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Colonial mansions & haciendas

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Throughout Latin America can be found some truly spectacular and elegant colonial buildings from ornate government palaces to sumptuous museums and private homes. These elegant baroque buildings are evidence of the plentiful natural resources of many of Latin America’s nations, on the riches of which the Spanish and Portuguese constructed their elaborate residences and estates.

Built in typical style around a courtyard patio, colonial era mansion houses were once the luxurious town houses of important personages, or the main houses to working plantations on rich country estates. Today, much, if not all, of the original architecture and style has been lovingly preserved and many now serve as stunning edifices for beautiful boutique hotels.

Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and most of Central America, especially Mexico, have some truly beautiful historic buildings in which to rest your head in elegant style. Recognising the valuable historical importance of these buildings has ensured that most Latin American nations are keen to preserve these wonderful architectural wonders from the 16th and 17th century.

Traditional colonial town houses in Peru and Bolivia from Cusco to Sucre were sometimes built on top of existing Inca stone buildings that were demolished by the Spaniard conquistadors wishing to construct their own style of edifice, although the original foundations may remain. As you enter through original intricately carved doorways, you find yourself in a tranquil and shady central courtyard surrounded by balustrades that lead to each room.

In Ecuador’s capital Quito, the historic centre was until a decade ago somewhat rundown, returned thankfully to its former glory by UNESCO funding and some fantastic sympathetic restoration projects by renowned local architects. Now, former private homes are stunning small boutique hotels overlooking elegant central plazas and facing imposing cathedrals and government palaces. Even the country estates have been brought back to life as the working farms remain but the estate houses now host discerning guests.

As you head north into Central America and especially Mexico, some of these colonial mansions were once vast working plantations at the height of the henequen trade (a component of rope before synthetic materials took over). The principal hacienda or main house was thus a symbol of wealth and power by the rich landowners. Beautiful surrounding gardens and outdoor pools complement cool arched walkways and tall-ceiled rooms framed by ancient wooden shutters.

We know that these historic buildings are wonderful restful places to stay that reflect the character as well as history of the place you are visiting. We have stayed in many of the most beautiful examples of these, and we’d be very happy to share our thoughts with you as to which are our favourite properties.

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