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We've come a long way since 1980, when we began running some of Latin America's first organised tours. Back then we made the most of the simple, rustic accommodation available at the time, but Latin America has moved on too - and that's why we now have a huge range of absolutely top-class hotel options to offer. Here are our five favourites - wow factor included as standard.

1. Explora Patagonia, Chile

Stay at any of the Explora properties, located in three of Chile's most outstandingly beautiful wilderness areas, and you'll experience top-notch service and luxurious surroundings, all set amid spectacular natural scenery. But for sheer wow factor, it's hard to top their Patagonian hotel, overlooked by the granite massifs of Torres del Paine. From this postcard-perfect base you can explore the nearby mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and emerald lakes of the national park, embark on a range of excursions on foot or horseback, or just lay back and enjoy the snowy landscape from the comfort of a heated outdoor jacuzzi.

Explora Patagonia

2. Ponta dos Ganchos, Brazil

The most exclusive of Brazil's resorts, in Florianópolis, comprises 25 very private villas clustered within pine forests and landscaped gardens. If money is no object, you can even arrive by helicopter. We especially love the sumptuous da vila bungalows which have their own plunge pool, sauna and jacuzzi, as well as dazzling ocean views. Meanwhile the private cove, with its perfect white sand beach, completes the secluded luxury of this exceptionally romantic hotel, and ensures that you're unlikely to be tempted beyond its borders for the duration of your stay.

Ponta dos Ganchos

3. Hacienda Tomozón, Mexico

The most refined of a necklace of countryside retreats housed in restored Mexican haciendas, Temozón will really make you feel you have stepped back in time. The cliché “lovingly restored” might have been invented for the way the remains of the old colonial estate have been transformed into a first-class choice for visitors to Mexico's sunkissed Yucatán peninsula. You feel more like a guest at a large country house than a hotel: rooms are huge yet intimate, with towering ceilings and individual touches that reflect the ageing splendour of the original building.

Hacienda Temozon

4. Alvear Palace, Argentina

Buenos Aires's Alvear Palace easily makes the cut for its palpable sense of history and glamour. Situated in the fashionable Recoleta district, this opulent and prestigious hotel boasts an illustrious guest list. Like them you can enjoy the luxury of its rooms, dine in its elegant restaurant and avail yourself of the personal butler service.

The grand institution truly reflects the elegance and style of this, Latin America’s most sophisticated city. The hotel has been around for a long time, witnessing the rise and fall of governments and the economy, and has hosted other timeless institutions, such as Mick Jagger.

Alvear Palace Hotel, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Journey Latin America

5. La Casona, Peru

Inkaterra's exceptional La Casona in Cusco strikes the perfect balance between local character and modern luxury. Set in a superbly restored colonial building erected out of the ruins of an Inca palace, the arched passageways resonate with a silent sense of centuries gone by. And these reminders of the building's illustrious past are intensified still further by its location on a historic plaza, a stone's throw from some of Cusco's main sights.

Here state-of-the-art modern facilities – like the huge roll-top baths, free-standing showers and under-floor heating – sit comfortably beside colonial adornments and ancient Peruvian motifs in the atmospheric bedrooms. You'll also find lovely homely touches like an open fire and a hot water-bottle ready for you when you retreat to your indulgently comfortable bed, and to top it all off, the food served in La Casona's restaurant is without doubt amongst the best in Cusco.

Inkaterra La Casona

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