Discover Latin American luxury with these four spectacular city hotels, where you can pitch up after a day spent exploring in style. From a former convent in Colombia to an art nouveau-style stay in Havana, Daisy Finer highlights some of the finest places to stay in Latin America…
Sofitel Legend Santa Clara
When the nuns of Santa Clara prayed in 1621, little did they know that, 400 years later, their convent would be transformed into one of Cartagena’s tip-top institutions. Nor could they have guessed that the great novelist, Gabriel García Márquez, would live next door and be so struck by the convent’s restoration that it would inspire his bestselling 1994 novel, Of Love and Other Demons. Today this much-loved hotel, built within the convent’s shell, has been brought bang up to date, yet the place hasn’t been crushingly modernised and original features are intelligently woven in – the charming cloister, festooned with tropical plants, still surrounds the ancient water well. The nuns’ cells have been slotted into the 123 rooms, which blend Sofitel’s French elegance with splashes of Colombian flair. Elsewhere, spot crypts, confessionals and even the odd cannonball recovered from a pirate attack. Superb French fare and an outstanding wine list can be found in 1621, the nuns’ old dining room. Spend the day exploring the city’s maze of multi-coloured buildings before cooling off in the ginormous pool or zoning out with a delicious Sisley massage in the spa.
Book it: £1,398 per person for four nights, including transfers and flights, journeylatinamerica.co.uk
Located in an art nouveau building in the centre of old Havana, a stay at this hotel is worth it for the rooftop pool alone. Lounging here with a cocktail in hand while watching the sun set over the 360-degree views of the old town is pretty hard to beat, particularly at the end of a hot day spent exploring the city. The rooms are luxurious and modern with truly gigantic beds, rainforest showers and balcony views over the city’s main square and beyond to El Floridita, Hemingway’s infamous drinking hole, (known as the ‘home of the daiquiri’), where fleets of rainbow-coloured Cadillacs wait to take you for a spin. Cuba isn’t really known as a holistic destination but the hotel’s Spa Albear has a great selection of massages, wraps and facials to rival any five-star spa and its hydrotherapy suite is a lovely place to relax and restore your energy after a hard day’s sightseeing.
Book it: Doubles from £290, kempinski.com
Santiago, South America’s safest city, is no longer playing it safe. Once the launch pad to Chile’s wealth of natural wonders, its happening restaurant and art scene now make it deserving of a longer stopover. There’s no better base than The Singular in the cultural hub of Lastarria. Its monochrome palette is singularly slick, from the chessboard chequered floor to the minimal black and white photography above the bed. If you’re craving some colour, head to the rooftop pool to soak up Santiago’s skyline – complete with a 22-metre statue of the Virgin Mary on Cerro San Cristóbal (Santiago’s Christ the Redeemer) – and join polished Santiaguinos sipping punchy pisco sours (request yours ‘tradicional’ rather than ‘peruano’ to gain favour). Withdraw from city life in the small but perfectly formed spa or by tucking into ingredients sourced from the length of Chile – all 2,653 miles of it. The verdict? Well worth singling out.
Book it: Doubles from £205, thesingular.com
BE Jardin Escondido
A contemporary glazed crittall wall in this Buenos Aires oasis reveals a bucolic scene falling somewhere between Tuscany and Latin America: a courtyard flanked with ivy-clad oxblood walls and teeming with exotic plants, featuring a quaint swimming pool and leafy enclaves where you can devour a book or relish the drinks trolley. This charming refuge from Palermo Soho’s all-too-hip hustle and bustle was once home to director Francis Ford Coppola, so you’d be forgiven for seeking aesthetic parallels with The Godfather. It’s now a Bourbon Exclusive hotel but he comes back often to write and feed off the neighbourhood’s vibrant kinetic energy, making the Italianate romance of the elegant dressers and wrought-iron beds feel instantly authentic. Guests are greeted with tea and coffee on arrival and a friendly, direct service pervades the place. Breakfast is when you like it, how you like it (their homemade yoghurt and banana bread are heavenly). With only ten rooms, everyone gets their fair share of the balconies-in-bloom, the meaty coffee table books in the onyx-tiled sitting room and the Patagonian gin. Gaucho accents complement this Italian affair, adding a flavour of the pampas with hide rugs, taxidermy and framed Argentine tapestries. It’s all lightly brushed with a contemporary hue, to satisfy those hankering after both sides of the century.
Book it: Doubles from £180, thefamilycoppolahideaways.com