Above: Aqua Mare, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador - STEVIE MANN

Best in Class

<i>Aqua Mare</i>, The Galápagos - Stevie Mann

Certain hotels we visit deserve special recognition for excelling in one particular aspect of note. This year, we also greatly expanded our cruise coverage, and we tested out a few villa-style properties as well.

Most Charming Hotel: Hacienda Zuleta

Imbabura, Ecuador

Women embroidering on the cobblestone square, Hacienda Zuleta - Hasselblad H5D

Tucked away in the Andean Highlands on a 4,000-acre working farm, this serene retreat has a rich history as the property of two Ecuadorian presidents, a father and son. The estate remains under the private ownership of the family of former president Galo Plaza, and the atmosphere is that of a residence rather than a hotel. Family photos, original colonial-era furnishings and linens hand-embroidered by women in the surrounding Indigenous communities are on display throughout this carefully preserved hacienda. The genuinely warm service, inviting décor and community-based experiences all encourage guests to make themselves at home and immerse themselves in the region’s traditional culture. We could not have been more at ease during our stay at this enchanting property that seamlessly blends history, culture and nature.

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