Hotel Cumbres Lastarria, Santiago, Chile
One of four hotels run by the small Chilean hotel chain Cumbres ("peak" in Spanish), the Cumbres Lastarria, which opened in 2015, is in the hippest street of one of Santiago's most happening neighbourhoods: JV Lastarria in Barrio Lastarria, both named after 19th century Chilean writer Jose Victorino Lastarria. It's also halfway between two parks, both a five-minute stroll away: the hillside Santa Lucia that has castles and a Japanese garden, and Parque Forestal on the south side of the river Mapocho, which flows east-west through the city.
The eight-storey facade with its geometric design is chic, contemporary and distinctive, making it easy to find when you stumble back to your room late at night after a few glasses of Chilean wine. It's reassuring to see a doorman/security guard manning the high glass doors at the entrance and 24-hour reception; Santiago is regularly ranked as one of the safest cities in Latin America, but petty crime still happens. The lobby has a sultry Tapas Bar on one side, all high black stools with sky-high windows looking onto a large courtyard that opens onto the street. There's also an on-site gym and spa and a small rooftop pool with city views.
My standard double room on level three is a mix of modernism and tradition. The first thing you notice is the frosted glass divider between bedroom and bathroom patterned with the hotel's bespoke geometric design. Then there's the wall-sized digital print behind the bed: it's a painting by Chilean artist Pedro Lira in 1888, Fundacion de Santiago por Pedro de Valdivia, and a nod to the hotel's bohemian roots and arty neighbours (see below). In all other respects, it's a fairly standard albeit high-end room with flatscreen TV, free Wi-Fi, rainwater shower, espresso machine, bathrobes and French Algotherm cosmetique marine toiletries.
At check-in, guests receive a voucher for a welcome drink of Chilean wine at the hotel's Tapas Bar. The other restaurant onsite is Punto Ocho ("Point Eight") on the top floor that features Mediterranean fare and has an open kitchen, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lastarria and two terraces; on a clear day you can see the Andes from there. The breakfast buffet is comprehensive enough to stop you going to a nearby cafe, with excellent coffee, fresh pastries, delicious cooked offerings and a surprising array of fresh fruit for a city hotel.
By the time I've checked in and freshened up after my overnight flight from Melbourne, it's almost 11pm – not too late for dinner in Lastarria. You're spoiled for choice in this neighbourhood: just down the street are award-winning restaurants such as Bocanariz wine bar, Republica Independiente del Pisco and Sur Patagonico, as well as lesser known great restaurants and bars, some with outdoor tables in cobbled courtyards. If you want to kick on after midnight, stroll across the river to Bellavista, Lastarria's wilder sibling.
By day Lastarria is a European-style neighbourhood to explore on foot, with cafes, historic residential and public buildings, parks and art museums galore – including the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art (mac.uchile.cl) and the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts (mnba.cl), both in the impressive neoclassical Palacio de Bellas Artes building; the Museum of Visual Arts (mavi.cl); and the Gabriel Mistral cultural centre for performing arts (gam.cl).
With its central-but-quiet location, first-class service and design features that help it blend into its arty surroundings, Hotel Cumbres Lastarria ticks all the boxes for a distinctive, five-star stopover in Santiago.
Hotel Cumbres Lastarria, Jose Victorino Lastarria 299, Santiago, Chile. Rooms from $US169 including breakfast and Wi-Fi. See cumbreslastarria.com
Waking up to birdsong in Chile's largest city, and mountain views from the breakfast buffet.
Being able to hear the shower in the room next door and almost no English-language content on the TV.
Louise Southerden travelled as a guest of LATAM Airlines and Adventure World.