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Responsible tourism: 5 hotels making a difference in South America

  • 5 South American Hotels making a difference - Blue-booted Booby

Our planet is overflowing with beautiful destinations, unique cultures, and important historic sites. There’s so much beauty here – but a lot of work needs to be done to protect it.

As talk about climate change ramps up and the need for more drastic action grows, it’s important to consider the impact that we make as individuals. We can easily enjoy our planet and do our bit to protect it at the same time.

We handpick hotels that are actively seeking to better the destinations they’re in, whether they’re supporting their community, preserving the natural environment, maintaining cultural traditions for future generations, or reducing their impact in other ways.

Here are some of our favourite hotels across South America that are doing amazing things to leave the planet better than they found it.

Save these hotels for a guilt-free trip.

El Nido del Condor

Villamaria, Colombia

About the hotel

Family owned and run, El Nido del Condor (The Condor’s Nest) is a unique property with a focus on sustainability. It’s perched between 2 rivers on a mountain plateau near Los Nevados National Park. The plateau is one of only three known Andean condor nests in the whole of Colombia, which makes it a perfect spot for observing these impressive birds.

The lodge itself was built in 2017 by a family of architects, who were determined to make their dream of living a sustainable life a reality. Their vision made this hotel into a destination in its own right – safari-style tents with sophisticated furnishings and balconies look out across the gardens and the canyon below. Balconies come with hammocks, tables and chairs, so the views can be accompanied by a glass of wine or a morning brew.

Explore walking trails across a range of terrains, tuck into riverside picnics, take the e-bikes for a spin through the mountains and keep your eyes peeled for condors and the region’s other prolific bird species.

Why it made the list

The family’s vision for creating a sustainable lifestyle and sharing that ethos with visitors is wholly evident. They specifically designed experiences around the lodge that add value to the geography, culture, and biodiversity of the region.

The lodge is built, where possible, from ethically sourced natural materials, and is designed to promote low energy consumption. Everything is recycled here, from food waste to wood, and even the rainwater. They use ecological cleaning products and the food is all sourced locally.

The owners are working hard to protect the condor, by educating local communities and tourists to create awareness around these magnificent birds. Activities have all been designed to have a low impact on the environment and delicate local ecosystems.

Comuna do Ibitipoca

Minas Gerais, Brazil

Comuna do Ibitipoca is a beautiful retreat in the heart of a 5,000-hectare nature reserve, a 4-hour drive from Rio de Janeiro. This is a truly special place that combines the best of Brazilian hospitality with an opportunity to disconnect and immerse yourself in the regenerated forests and rolling landscapes of this conservation area.

Spend days discovering hidden corners of the reserve as you follow the many walking trails or enjoy paddle boarding, yoga, meditation and community visits.

Why it made the list

The lodge sits within a 5,000-hectare nature reserve, all previously degraded land that’s in the process of being rewilded with native Atlantic forest. The lodge takes a holistic approach to improve the welfare of both the planet and its inhabitants, working to protect the flora, fauna, and local communities.

The owners support local entrepreneurship and employ people from local communities and universities to implement new ideas at the Commune – current initiatives include a zero-waste and zero-footprint policy, rewilding efforts, organic agriculture in the commune gardens, and a volunteer program to encourage the exchange of cultures, knowledge, and experiences.

It’s an inspiring destination and the ethos of the property shines through in every element of a stay here.

Galapagos Safari Camp

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

About the hotel

Tucked away in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Safari Camp is a wonderful base for a land-based stay in the volcanic Galapagos Islands. Lush forest surrounds the camp, home to a roaming family of giant tortoises and prolific birdlife.

Sweeping views can be enjoyed from the camp’s elevated position on the edge of an extinct volcanic crater. A fully immersive itinerary invites you to explore the wonders of the Galapagos Islands – learn about conservation on the archipelago, observe fearless endemic species, and hike across wild, volcanic terrain.

Accommodation is tented, allowing you to wake up to the sounds of the birdlife and keeping you connected to nature – the nine safari-style tents are spacious and comfortable with a lounge area, private bathroom, and outdoor deck. For families with younger children or a small group of friends, a 3-bedroom suite completes the accommodation offering. The main lodge houses a restaurant and sociable living space and a short walk away is a relaxing pool. The 50-hectare property is unpretentious, utterly charming and subtly luxurious. A great choice for every type of traveller.

Why it made the list

Environmentally friendly practices have been at the core of Galapagos Safari Camp since its inception. The owners strive to provide a luxury experience while leaving as little impact on the environment as possible and ensuring guests connect with the unique nature of the Galapagos Islands during their stay. They support the Galapagos Islands’ effort to restrict the use of certain plastics and provide all guests with aluminium water bottles to encourage cooperation.

They’ve also installed cutting-edge water treatment technology to make use of as much rainwater as possible throughout the hotel. Low-consumption lighting and A/C have been installed and they use solar energy to heat the water.

Galapagos biodiversity is constantly under threat from foreign and invasive species. Galapagos Safari Camp works to eradicate any threats to the ecosystem and has played a huge part in reforesting their land with native vegetation, in partnership with the Charles Darwin Research Station. You can even get involved with their tree planting efforts during a stay.

Hotel Sol y Luna

Sacred Valley, Peru

About the hotel

Sol y Luna is a rare, magical property that has an incredible story and provides an amazing guest experience. This independent lodge in Peru’s Sacred Valley was founded by owners Petit and Franz as a way of funding their foundation to support local education for indigenous communities in the valley. It’s come a long way and established itself as one of the region’s top hotels, becoming a member of the luxurious Relais & Chateaux portfolio, whilst still funding the foundation.

Sol y Luna sits on the banks of the Urubamba River and is surrounded by spectacular Andean scenery. Individual casitas, a collection of fabulous restaurants, an indulgent spa and a swimming pool are immersed in beautifully manicured gardens. It’s a wonderful base for adventures in the Sacred Valley, visiting Inca ruins, hiking, exploring Andean villages, and even experiencing the many adventure sports on offer. The owners are keen paragliders so you can even book a flight at their paragliding school.

Why it made the list

Petit’s dedication to ensuring communities in the Sacred Valley have access to education is unrelenting. After leaving her corporate job and travelling through Peru, she was struck by how few of the children in the valley were able to attend school.

Her dream became to improve the future for these children and in 1999, she started an education project here with her husband Franz. In 2020, they decided to build the hotel as a way to fund their ambitious education goals and in 2009 they were able to open their own school.

The school is attended by Franz and Petit’s own children, as well as 185 others from communities in the valley. Guests can make a donation to the school, sponsor a child, volunteer their time, or participate in their ‘Pack for a Purpose’ scheme to donate supplies.

Chalalan Ecolodge

Madidi National Park, Bolivia

About the hotel

Deep in the heart of Bolivia’s Madidi National Park, Chalalan Ecolodge is a great base for adventures in the Amazon Rainforest. The National Park covers a huge expanse of land – 19,000sq km in fact – stretching from the Andes to the Amazon. It’s home to an incredible diversity of wildlife and a number of indigenous communities, making it a wonderful place to visit for wildlife lovers and culture vultures.

The lodge works hard to protect and preserve both the environment and the local culture. Staff and guides are mostly from local communities and they love sharing their knowledge of the area with visitors.

To reach the lodge, it’s a 5-hour boat journey from Rurrenabaque but it’s far from boring. As you leave civilisation behind, you’ll wind deeper into the rainforest, looking out for wildlife on the banks and in the trees. On top of more boat exploration, you can embark on hikes through the rainforest both day and night during a stay. Return to the lodge for meals and rest.

Cabins are built in the traditional style from local wood but feature modern bathrooms. Accommodation is rustic but comfortable and mosquito nets are provided over all of the beds.

Why it made the list

Chalalan Ecolodge is part of a conservation agreement to preserve 10,000 hectares of the Madidi National Park where the lodge sits. They’ve committed to only using clean energy and to treating the ubiquitous rainwater that falls here for use at the lodge.

One of the things we love most about Chalalan’s conservation efforts is the support it provides to the local indigenous communities. Many of the staff and guides at the lodge are employed from these communities and have a wealth of cultural and natural knowledge to share. At the end of every year, Chalalan distributes its profits to these communities and supports them with health, education, sports, and community facilities.

Logging is a huge problem in the Amazon, and valuable trees like mahogany and mara have significantly depleted over the years. A current initiative to replant trees of high ecological value is underway and guests are invited to support them in their tree planting efforts.

Want to reduce your impact while you travel? Talk to us about our favourite responsible hotels.


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