Estancia Vik Jose Ignacio

Jose Ignacio, Punta del Este, Uruguay Book from

Reviewed by Clemmy Manzo
A sophisticated ranch and boutique hotel set among the rolling hills of Uruguay’s east coastline, with pure architectural magnificence
Eco-friendly? Tick. Arty? Tick. Nature? Tick. Luxury? Tick. Child-friendly? Tick. Never has a hotel ticked so many boxes. Estancia Vik is the jack-of-all-trades of boutique hotels, a place where everything has been thought out very carefully. Take the architecture - it’s designed in such a way that light floods the common rooms and pretty patios, and the surrounding green pastures, lagoon and prairie can be seen from virtually every corner. Then there’s the host of on-site activities, from polo lessons to kayaking or wine tasting in the 5,000-bottle cellar. Art and nature are real draws, too, and everything about the hotel celebrates Uruguayan heritage.

Twenty national artists were hired to work on the interiors, and each of the 12 suites is different; an original masterpiece. The unique 66-foot living room has magnificent fireplaces at either end and a painted map ceiling inspired by Google Earth; vast semi-precious geodes hang from its walls. The South Garden has galleries for shade beside the swimming pool, which is lit by fibre-optic lights at night to show southern hemisphere constellations; the North Garden has a reflecting pool.

Set within 4,000 acres of land near chi-chic Jose Ignacio (the St Tropez of Uruguay), this is a real haven for celebrities, art- and nature- lovers with cash to splash, and for well-heeled families wanting to get away from it all.

Highs

  • The stunning, green setting and 4,000 acres of wild pampas - ride out with real gauchos and explore
  • Or play polo, kayak, practise golf on the driving range, sunbathe by the pool and play tennis. There's so much to do and all activities (bar lessons) are included in the rates
  • The focus on art and architecture: each suite showcases installations and paintings by a different Uruguayan artist, including Clever Lara; the living room and patios feature sculptures by Pablo Atchugarry
  • The mainly organic food: there's an on-site vegetable garden and most meat is reared on the premises
  • The sociable aspect of your stay: while this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the majority of guests love the gourmet asados, at which guests are seated together

Lows

  • Although original, the décor and mish-mash of different styles might be too much for more understated tastes
  • A strict cancellation policy
  • Although most staff were really friendly, a couple were very off-hand, which was a shame
  • None of the suites have TVs, but you can request one or watch a film in the communal Game Room beside a cosy log-fire
  • Those who want lively nightlife will have to walk 20 mins or drive 5 mins to Jose Ignacio, or further afield to Punta del Este

Best time to go

December and January are the peak months and those who like to party may want to visit during this season, when South America’s rich and famous flock to nearby Punta del Este for hedonist fun. February and March are slightly quieter and cooler, if you prefer your beaches less crowded. The hotel is closed from May to the end of July. Throughout August, Estancia Vik opens 4 nights a week, from Thursday evening to Monday morning.

Our top tips

Dine under the stars at Francis Mallman’s wonderful restaurant in the sleepy town of Garzon. The regional recipes served are made with the very finest ingredients and much of it comes fresh from the restaurant’s vegetable and herb garden. While in town, pick up a bottle or 3 of the award-winning Garzon olive oil - absolutely delicious.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 12
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Tennis Court
  • Bicycles Available
  • Communal TV and DVD
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Billiard table
Room:

Rooms

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.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Mosquito net
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Wine cellar
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Play polo with the professionals on Estancia Vik’s private polo field, or watch it all kick off from the sidelines and be inspired to have a private lesson

  • If you prefer straightforward horseback activitiy, ride out with the gauchos and explore 4,000 acres of wild pampas

  • Go kayaking on the private lagoon, and witness flying fish jump in and out of the water

  • Admire the hotel’s art, starting from your suite and ending in the living room where the 5-ton Pablo Atchugarry statue marks the centre of the estancia

  • Request a wine-tasting session in the beautiful vaulted cellar - be sure to try full-bodied Tannat wine, made from Uruguay’s most famous grape

  • Break a sweat on one of 2 tennis courts, practise your golf swing at the driving range or cool off in the South Garden's black granite Absolute Nero pool on the wood terrace, with vistas of the plains below

  • Challenge your kids to a game of table tennis, or be thrashed on the Nintendo Wii

  • Work out at the gym while admiring artist Jose Trujillo’s mural of nudes, or ask reception to organise a personal yoga class. Towels, water and mats provided

  • Hop on a mountain bike (free to borrow) and explore the surrounding area. Ask the concierges to highlight points of interest nearby

  • Ask reception to book you a massage in your suite

  • Head to South America's most fashionable beaches nearby for a morning of sun-worshipping - rub shoulders with the A-list on the shores of Jose Ignacio, La Barra or Punta del Este

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Golf
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Polo
  • Polo lessons
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Tennis coaching
  • Well being
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

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.

Family friendly accommodation:

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

Kid Friendly:

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