Camino Eugenio Saiz Martínez, km 8, José Ignacio, Maldonado, Uruguay
Peaceful yet dramatic, contemporary yet traditional, Estancia Vik offers interesting contrasts in one of Uruguay’s hottest vacation destinations.
Set on rolling hills outside of the small beach town called José Ignacio, Estancia Vik is close to chic Punta del Este but worlds away in terms of ambiance. Where the nearby beach hotspot packs in vacationers in the summer months, the Estancia is focused on providing a quieter getaway, with sweeping views of the 4,000-acre ranch's surrounding terrain. Open since 2009 in a new structure designed by Uruguayan architect Marcelo Daglio, Estancia Vik features Spanish colonial architectural elements like adobe walls and red tin roofs, accented by clean white lines, expansive public spaces and original contemporary art.
The experience begins upon arrival; a long, unpaved road winds through pastures and undeveloped land, as the hotel appears like a white confection atop a small hill in the distance. The hotel’s horses are a common sight in front of the building, making for perfect photo opportunities.
Service is attentive, and members of the staff move quickly to greet arriving guests, explain the layout of the property, the range of activities available and show you to your room. Although it’s a new construction, the building is laid out something like a traditional hacienda, with courtyards of varying sizes and archways that frame stunning vistas.
Each of the 12 guest rooms, scattered along various hallways, is amply sized and unique, with its own original artwork and color scheme. Varied color schemes and gigantic paintings create a unique flavor for each room; some 18 artists from Uruguay and abroad are featured on the walls here, creating a rather impressive gallery (those embarassed by the human form might want to avoid the room that features several large paintings of nudes by the artist Jose Trujillo).
A big selling point at Estancia Vik is the cuisine. The staff grows its own fruits and vegetables, and freshly caught seafood is frequently featured on the menu. In a destination like Uruguay, it’s no surprise that generous quantities of beef frequently find themselves on the main course (although vegetarian alternatives are readily prepared), accompanied by spirits from the 5,000-bottle wine cellar. You enjoy most meals in the elegant, brick-lined dining room, although the most interesting venue is the quirky Parillero, a separate room specifically designed for barbecues, where graffiti marks the tin walls and a large grill in the center of the room makes the sizzling food preparation part of the evening’s entertainment.
You can partake in their favorite aspects of old-fashioned estancia life, including horseback riding along the nearby river, and polo playing on the private polo field (private lessons are available for the inexperienced). Canoeing along the nearby river is a peaceful, scenic experience that offers the opportunity to view some of the region’s indigenous birds.
A large percentage of guests seem to enjoy most of their time just lazing around the spacious main building; indeed, with a great room furnished with comfy sofas and quiet terraces, it may feel a bit like staying at a wealthy friend’s country estate. A small but uncrowded outdoor swimming pool provides relief from hot summer temperatures, and the game room offers additional diversion, with a ping-pong table, pool table and board games among its offerings. On the lower level of the building is a small spa that offers an array of treatments, as well as a small gym that’s perfect for working off steak-based calories in the small gym. Free Wi-Fi is accessible throughout the main building. With its array of activities and relaxed setting, Estancia Vik is appropriate for adults as well as older children. The property is a few minutes by car from the beach, making daytime and evening visits easy to arrange, especially now that Estancia Vik has opened its new sister property, Playa Vik José Ignacio.
Web Address: www.vikretreats.com/
Total Number of Rooms: 12
Published rates: U.S.$275 and up, including breakfast.
Review and photos by Mark Chesnut.
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