“A sophisticated ranch and boutique hotel set among the rolling hills of Uruguay’s east coastline, with pure architectural magnificence”
The estancia, originally intended as a holiday home for the American-Norwegian owners Alex and Carrie, was built as an homage to Alex’s Uruguayan mother. With the purpose of showing off Uruguayan culture at its best, each of the 12 suites was designed by a national artist, including Clever Lara.
The result? An incredible, diverse concoction of styles to choose from. It’s a little like staying in an art gallery - each suite is an utterly unique exhibition of a different artist, with vast canvases and installations. Which suite you choose is a matter of taste, but our personal favourite was Master Suite Vik (where the owners stay when they come to visit), which is kitted out entirely in Jacaranda wood, with paintings by Carlos Longa that once formed part of the owners' private art collection.
Bathrooms are as diverse - Master Suite Vik's has a big wooden soaking tub, the Badaro Suite has a sink unit made from driftwood, the Cardozo Suite is entirely covered in crazy paving-style tiles. All have a soaking tub, shower, bathrobes and toiletries.
If you want a private wraparound terrace, fireplace, walk-in closet, lounge area and iPod dock, opt for a Master Suite. If you're happy to keep things simpler (and this is relative!), you'll be more than happy in a Suite.
Guests have a rather magnificent start to the day in the grand dining room - think candle chandeliers, antique furniture, wooden floors and a vaulted ceiling - where a sumptuous breakfast is served. Fresh pastries, breads, fruits and yoghurts are all laid out buffet-style, but hungry risers can order eggs and bacon too.
Although there’s an a la carte menu for dinner, guests tend to trust the chef and go for the suggestion of the day, which could be anything from Uruguayan beef with Malbec jus to river fish with a corn and tomato salad. Lighter snacks can be rustled up and taken poolside during the day. Be sure to order from the 5,000-bottle wine cellar showcasing South America's finest vintages, which you can see through the inlaid glass panels in the dining room floor.
The weekly asados (barbecues) are not to be missed. By day, watch the chef lovingly prepare the beef in the Barbecue Room (Parillero) - a contemporary dining hall adorned with corrugated iron walls, funkified by Uruguayan artist Marcelo Legrand’s colourful graffiti. For a set price, guests dine on all the meat they can handle, accompanied by organic salads and delicious sides. The communal table arrangement means that this is as much a sociable event as it is a glorious feast.
Fashionistas and socialites may prefer to test out world-famous Las Huella, the celebrity haunt on the shores of Jose Ignacio nearby. Be prepared to wait, and dress to look the part. Otherwise, if you want a change of scene (and budget permits!), book a table at celebrity chef Francis Mallman’s restaurant Garzon in the tiny town of the same name - an unforgettable gourmet experience.
Children under the age of 4 stay free of charge. If sharing the suite with 1 adult, children aged 4-11 pay 50% of the rate, and children aged 12+ pay full price. If staying in parents' room in a rollaway bed, children aged 0-11 are free, and there is a supplement charge for 12+ year olds. Under 11s are only charged 50% of the price of meals. Babysitting services are available.
The best rooms for families are all Suites - Duarte, Cardozo and Amengual (all twins) and Barea (a double). All these can fit an extra 2 rollaway beds