Where to go in Central and South America in 2020

The coolest openings and the hottest news in the world of travel. By Maria Shollenbarger

Maria Shollenbarger and Mary Lussiana

Taking flight: new conservation safaris in Brazil
The buzz in Brazil these days is all in the interior – the inland reaches of the states of Minas Gerais, Bahia and Goiás, characterised by sprawling tropical savannah that’s home to a trove of wildlife: tapir, anteater, maned wolf, armadillo, ocelot and the black jaguar (along with around 850 bird species and close to 500 insects and amphibians). Much of it has gone the way of farming, with predictably disastrous results for both the landscape and the animals living on it. But Daunt Travel’s Alice Daunt has alighted on a place she reckons is about to be pure magic.

Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands enable incredible biodiversity
Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands enable incredible biodiversity

Pousada Trijunção sits on 33,000 protected hectares very close to where the three states converge. Its seven suites go wide and ambitious on modern Brazilian style, with hammocks strung across open-air living rooms, gallery-quality tapestries on walls and a pool house with a steam room inside. But what’s news is the collaboration with Onçafari, the conservation NGO known for its work protecting charismatic megafauna in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands. At the invitation of Trijunção’s owners, they are creating additional excursions across the pousada’s rewilded reaches, from night kayaking to animal-specific walking or driving safaris. Don’t let the distances put you off: Daunt gets her clients there by private charter from Rio or Brasília, an easy three-and-a-half and one hours respectively.
For prices, contact Daunt Travel (daunt-travel.com).

Escondido Oaxaca merges a 19th-century house with a modern tower
Escondido Oaxaca merges a 19th-century house with a modern tower
| Image: Sergio Lopez
The hotel merges contemporary style with local charm
The hotel merges contemporary style with local charm
| Image: Sergio Lopez

Contemporary cool comes to Oaxaca
When in 2000 Moisés and Rafael Micha and Carlos Couturier opened Habita, their first – and quite ground-breaking – hotel in Mexico City, it broke all manner of local conventions, privileging contemporary design over tradition and merging canteen-style dining with public spaces. Cut to 2019, and 13 more Habita Hotels – including properties in New York and Chicago, as well as Puebla and Acapulco – have made favourite lists both at home and abroad. In November, the Micha brothers opened their 14th hotel, in the colonial outpost of Oaxaca. Escondido Oaxaca has just 12 rooms, with four in the original 19th-century house and a further eight in a modern tower added to it. A rooftop pool and bar, shaded by a palm pergola and open only to guests, round out the package.
From $299 (escondidooaxaca.com).

Escondido Oaxaca has 12 rooms and a rooftop pool and bar
Escondido Oaxaca has 12 rooms and a rooftop pool and bar
| Image: Sergio Lopez
Northern Peru boasts the world’s tallest tropical mountain ranges
Northern Peru boasts the world’s tallest tropical mountain ranges
| Image: Aracari/Max Milligan

Heading off track in northern Peru
Pre-Columbian dig sites, the world’s tallest tropical mountain range, ethereal high-altitude cloud forests and pristine lowland Amazon ones… While southern Peru staggers under the demands of a vast tourism influx, much of the country’s remote north remains blissfully close to empty. Marisol Mosquera, founder of best-in-class country operators Aracari, has just returned from a comprehensive survey of its reaches, and she’s keen to bring the inquisitive and adventurous back to enjoy her spoils. Those requiring four-digit thread counts and expedited transfers need not apply: Mosquera’s new-for-2020 itineraries involve some long stretches in a 4×4 and sustainable homestays (albeit majestic, colonial‑aristocratic ones) rather than five-star lodges. But supreme access is the payoff – to archaeologists, naturalists, four discrete Unesco biospheres and cultures that predate the Incas at Macchu Picchu by at least a millennium.
From $5,500 per person for 10 nights, not including international flights (aracari.com).

The Casa del Presidente, Barichara, hosts al fresco painting and cooking classes
The Casa del Presidente, Barichara, hosts al fresco painting and cooking classes
Dining on the terrace at Casa del Presidente
Dining on the terrace at Casa del Presidente

Crafting meets cultural immersion in Colombia
Few places in Colombia are as rich in romance and adventure as its north-central Santander province. The towns are considered some of South America’s prettiest; its mountains and canyons are similarly nonpareil. But beneath the obvious attractions is a more intriguing narrative seam – its artisan heritage. Trust Plan South America’s Harry Hastings to be on it. PSA has partnered with The Colombia Collective – whose founder, Kate Wrigley, works with local craftspeople to produce exquisite and ethical collections for fashion and interior designers around the world – on a gentle immersion itinerary. Hastings’ guests walk, ride or cycle Santander’s landscapes between hands-on sessions in weaving, potting and filigree work with Collective artisans. There are al fresco painting classes, and cooking ones too, with the chefs at the ravishingly pretty Casa del Presidente in Barichara, which is home for part of the trip.
From £7,655 per person for 13 nights, not including international flights (plansouthamerica.com).