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The Best of South America's Haciendas

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Photo: David Nicolas

Los Lingues, Colchagua Valley

Chile's oldest hacienda derives its charm from the extensive collection of extravagant antiques it houses—priceless pieces crowd each room. Sixteenth-century silver fighting cocks from Peru stand guard at the dining table; an ivory statue of Christ once owned by Pope Pius IX hangs in the chapel; ornate Mapuche necklaces sit under the glass top of the coffee table in the sitting room. The bedrooms in the main house are more lavish than those in the guesthouse. Breakfast is not included, but the sumptuous spread is worth the extra $24, with farm-fresh eggs and an entire hock from which to carve a slice of ham. Getting There Los Lingues is 80 miles south of Santiago, about three miles off the Pan-American Highway. 56-2/431-0510; loslingues.com; doubles from $238.


Hacienda San Agustín de Callo, Cotopaxi

San Agustín de Callo lies in the foothills of the snowcapped Cotopaxi volcano and was built on the ruins of an Incan tambo, an inn that once lodged royalty traveling along the Inca Trail. The hotel's name stems from a later incarnation as an Augustinian monastery in the 1500's. The current owner, Mignon Plaza, inherited the hacienda from her grandfather Leonidas Plaza, two-time president of Ecuador. Eleven spacious suites in a newer building have frescoed walls, wood-beam ceilings, and views of Cotopaxi. The five more rustic rooms in the main house have the original Incan walls, and fireplaces in some of the bathrooms. Feeding carrots to the hacienda's llamas in the stone courtyard may be the highlight for younger travelers; the horseback riding and gourmet meals will appeal to all. The kitchen will cook up trout caught in the fish pond and serve it with the hacienda's famous locro (potato-and-cheese soup). Getting There The hacienda is 48 miles from Quito, following the Pan-American Highway south. 593-2/290-6157; incahacienda.com; doubles from $250, including meals and most activities.

Hacienda Zuleta, Imbabura

Although Hacienda Zuleta's 15 bedrooms share some 4,000 acres, a stay here is an intimate affair. On cool days guests gather in the sitting room, where wine is served in front of a perpetually burning fire, along with cheeses made on the premises. Meals bring visitors together at a common table where affable German-born managers Christina and Thomas Ring relate the history of the hacienda and keep the conversation lively. Horses are Zuleta's pride, and there is no better way to reach the nearby 800-year-old Caranqui pyramid mounds, the trout farm, or the condor reserve than on the back of a purebred Andalusian. Hacienda Zuleta is also a working farm: 300 cows and 2,000 sheep share the vast pastures. Guests can mountain bike, hike, bird-watch, fish, milk the cows, and even take lessons from one of the renowned embroiderers in the village. Getting There The hacienda is 68 miles north of Quito; private-car service to and from the capital is an additional $120 each way. 593-6/266-2182; zuleta.com; doubles from $510, including meals and three hours of horseback riding.

La Mirage, Cotacachi

Romantic La Mirage, where peacocks wander the grounds and hummingbirds flit through the gardens, is not a place to visit alone. Meals begin with an amuse-bouche served in a hand-carved wood box on a pewter charger. Crystal chandeliers dangle over linen-covered tables, and women dressed in ankle-length black skirts and embroidered blouses typical of the region attend to guests. The small cottages dispersed throughout the gardens are of more recent construction than the 200-year-old hacienda, but are decorated in old-world style; each has a fireplace that's lit at turndown. The only incongruent details are the odd Greek and Roman embellishments in the spa. Getting There La Mirage is 118 miles from Quito; a private car and driver from the capital are included in some packages. 800/327-3573 or 593-6/291-5237; mirage.com.ec; doubles from $280, including breakfast and dinner.

Hacienda PinsaquÍ, PinsaquÍ

This 217-year-old hacienda is an ideal base for visits to the legendary Otavalo market and to craft villages specializing in wood carving, weaving, and leatherwork. Adventurers can ride horses at the hacienda or hike to a nearby crater lake. Every evening, cheese empanadas and canelazo (a hot drink brewed from cinnamon and bitter oranges) are served in the cellar bar, accompanied by the melodies of an Andean panpipe band.


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