Beyoncé, Leonardo di Caprio, and Diane von Furstenberg, to name just a few, have all vacationed here in recent years, but the village still feels surprisingly traditional. A tiny church sits on the central quadrado, on a cliff high above the ocean. By day, it’s quiet, save for a few kids kicking around a soccer ball; a wooded path leads downhill to the beaches, where you’ll find Hotel Villas de Trancoso.
Monasteries and convents make great hotels. For while their ultimate purposes — one otherworldly, the other earthly — could scarcely be more at odds, in terms of day-to-day operation they’re actually quite similar. Both require a room with a bit of peace and quiet, a setting that inspires contemplation, and some places to gather, whether in worship or simply over a meal. Cartagena’s Santa Teresa has followed more or less this exact formula from its seventeenth-century founding to the present day, in its incarnation as the Charleston Santa Teresa Cartagena.
That more than a few guests arrive by private helicopter gives some sense of the sort of place Ponta dos Ganchos Resort is. Occupying a prime spot on the sandy white Emerald Coast in the southern province of Santa Catarina, the property is pleasantly removed from Brazil’s highly developed resort scene. No Copacabana-style contemporary high-rises are to be found on this section of the shoreline — just twenty-five privately sited cabanas, scattered across the lush natural landscape.
In the last few years in Buenos Aires, boutique hotels have been popping up left and right. Some are perfectly stylish urban havens, while others are minimalist knockoffs that miss the mark. The Hotel del Casco, steeped in genteel history, doesn’t fit into either category. The palazzo was restored in 2003, but the building’s grand rooms, patios, and conservatory retain their original old-fashioned elegance.
There are hotels that are meant to feel private and discreet — the kind of place that you’d accidentally walk right past, that has taxi drivers doing twelve-point turns and reversing up one-way streets. And then there are hotels that are meant to knock you out from the second you lay eyes on them — to inspire instant lust from the car window. Hotel B is firmly in the latter category.