Cno. Cerro Egusquiza and Paso del Barranco, Punta del Este, Uruguay
You don’t get named “‘Best Hotel of Latin America” by one of the largest travel magazines in the world by accident. It’s hard to find fault in this leading hotel, unless breathtakingly gorgeous scenery, terrific service, and some of the most luxuriously cozy rooms known to man are just not your thing.
Fasano Las Piedras is one of those rare hotels that is a million times better in person than what you see on the internet. The Fasano experience is beyond words, and the beauty of Fasano Las Piedras just doesn’t translate sufficiently in photos. Designed by world-renowned architect Isay Weinfeld, Fasano Las Piedras offers a tranquil, alluring year–round alternative to the glitz and glamour of fashionable Punta del Este, whose high season is typically condensed into a manic, party–filled late December and January. While Fasano is a mere 15 minutes from the trendiest beaches of Punta, you feel like you are in the heart of the Uruguayan interior. To arrive, you will have to rent a car or a taxi. You will be thankful for the many signs along the path that assure you that you really are heading the right way, as you transition from the high rises of Punta to middle–of–nowhere green plains, farmland, and unnamed roads very quickly.
Upon arrival, you may be surprised and taken a little aback at what you find, especially if you try to associate Fasano with other 5-star hotels of the region, such as the sparkly Conrad. Fasano Las Piedras is incredibly humble and low–profile for a hotel that had an initial investment of $50 million. It’s a hotel that unveils its secrets to you over time, in layers. On the surface, it seems very minimal, discreet. The more you explore, the more you notice details in service and amenities that make you realize that you really are in a high–caliber hotel. And before you know it, you find that the place has at some point gotten under your skin and you have become completely enchanted.
Each room is its own bungalow, essentially a small house. They are stark stone buildings with large wooden doors, with no visible windows from the front. It would be easy to think that you were entering someplace very basic. But open the door and you are ushered into one of the most sensual, comfortable hotel rooms imaginable. The stone floor of the living area is covered in a 12–foot sheepskin rug and the large couch is filled with pillows, with a library of books waiting for you on the shelves. The bedroom area of the suites can be partitioned off with a sliding wood door, offering utmost privacy. Rooms are flooded with natural light, and two gigantic sliding glass doors leave no barrier between you and the surrounding nature.
There are two huge closets and a well-lit dressing area, and a simple but beautiful bathroom with a large rain shower head and a very deep bathtub. It should be noted that the suites are double in size of the standard deluxe rooms (1,200 square feet vs. 600 square feet), so it comes highly recommended to upgrade. All bungalows have their own private patio area overlooking almost 1,000 acres of lush Uruguayan countryside, where you can watch sheep grazing and listen to birds singing as you sip on the famous Tannat wine from the area.
What sets Fasano apart are the little details that they don’t have to do, yet they happily do anyway. For example, all guests upon check in are invited to the spa for a complimentary welcome foot massage with hot stones and lavender essential oil. This sets the tone that you are staying in a place meant for deep relaxation. Stick around the spa and take advantage of the heavily eucalyptus–scented steam room, the dry sauna, or the warm infinity pool with spectacular views of the Maldonado River valley.
One of the difficulties of a stay at Fasano is deciding whether to stay inside or head out. Your room is so inviting, as are the common spaces in the refurbished estancia lodge that houses thousands of books and endless nooks and crannies to read them in. But the outdoor surroundings beckon you as well. You can play tennis, visit the equestrian center, walk through lavender–filled paths, hike to the river, and soon you will have the option to play golf on the Arnold Palmer–designed 9–hole golf course. The outdoor pool is carved entirely out of a boulder that was already on the land, is spring fed, and is surrounded by flower gardens.
Another place that Fasano Las Piedras shines is in its two restaurants. Las Piedras serves up rustic, unpretentious food del campo (of the country), with many ingredients coming straight from the neighbors’ organic farms. In line with the rest of the Fasano experience, what appears so simple on the outside somehow leaves you more than entirely fulfilled. Think homemade raviolis stuffed with local buffalo mozzarella. Porcini mushroom risotto. Filet mignon with whipped potatoes. Warm apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Of course all paired with some of the best wines from around the world. Breakfast goes way beyond continental. Las Piedras offers smoked salmon, capers, and champagne in addition to more traditional breakfast food.
The second restaurant, The Fasano, is the Uruguayan version of one of the most famous restaurants in Brazil, and is set high up on a rock face, affording you jaw–dropping views of the area.
You should arrive with a realistic mindset, however. Remember that you are in the country on almost 1,000 acres. You may encounter insects. If you are used to a fast-paced city life, you need to adjust to profound silence. You have to walk outdoors along rolling, rocky terrain to get to the spa, lounge, or restaurants. It’s all part of an authentic countryside experience, and if this doesn’t sound acceptable to you, you are better off staying in town.
In the Punta world, where every hotel seems to be competing to be the most over-the-top or glamorous, Fasano is self-assured and seems to quietly refuse to even participate in those petty competitions. It does its own thing, and it does it remarkably well…making it untouchably cool. It is by far the best option in town for an unforgettable, luxurious stay that will leave you rested, relaxed, and absolutely in love with the countryside of Uruguay.
Web Address: www.laspiedrasfasano.com
Total Number of Rooms: 32
Prices: $600 - $1,300
Review and photos by Cathy Brown