WINNING TIP: La Casa de François, San Agustín, Colombia
François, an architect from the Alps, stopped off in San Agustín on a motorbike journey from Mexico to Patagonia 19 years ago. He liked what he saw, bought a coffee plantation and designed and built an eco-friendly hideaway using sustainable anti-seismic materials like bamboo. Home-grown organic coffee is still served at the hostelry on a hill overlooking this pretty, historic town, and close to the Parque Arqueológico where there are 100s of pre-Colombian statues.
+ 57 314 358 29 30, lacasadefrancois.com, doubles from $ 40, dorms from $ 18pp, camping from $ 8pp
Casa Los Molles, Tilcara, Jujuy
Casa Los Molles overlooks the hills of Quebrada de Humahuaca, near the amazing rock formations of Purmamarca and the Argentinian salt flats. A converted house run and owned by Diego and his friends, there is a vegetable garden, from which they pick veggies each day to make amazingly tasty but cheap food – they even have a vegetarian menu. The guys will try to help with any problem or query, although they’re not fluent in English. There’s an area for a bonfire and you can buy alcohol or bring your own; marvel at the fantastic murals, which cover four of the hostal’s walls.
+54 388 4955 410, casalosmolles.com.ar, dorm beds from £6pn
Pousada Tapera das Palmas, Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro state
Unlike most of the accommodation on the stunning Ilha Grande, which is clustered in the tourist-packed port of Vila da Abraão, this pousada (as it’s called in Brazil) sits with a single neighbour on an isolated beach across the island. Yes, this means it’s a pain to get to and from – a 45-minute trek in the thick heat or a choppy boat ride. Yes, the owners are slightly eccentric and the service is patchy. But it’s cheap and you get to sip generous caipirinhas on a perfect beach shared with a just a few locals, which is surely the whole point of being there. Paradise.
+55 24 9981 3635, no website. Call the pousada for prices
Aquabarra, Búzios, Rio de Janeiro state
Fantastic boutique pousada near to (probably) the best beach in Búzios with a lovely hippyish, calm feel and a fantastic buffet breakfast on the eclectic terrace. Family-owned and run, it even has a mini spa, with free treatments available. Wonderful returning back after an evening meal to the honesty bar and music chosen by the guests, sitting on the beautiful veranda near to the pool, listening to the sea. Have been twice and will return!
+55 22 2623 6850, aquabarrabuzios.com.br. Rooms from £25pn B&B
Jolene Jolene Hope
Hostal Maria Casa, La Serena, Coquimbo
In La Serena on the Chilean coast, Maria and “Pancho” run a lovely little guesthouse-cum-leather workshop from their family home. The rooms are basic, but the hospitality is warm, there’s a delightful garden and it’s in a good location near the bus station. La Serena is a quiet town, near a number of observatories offering stargazing in the Atacama desert – an incredible experience which was certainly one of the highlights of my South American experience. Thoroughly recommended.
+56 74 66 7433, hostalmariacasa.cl. Doubles from around £20
Ritoque Raices, Valparaíso
Playa de Ritoque is 10km of relatively untouched coastline, hidden by vast rolling dunes. Ritoque Raices is nestled among the foliage with commanding views of the beautiful beach, popular with local surfers. I arrived on foot, unable to find the accommodation. I then watched a lone local surfer ride a wave all the way in, pick up his board and jog up the beach towards me. The hostel owner greeted me and led me to the building, a mix of comfortable doubles and dorms. Gorgeous sunsets, accompanied by fresh barbecued fish and local pisco make this a tranquil getaway that is only a one hour bus journey north of Valparaíso. Horse riding and sea-kayaking also possible. It is a wonderful place to spend a few days.
tinyurl.com/omkarhc, shared room $ 15pp B&B
Posada del Parque, Ritoque, Valparaíso
With or without a car, it’s necessary to travel along Valparaíso’s stunningly dramatic coastline to get to Posada del Parque, set in the national reserves surrounding Ritoque. Looking out over the glittering flats of the wetlands and the surreal undulating flow of the giant sand dunes, this posada is a peaceful retreat (the sound of the Pacific is also therapeutic). Activities range from kayaking to yoga, although the best way to admire the scenery is on horseback. Make sure you don’t miss the sunsets and the evening barbecues hosted by owners Osvaldo and Monica.
+56 32 2811451, posadadelparque.cl, doubles from $ 44.50 B&B
El Capullo, Colonia de Sacramento, Río de la Plata
El Capullo is just as cool as it appears on the website: a restored colonial house in a beautiful tree-lined, cobbled street in a quaint little town. The Anglo-American owners, Tom & Kelli, fired up the barbecue for us as we chatted with them into the wee hours, swapping Latin American adventure stories. The back garden is idyllic and has a pool and lovely shady trees. The posada is modern on the inside and full of the owners’ collection of artwork.
+598 4523 0135, elcapullo.com, doubles from $ 110 B&B
Posada al Sur, Montevideo
Not much to look at on the outside but within, a haven of tranquillity and comfort in a beautiful old house with lovely communal areas and a roof terrace. It’s in the old town, a short walk from the ferry terminal to Buenos Aires and to the city centre. If you love meat, head to the parilla restaurants in the Mercado del Puerto on a Saturday.
+598 2916 5287, es.posadaalsur.com.uy, doubles from $ 60, dorms $ 18pp
Casa Sol, Mérida
An amazing posada in the centre of Mérida, the most chilled-out city in Venezuela. With paragliding, walking and climbing in the Andes a short trip from the city, there’s loads to do. The design of the posada is beautiful, with internal courtyards and a tropical garden behind. Breakfast of arepas (flatbreads) with local cheeses and fresh juices is served in the garden, eaten to the sound of hummingbirds up in the trees above your head.
+58 274 2524164, posadacasasol.com. doubles from £85 B&B