Six of the best: Colombian designer hotels

BOVEDAS DE SANTA CLARA

CARTAGENA

This restored colonial mansion with its crisp white exterior and blue shutters, in the swish San Diego neighbourhood of historic Cartagena, has a chic industrial interior. There are 18 spacious rooms; eight duplex suits and 10 luxury rooms all with kitchenettes, Egyptian 300-thread cotton sheets, pillow menu, kitchenettes and LED cable televisions. Some have balconies with views of the Caribbean. Upstairs is a rooftop terrace with jacuzzi, downstairs is a chic bar and all guests have access to the facilities of the adjacent Sofitel Cartagena Santa Clara, which has its own resident toucan, Mateo. Double rooms from $359.

See bovedasdesantaclara.com.

B.O.G. HOTEL

BOGOTA

Don't be put off by the name. Design Hotel's 55-room B.O.G Hotel in fashionable north Bogota packs a style punch. A stark exterior belies sumptuous interiors by famed Portuguese designer Nini Andrade Silva, inspired by Colombia's natural treasures - gold and emeralds. Bronze, green, and silver feature in the guest rooms, with cowhide chairs, cloud-like beds and oversized showers with gold tiles. They do, however, err on the darker side. The downstairs lounge bar delivers a knock-out martini. Or head for the rooftop terrace with heated pool. Superior queen rooms from $199 including breakfast.

See boghotel.com.

HOTEL DE LA OPERA

BOGOTA

This charming boutique hotel sits next to the Palacio de Narino (Presidential Palace) and the imposing Plaza de Bolivar in the revitalised La Candelaria district. A heavy police and army presence on arrival was due to the presidential election, not the safety of the neighbourhood. A warm welcome awaited jet-lagged travellers. My elegant room with polished boards and wooden shutters was one of 42 in a pair of historic townhouses. While the shower in my room struggled to provide hot water, some rooms have baths. Breakfast is a simple buffet and there's a small spa on site. Standard twin colonial rooms from $163.

See hotelopera.com.

MEDELLIN ROYAL HOTEL

MEDELLIN

This could be yet another sterile corporate hotel but the efficient staff and hotel mascot Achilles - a beautiful black schnauzer - lift it to another level. The 125-room, five-star hotel is located on a hill in Medellin's exclusive (and safe) El Poblado district. Rooms are bright and contemporary and feature everything a modern traveller might need. The terrace pool is a nice spot to take in views of the Medellin skyline; it's adjacent to the restaurant, where staff go out of their way to deliver what you need - even if you can't speak a word of Spanish. Superior rooms from $160.

See medellinroyal.com.

ANANDA BOUTIQUE HOTEL

CARTAGENA

Formerly a 16th-century family house at the heart of the walled city of Cartagena, the Ananda offers 24 suites, some opening to an inner courtyard, while larger suites have streetside balconies. The entrance is through a thick unmarked wooden door, which opens to reveal alfresco dining under an almond tree and an inviting main pool beneath soaring stone walls on three sides. Stepping from the cool, serene surrounds of the hotel, you can lose yourself on the bustling city streets. After a day's exploring, the tiered rooftop terrace with plunge pool is a great spot to catch the sunset. Deluxe suites from $540 including breakfast.

See anandacartagena.com.

HACIENDA SAN JOSE

PEREIRA

This enchanting hacienda offers a glimpse into colonial life, within easy reach of Salento and the Cocora Valley in Colombia's coffee triangle. There are eight spacious rooms. Some feature baths with open windows framed by purple bougainvillea, and overlook either the grounds or the pool. There's an on-site restaurant and a bar built from old suitcases where friendly staff serve up excellent mojitos. Hummingbirds flit across grounds dotted with ancient kapok, calabashes and rain trees. Only intermittent plane traffic dampens the tranquillity. Standard rooms from $135 a person in low season, including breakfast.

See haciendahotelsanjose.com.

The writer was a guest of LAN Airlines and the South America Travel Centre.

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