From renovated Peruvian monasteries and Patagonian frontier homes to modernist vineyard resorts and an Ecuadorian cloud forest retreat, here are eight of South America’s most architecturally stunning properties.
We’re of the opinion that accommodation isn’t just a place to stay; it’s a part of the travel experience. The more inspiring, the more extraordinary, the better. These architectural wonders in South America follow that line of thinking and then some. Each one has been painstakingly designed to impress—glass-paneled marvels engulfed in clouds and forest, industrial structures that look right at home among mountains, and historic buildings touched up with contemporary flourishes. Whether you’re planning a trip to the Galápagos islands or Patagonia, here are the best places to stay in South America for architecture and design.
Tierra Chiloe—Chiloe Island, Chile (Lake District)
Inspired by the traditional stilted houses of Chiloe (palafitos), Tierra Chiloe is a modernist love letter to the island’s distinctive culture and architecture. But instead of the pastel pinks, yellows, and blues of its iconic overwater homes, the lodge’s exterior is wood-paneled, adding to and emphasizing its beautiful natural surroundings—its thoughtful design ensures that the lodge fits unobtrusively into the contours of the hills. The lodge was built sustainably, with cutting-edge construction methods used to partially power the property. Thermally insulated windows draw heat and power from the sun, while the geometric design allows for cross ventilation. As a base, Tierra Chiloe offers you the chance to explore this rugged Patagonian island through hiking, boating, and kayaking excursions.
Vik Chile—Millahue Valley, Chile
If Frank Gehry designed a lodge in Chile’s renowned Millahue Valley wine country, it might look something like Vik. The first thing that strikes you about this property is the roof: a titanium ripple that captures the essence of the area’s mountainous, windswept beauty. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls of Milla Milla (the contemporary restaurant that serves local, seasonal ingredients paired with Vik’s extensive wine collection) offer spectacular views of the valley and the surrounding 4,450-hectare nature reserve. To keep things ultra-local, each room has been designed by a different Chilean artist, creating 22 completely distinctive suites, each with its own style and flair.
Casa de Uco—Uco Valley, Argentina
Architect Alberto Tonconogy combined stylish minimalism with rustic materials to create Casa de Uco, a boutique resort connected to the award-winning winery of the same name. Set before the jagged peaks of the magnificent Andes, the property uses stone and concrete, a nod to the famous range, to capture the raw beauty of the surrounding valley. The industrial theme continues to the winery, where a series of concrete structures, each one increasing in size, creates a visually stunning “telescopic barn” effect. In terms of sustainability, an ingenious irrigation system sees wastewater collected from the hotel, treated, and then used to water more than 200 poplar trees.
Eolo—El Calafate, Argentina
History is woven into the foundations of Eolo, whose very design speaks to the settlement of the region. Located at the center of a startlingly bleak valley, enclosed by snow-streaked mountains, its gleaming white walls and dark timber frames channel the simple, sturdy homes built by early Creole settlers. Architect Fernando Bustillo designed the property very much with the dramatic surroundings in mind—every room has an enormous window facing outwards onto the swirling beauty of the steppe. Built to withstand the winds and winters of Patagonia, this atmospheric property has a secure coziness that can be hard to leave behind. Surrounded by 10,000 acres of wild nature, the lodge epitomizes the vast emptiness of the region—explore on foot, by four wheels, or, like the original gauchos, on horseback.
Mashpi Lodge Reserve—Quito, Ecuador
Unlike most buildings, eco-lodge Mashpi was designed not to be the center of attention.
The open-plan, minimalist design directs your gaze outward to the surrounding forest, with towering floor-to-ceiling windows bringing the resplendent canopy indoors. Symbiosis is a key theme; guests often feel part of Ecuador’s remarkable biodiversity. The brainchild of former Quito mayor and conservationist Roque Sevilla, the property sits at the heart of a 3,000-acre (1,200-hectare) nature reserve, designed with sustainability in mind to minimize the impact on the environment—the hotel was built on a former lumber mill platform to avoid felling any new trees. Wildlife is never far away: the open-air LifeCenter allows guests to spot the cloud forest’s 400-plus bird species from a purpose-built deck, while “the dragonfly,” a purpose-built cable car, gives an immersive canopy-level view of the reserve.
The volcanic stone walls of CIRQA have stood since the 16th century when they were built to house an Augustinian monastery in Arequipa’s UNESCO-listed old city. Many of the building’s original features remain, with high-vaulted ceilings, pillars, cloisters, and courtyards painstakingly restored to give us one of the most sought-after boutique hotels in Peru. Locally sourced materials, such as dark woods, iron, and glass, have been added to give the property a contemporary feel while taking nothing away from its long history. The result is eleven completely distinct rooms, each with its own story—stay in the original monks’ chambers—and an atmospheric courtyard you’ll never get tired of sitting in. Located right in the old town, CIRQA is ideally placed to explore pretty Arequipa on foot.
Bio Habitat—Quindio, Colombia
A triumph in eco-conscious architecture, the rooms at Bio Habitat feel as if they’ve grown out of the dense Colombian rainforest. Think infinity pools emerging from green hillsides, suspended platforms draped with vines and wild flora, and wall-to-ceiling windows open to views of Colombia’s undulating Quindio coffee region. Besides the thoughtful design, Bio Habitat has been built to reconnect guests with nature—its lighting is soft and dim at night to improve conditions for stargazing, and you’ll find dense, lush grass between rooms and common areas to encourage barefoot strolling. Many of the rooms overlook native forest, so you can look out (and listen) for more than 100 species of bird. At night, take to the first in search of black-headed night monkeys on a twilight walking tour.
Pikaia Lodge Galápagos—Santa Cruz, Galápagos, Ecuador
Perched at the rim of an extinct volcano, Pikaia Lodge Galápagos is a boutique lodge committed to sustainability and conservation. Fabricated steel columns and hand-cut volcanic stone give the property an understated sleekness while rooting it firmly in its surroundings. While undeniably modern, the minimalist approach takes nothing away from the real star: the panoramic views of Santa Cruz and the surrounding Galápagos—you may even see the occasional giant tortoise in the surrounding fields. Its sustainable credentials are exemplary: the roofs collect rain, which, once treated, is used in the kitchen; solar panels and wind generators provide energy; cross-ventilation allows for passive cooling; and the lodge’s open, airy design captures natural light. Being inland, the lodge places a lot of emphasis on land-based exploration alongside the traditional marine tours of the Galápagos—walking trails from Pikaia take you into the surrounding countryside.
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