Patagonia is a region in the Southern Cone of Latin America which comprises the countries of Argentina and Chile. It is universally revered as a world class hiking destination. The exact border of the region is ambiguous but broadly parallels the routes of the Barranca and Colorado Rivers of Argentina and the Huincul Fault of Chile. The primary destinations for visitors lie within the sanctuaries of Los Glaciares National Park and Torres del Paine National Park. Los Glaciares National Park holds the attractions of Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate and further north El Chaltén is the gateway to massif of Fitzroy and Cerro Torre. A southbound drive of about 4 ½ hours leads you to the second park of Torres del Paine. All of these parks hold their very own treasures of unrivalled natural beauty. Distances are large, and to see all on offer requires multiple stopovers en route. To find the best bases to explore from, let’s appraise the best unique properties and luxury lodges in Southern Patagonia.
Unique Properties: El Chaltén Patagonia
Flying from Buenos Aires we arrive to El Calafate, the gateway to the land of the glaciers. To reach the most northerly point of our lodge exploration we drive 3 ½ to 4 hours to reach the region of El Chaltén at the northern frontier of Los Glaciares National Park. Here lie the immensities of the Fitzroy mountain massif which is the magnet that enamours lovers of the great outdoors from across the globe. We suggest two special accommodations as perfect bases of exploration:
Explora El Chaltén
This (new for 2021) high- end lodge is set in a secluded valley at Los Huemules Natural Reserve almost 11 miles (18 km) north of El Chaltén village. Explora lodges are renowned for their focus as expedition lodges with luxury elements woven into their offerings. It holds twenty accommodations, comprising three large suites of 60m² (646 sq. ft) and seventeen standard rooms of 36m² (388 sq. ft.) all with jacuzzi baths. This lodge boasts a large spa with hydro-massage, sauna and massage room, full restaurant and bar.
Activities Explora El Chaltén
Daily guided excursions with a maximum of eight people are available in nearby Los Huemeles and beyond to Fitzroy, Cerro Torre. The Fitzroy and Cerro Torre are essential treks here. Further south, and still within Los Glaciares National Park, be sure to enjoy explorations such as Perito Moreno Glacier and Ice Trekking at Uppsala Glacier. The guided adventures can be full day or half day and cater for all ages of children to seniors for the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation.
Chaltén Camp Patagonia
One of the very best unique glamping options in El Chaltén is with Chaltén Camp. This mid-range option is set on the riverbank of Rio de Las Vueltas a short distance from El Chaltén village. It offers a true escape from the masses in a glamping site of just four geodesic domes which comprise three accommodations of 280 sq. ft. (26 m2) and a main dome 861 ft2 (80m2) for dining and fireside chats. If you want solitude and immersion in nature this is the place. The domes have cosy comfortable beds, solid fuel stoves and on-site meals available. The views are superb commanding a view of the Fitzroy Massif across the valley. These domes are best suited to those seeking comfortable glamping but one must remember that late at night they cool down and you are not staying in a five-star hotel. Basic 12 v charging for a USB in domes and 110/220v in main dome. Limited Wi-Fi.
Activities: Chaltén Camp Patagonia
Nicolas and his staff ensure a warm friendly vibe with great local advice and flexibility in hiking, fishing, biking and even a trip down to the local Madsen Museum. This former abode of the Danish explorer Andreas Madsen is an amazing cultural insight to the history of this region. We recommend you read the full review of Chaltén Camp and activities by clicking here.
Unique Properties: Torres del Paine Patagonia
Explora Salto Chico Patagonia Chile
Explora Lodge Salto Chico Chile has an idyllic setting on the shoreline of Lake Pehoe with spectacular views of the ridge and granite Towers of Paine. The drive to Explora Patagonia from Punta Arenas Airport (Chile) is about 4 ½ hours and from El Calafate (Argentina) about 5 hours (border crossing on this route). In true Explora style the lodge is fitted with what are termed essential luxuries but a focus upon explorations of the magnificent natural setting. The lodge welcomes children and families but do note that modern technology takes a back seat to mother nature’s offerings in the country air.
There are 49 rooms at Explora Lodge Salto Chico Chile comprising six Exploradores Suites of 450 feet sq. (42m²) with views of the Paine Massif. These are the largest rooms at the property. Next, we have seven Salto Chico Rooms of 330 sq. ft. (28m²) with views of the Salto Chico waterfall. Finally, thirty-six Cordillera Paine Rooms of 300 sq. ft. (28m²) with views of the Paine Massif. We recommend seeking the suites or rooms with the views of Paine Massif. The hotel spa is a short walk from the main building and is equipped with a massage room and heated pool, sauna and the ultimate pleasure of whirlpool baths overlooking the river below. An Explorer’s Bar exists for refreshments and due to the lack of TV’s in rooms it proves a popular social point at the end of a hard day in the mountain air. Please note that there is no Wi-Fi or television in rooms, only common areas of the hotel.
Activities Explora Salto Chico Patagonia Chile
Torres del Paine is simply rivers, lakes, mountains and glaciers. Any possible activity within those will be done and there are over forty variations with full day and half day options. On arrival, discuss with the guides on your own favourites and create a plan. Some examples include daily hikes of the famed W Circuit, French Valley and Lago Grey (Grey Lake). For those of an equestrian penchant, just fifteen minutes’ drive away there are twenty-six stabled horses under the care of Frenchwoman Gaela Hourcq. These animals have been specially bred over the years to undertake all the trekking trails locally with consummate ease. Also, Estancia 2 de enero (January 2nd) ranch is an 14, 826-acre (6,000 hectare) property of Explora lodge located some 33 miles (53 km) from the lodge. Here also lies the Quincho where you can enjoy a local traditional barbecue meal.
Click here to view an exceptional itinerary that includes Explora Lodge Salto Chico Patagonia.
Lago Grey Hotel
Lago Grey Hotel is located within the Torres del Paine National Park. The transfer times from arrivals are Punta Arenas 4 ½ hours, Puerto Natales 1h 50m and Cerro Castillo 1h 45m, near the Argentina Chilean border. We classify this as a 3.5-star hotel which offers excellent accommodations in a comfortable environment. It boasts sixty rooms split among Standard Rooms of 215ft2 (20m2) and Superior Rooms of 323 ft2 (30m2) with Lake Views. The Superior Rooms are worth the additional price for the views. Free wi-fi in public areas, TV’s in bedrooms, a bar and restaurant. Children welcome at this hotel and minors can often get great deals with parents. This hotel is not a luxury hotel but does all that is required. Namely, good location, good service, good food, clean, comfortable, affordable and great tours.
Activities Lago Grey Hotel
The excursions can be full day or half day outings and can be arranged on arrival at the hotel. The routes can be selected to suit young and old on all levels of activity. Some notable ones that we recommend are Lago Grey III lake boating and the Condor Lookout for easy options. Full day excursions should include the Waterfalls & Lookout Points and the Torres Base Trek, or the French Valley Trek as must do hikes.
To view a sample itinerary that includes Lago Grey Hotel please click here.
Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa
This uniquely designed hotel is hidden in the landscape of the pampas at Lake Sarmiento overlooking Torres del Paine. Hunkered into the landscape like a huge windswept fossil it is located 4 ½ hours by road from Punta Arenas Airport in Chile. From El Calafate in Argentina the route takes about a similar time including the border crossing formalities. The accommodations are forty rooms consisting of 34 Superior of 387 ft2(36 m2), 3 Standard of 387 ft2(36 m2) and 3 split level Suites of 549 ft2 (52 m2). Interconnecting rooms can create Family Apartments of 775 ft2 (72m2) which can sleep six people. All rooms have views across the lake to Torres del Paine. Wi-Fi only available in common areas of hotel and no televisions in bedrooms. The Uma Spa offers full spa treatment, indoor pool and an outdoor jacuzzi.
Activities Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa
Tierra Patagonia is located just outside the National Park of Torres del Paine. There are both full day and half day excursions which can be discussed and selected upon arrival at the hotel. Our favourites for full day excursions include Hiking to the Base of the Towers of Paine, Paso de Agostini hike, Sailing the Grey Glacier & Tour Torres del Paine or a day Fly Fishing. Half day excursions, why not live the thrill of mountain biking at Cañadón Macho, explore the Geology of Lake Sarmiento, Horse Riding at Entre Lagos or explore the ancient cultures along the Hunters Trail. For the very best advice on individual needs, combination tours and activities contact your expert adviser here.
Awasi Patagonia is located outside the Torres del Paine National Park some five hours by road from Punta Arenas, two hours from Puerto Natales and five hours from El Calafate (Argentina).This is a Relais & Chateaux property and as such you can be assured of a luxurious ambiance. Yet, the fourteen villas have a grounded air that is in keeping with its unique harmonious setting. The villas are parcelled about the landscape up to 1312 ft. (400m) from the main lodge, transportation available as required. The interior of each Standard Villa is 263 ft2 (80m2) and is appointed with a wood burning stove and private outdoor hot tub. One double Master Villa of 459 ft2 (140m2) is then crowning glory. There is no spa onsite, but massages are available after a long day trekking in the mountains. The locally sourced culinary creations of chef Matías Crosta are highly renowned and a reason alone to visit this wonderful hotel. Wi-Fi in communal areas only, no televisions in rooms. Children >10 years are welcome and additional beds are available.
Activities Awasi Patagonia
In typical Awasi fashion, each villa is assigned a dedicated guide and 4WD vehicle. Tours are just you and the guide with private vehicle, which offers unrivalled flexibility in planning and delivery. Full day excursions typically last 6 – 10 hours and half day ones from 2- 5 hours. These can be into the Torres del Paine National Park (a must see) and other local excursions. The huge range of options is conveniently categorised A- E. Those trips in Category A have the furthest travel times of two hours from the hotel. We recommend you avoid these ones and spend time on the mountains. The variety includes hiking, mountain biking, fishing, palaeontology trails, horseback riding and so forth. Our top favourites French Valley Hike, Torres Base Hike, Contreras Gemitas Hike and Puesto El Mercado Horseback.
Unique Property: Los Glaciares El Calafate
EOLO Patagonia’s Spirit
The region of El Calafate is home to the famed glaciers of Perito Moreno, Uppsala and Spegazzini glaciers. The distance by land transfer from El Chaltén is 2 ½ hours and 5 hours from Torres del Paine. By air you can reach Buenos Aires in 3 hrs. 15m, Ushuaia 1 hr., Trelew 1 ½ hrs and Bariloche 1 ½ hours. It is a popular tourist region and yet true unique luxury lodges are non-existent with one exception, EOLO Patagonia’s Spirit.
This is a privileged property set on 10,000 acres and just twenty-five minutes from El Calafate. The lodge holds four communal areas and just seventeen rooms. These are categorised as Superior 400 ft² (37m2), Premium 520 ft² (48m2) and Corner 520 ft² (48m2). Amenities include Wi-Fi in rooms, sauna, yoga, massage room, jacuzzi, full restaurant and wine cellar. There is no spa per se, but it has many of the elements as noted above. No televisions in are provided rooms. Children >12 years are welcome.
Activities EOLO Patagonia’s Spirit
The lodge is less than an hour’s drive from the UNESCO Los Glaciares National Park and for sure some of your adventures will lead you there. The most popular are Perito Moreno Glacier, Spegazzini Glacier, Uppsala Glacier, Ice Trekking, Fly Fishing, Kayaking, Lake Boating, and ventures to El Chaltén to explore the mighty Fitzroy and Cerro Torre peaks. We particularly recommend the Glaciar Sur Pioneros excursion to Perito Moreno and the Estancia Cristina 4X4 excursion. Closer to the lodge you can partake in horseback riding, mountain biking, ziplining, 4X4 drives and trekking. It is a lodge too that invites you to sit back, enjoy a glass of wine, read a book and gaze out at the beautiful untainted rolling landscape.
An exceptional itinerary that includes EOLO can be viewed by clicking here.
Best Time to Visit Patagonia
Prime season is December to February, with long hours of daylight but also some busy trails. Shoulder months of October- November and March – April are a little chillier but are less crowded, in a relative sense. Many (but not all) accommodations close in winter season, approximately May to September. There are still opportunities to do shorter treks in less windy conditions, ice trekking at El Calafate, or skiing up in Bariloche, and so much more. Any visit to Patagonia comes with a caveat of changeable weather, and it is cool whatever the time of year. This however adds to the wild untamed beauty of Patagonia. Your month of travel will be determined by the sub region you visit and any additional forays into Argentina and Chile. We recommend you contact your expert travel planner (see below) for the best advice.
When choosing accommodations, the first point to consider is how much time do you have to explore Patagonia? To visit El Chaltén, Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares would require about twelve days at a reasonable pace. Most travellers will stay for four to seven days in Patagonia. Four to five is perfect for a one lodge stay for example. You must note that distance are large, allow days for the logistics of travelling in and out, that’s the biggest failing of many travellers. If you come this far you must dedicate time to absorb and experience your setting in this regal sanctuary of nature.
Which is the best unique property or lodge in Southern Patagonia? The value for each person is an individual choice. If luxury is a prominent aspect then you choose properties such as Explora, EOLO, Tierra and Awasi. They deliver airs of high-end comfort and solitude from the masses, all along with great excursions. However, this luxury comes with a significant price, and it is arguable if one really gets that premium from the stay. The destinations such as Lago Grey, Chaltén Camp and others in their category provide access to the same nature but at considerably less cost. Younger travellers may love to go glamping, but seniors may be more reluctant. Senior travellers have different needs and you can learn about these by clicking the link here. The properties such as EOLO have very limited spaces and so booking a year out and more is very common. Some people come to Patagonia for adventure alone and if that is your main requisite then the high-end lodges are less pressing. However, many come to Patagonia to lose themselves in nature and to escape to their inner being. In these cases, smaller remote lodges are second to none.
We hope the outline information in this article gives some creative inspiration but do remember that nothing beats human experience. Whatever your preference your experienced travel adviser will be glad to advise on creating the ultimate experience. Totally Latin America have preferential select rates not available online with all lodges and hotels included in this article. Click here to learn more and begin your great adventure.
“Because it’s there.” (George Mallory)
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