Estancia Vik, Jose Ignacio, Uruguay

LOCATION: Uruguay may be small compared to neighbouring Argentina, but it can still make you feel you’re in the middle of huge open spaces.

LOCATION: Uruguay may be small compared to neighbouring Argentina, but it can still make you feel you’re in the middle of huge open spaces. Estancia Vik is just a few miles outside the small beach town of Jose Ignacio but feels remote, sitting in its own 4,000-acre estate complete with stables, polo fields, wetlands burgeoning with birdlife and acres of pampas. Jose Ignacio is to Buenos Aires what the Hamptons are to New York – but with the wilderness of Wyoming and the style of Saint Tropez. This small, Uruguayan town has somehow retained its laid-back, fishing-village feel, despite hosting millionaires, celebrities and supermodels during the December to March high season.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: From the outside, the estancia looks traditional – white walls, red-tiled roof. But the further you venture inside its gates, the clearer it becomes that this is nothing remotely pedestrian or classic about this place. Courtyards are filled with avant-garde sculptures reaching almost as high as the roof. The imposing main lounge is lined with glittering geodes the size of coffee tables, and has a four-ton white statuary sculpture by Pablo Atchugarry, two 18ft-high red-stone fireplaces and a ceiling mural inspired by Google Earth views of the country’s coast. The hotel is owned by a modern-art-loving, half-Uruguayan, half-Norwegian billionaire, and it’s undoubtedly among the most luxurious, most eccentric places I’ve ever stayed.

THE FACTS: The 12 suites are decorated with the works of different Uruguayan artist – although decorated doesn’t really do justice to the art immersion guests experience. We stayed in Cardozo, where the artist has worked straight on to the concrete walls and the doors open on to a patio with views of the polo fields.There’s airy breakfast room, and a brick-vaulted underground dining room. Drinks can be brought wherever, whenever – to your room, to the lounge, the games room, the library, to the side of the 67ft black granite swimming pool, which sits in a white-arched courtyard, with loungers in the sun and sofas in the shade. 

A GOOD BASE FOR: Pretending you’re a billionaire who likes modern art, horses, and relaxing in the Uruguayan countryside. Relax in the sun, soak up the art, and, if you feel energetic, go for a ride on the estancia’s horses, or have a private polo lesson. Head out to Jose Ignacio itself to shop in its boutiques, eat in the restaurants and pop into sister property Playa Vik for a sundowner. (See our review of Playa Vik.)

WOW: Uruguay, like Argentina, is a place that takes its meat seriously. Estancia Vik has a parillero – a barbecue room – with an open fire pit. Mismatched wooden chairs line the long tables and the corrugated iron walls are daubed with bright graffiti.

HOW MUCH: From £309 including breakfast