For romance travel there is nothing more seductive than a suite on the beach – but make that a Uruguay beach on a remote pampa, where celebrated wine from Chile pours, Uruguay art surrounds, heady conversations dangle and delicious foods await – and all within easy driving distance from Punte del Este and Montevideo.
Family travelers can consider the wow factor of a grand colonial manor on a hill overlooking the rugged rolling pampas shore line, with the occasional Uruguayan gaucho galloping by, flocks of sheep grazing and even a private polo field to ply.
Playa Vik and Estancia Vik Jose Ignacio, two separate luxury experiences on the southern tip of Uruguay, provide a tantalizing sense of destination, whether for couples in the throes of romance travel or family travelers seeking the romance of the exotic.
Each property provides something extraordinary that can best be described as vision. In this case, the vision belongs to the owner, a Norwegian-born financier named Alex Vik who chose the searing shore expanses and the design talents of Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, and produced two precious hotel properties that make heads turn.
Playa Vik* opened in 2010 in the oceanfront resort town of José Ignacio. It’s a study in minimalism and modern art as much as it is a study in the aesthetics of ecology and earth-friendly design. Romantic travelers looking for where to stay in Latin America can indulge in a one of a kind moment here that is both art and life intertwined. Playa Vik takes the concept of art in hotels and makes it come alive in a way that lets guests become part of the canvas.
The hotel faces west over the southern Atlantic Ocean and the calm waters of Playa Mansa, with 19 suites on the beach that became palette and platform for an elite cadre of famed Uruguayan artists. But it is in this intellectual St. Tropez setting that artists and celebrities often gather for gourmet meals, creativity retreats and inspiration. Walls of manga silhouettes, poems and abstracts, and spirited spaces of minimal design meet cacophonous corners of riotous musings. Each suite, each space becomes its own artful movement within which couples can find new paths to connection.
Estancia Vik continues the modernist and minimalist themes but in the unlikely context of a palatial estancia or colonial ranch house on a hill with 12 suites overlooking 4,000 acres of rolling green coastline. The art spaces in this hotel showcase the work of some of Uruguay’s leading contemporary artists, including Pablo Atchugarry and Clever Lara. But guests are reminded this is not a museum but a place to go horseback riding across open pampas with gauchos, to explore nature in the rough, to mountain bike, hike, canoe and fish in the Arroyo de José Ignacio or the grand José Ignacio Lake. And for those who must practice their foreshots, the private polo field with Criollo riding horses at the ready, or the an adjoining golf green for duffers and putters provide the generous foregrounds.
Both properties put as much emphasis on the art of the meal as they do on the art of structural design, highlighting Uruguay food and Uruguay traditions in the presentation.
Parillero, traditional barbeque of spicy meats grilled over an open fire pit, as well as fresh fish and seafood, locally grown fruits and vegetables and homemade breads and pastries all keep with local tradition in the preparations. But meals are served European style under flickering candelabras illuminating communal tables of hotel guests while Chilean wines pour (Vik is an owner of a vineyard in neighboring Chile, where he is readying to open his third hotel next year) and visitors engage in animated discourse.
It’s possible to stay at one Uruguay hotel or at both – they are less than 6 miles apart. Each offers a wowing swimming pool (don’t miss Playa Vik’s 75-foot-long, black granite pool alight in a celestial map of the southern hemisphere created by small optic light points within the pool floor), romantic fireplaces, a small spa, and unexpected art in forms and fancies that gently push the boundaries as far as the eye can see.
* Wallpaper Design Awards 2012 named Playa Vik one of five Best New Hotels in the World