Carretera Austral, Km 36
Alerce Andino National Park
Tel: 56 65 286969
Many Patagonian lodges fall within the hard-to-get-to-but-utterly-worth-it category, including this one, set on the border of a national park named for the 4,000-year-old redwoodlike alerce trees. But while its location may qualify as the Unabomber's ultimate fantasy, it's actually (relatively) easy to access. It's 90 minutes by off-road vehicle from Puerto Montt, the unofficial gateway to Patagoniaso if you only have a few days in the area (shame on you!), this is the place. It's still not easy: The roads are bumpy and the final stretch is on a raft across a small lake. The main structure, with six rooms, is constructed from the same 240-foot alerces you'll see outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, and public areas are warmed by a converted steam-train furnace. Three outlying cabins are connected by a network of catwalksguests stutter-step to the main house for meals. You'll need at least two nights to make it worthwhile, but your days will be spent hiking past waterfalls to peaks carpeted with coigüe and mañío trees, or driving down to a nearby rodeo for a rowdy get-together with Chile's huaso cowboys (OctoberApril). The chef produces inventive local fare; the guides are knowledgeable and entertaining; and sore muscles can be rejuvenated in the sauna and hot tub.
Near Isla Magdalena
West of La Junta
Tel: 54 11 4311 1919 (reservations)
Much of Chile's southern coast looks like somebody crumbled up crackers and dropped them into the sea. Bahía Mala is situated among that fragmented landscape south of Puerto Montt. You take a helicopter innot extravagant behavior, since there's no road access and the alternatives are boat or raft. The lodge itself is restrained, with four guest cabins that lord over three miles of private beach (a volcanic combo of black sand and dunes) and overlook a Pacific bay churning with dolphins, orcas, and sea lions. (Now you see why it's worth the bother.) To the east, thousands of acres of jungle are laced with waterfalls, streams, and saltwater lakes and guard the only access to the volcano that towers over the property. Fly-fish on private reaches of Río Bahía Mala or take the lodge's boat to cast at sea. Mountain bikes and sea kayaks are on hand, along with a stable of excellent horses. Included in the price are gourmet food, unlimited alcohol, and all the toysexcept that chopper, which is also on call for heli-fishing trips.
4005 Avenida Siete Lagos
Tel: 54 9 2944 619728
In 1917, when Italian pioneer Primo Capraro erected a wooden lodge in the wilderness of north-shore Lake Nahuel Huapi, the only guests brave enough to sail from Bariloche were hardy fishermen eager to land a record-breaking catch from trout-rich Río Correntoso. Today the river's mouth remains an angler's favorite, but much else has changed: Modern amenities can now be found just two miles east in Villa La Angostura, and only the rods and reels lining the walls hint at the lodge's rustic origins. An elegant interior of exposed stone and hand-carved wood, warmed by numerous crackling fires, leads to 31 rooms—an additional 17 are due for completion in 2009—that overlook the lake and snowcapped cordillera beyond. Guests are encouraged to hike, raft, or saddle up and gallop off by day, but there's enough of a draw in the kitchen's expert preparation of Patagonian staples, the library's early-traveler first editions, and the mosaic-tiled hammam with attached indoor/outdoor pool to merit a few lazy days indoors.
Avenida Bustillo, Km 11.5
San Carlos de Bariloche
Tel: 54 2944 463131
There's nothing particularly Patagonian about El Casco Art Hotel, despite its privileged lakefront location near tourist hub Bariloche. This place sits beneath hikers' favorite Cerro Otto and Lake Nahuel Huapi, a lake so deep and unexplored it's reputed to harbor its own Loch Ness–style monster, Nahuelito. Following a decade's neglect, El Casco was renovated and reopened in 2007. New owner Ignacio Gutiérrez Zaldívar, a Buenos Aires art collector, has opted for quiet refinement over Bariloche's all-too-prevalent pseudo-Bavarian shtick, hanging more than 300 works of modern Argentine art throughout this sober, impeccable property. Comfort triumphs over cutting-edge design in the 33 ample rooms—each named after a contemporary Argentine artist and sporting a series of paintings by its namesake—and and all have a view of the lapwings, cormorants, and upland geese that cluster along the Nahuel Huapi shoreline. In the restaurant, exec chef Fernando Trocca (owner of buzzing Buenos Aires eatery Sucre) lifts Patagonian staples by pairing turkey with truffles, trout with ginger, and duck with roasted figs and fresh blackberries. Other standout features include a heated indoor/outdoor pool that billows steam into the chilly evening air and a winter transfer service for skiers to a private lounge at the foot of the Cerro Catedral slopes.
Argentina 54 11 4311 1919
Tel: 54 11 4311 1919
Set atop the same fossil-striped cliffs that fascinated Charles Darwin 170 years ago, El Pedral Lodge boasts its own stretch of coastline, complete with an elephant seal colony, 45 miles from Puerto Madryn, in the northeast province of Chubut. The main house on the 42,000-acre former sheep farm was built in the 19th century in the Norman style with ornamented balustrades and an ocean-view veranda. There are two standard rooms in the main house and eight suites set back from it, all decorated simply—think well-worn wooden floorboards, antique side tables, and mustard-colored rugs and bedclothes. The founding family's mahogany dining table and iron bathtub are still there, along with a spiral staircase that climbs to a cushion-packed turret commanding uninterrupted views over a half-mile-wide pebble bar—the pedral—to the Atlantic beyond. Guests head out on twice-daily forays by sea kayak, mountain bike, or horse, hoping for a close encounter with gray fox, guanaco, or the elusive mara, a Patagonian hare the size of a small dog, while petrels, albatrosses, and oystercatchers checker the sky overhead.
Ruta Provincial 11, Km 23
Tel: 54 2902 492042
It's difficult to conceive of a property more defined by desolation than Eolo, a rustic, 12,300-acre lodge in the windswept La Anita valley, 18 miles west of El Calafate. Modeled on a traditional sheep farm, the lodge's corrugated zinc walls and gabled roofs protect a central courtyard from the ever-present elements. A homely rusticity pervades the interior, with carved woods, refurbished antiques, and leather- and corduroy-upholstered furniture to immediately set guests at ease. The lodge is close enough to the landmark Perito Moreno glacier to justify a visit, but a simple hike or bike ride across the property can be just as compelling. Entranced by the setting, many guests are content to squint for hours at the peaks of Torres del Paine darkening the distant horizon or to peer through picture windows as icebergs float through an otherwise parched landscape on glacier-fed Lake Argentina.
Pte. Perón 1143
Tel: 54 2902 492 454
A dusty Patagonian steppe town fronting Lake Argentina, El Calafate survives entirely on visitors to the Perito Moreno glacier, 50 miles to the west. Observing its huge columns of ice makes for a compelling day-trip, and the Esplendor can arrange hikes on the glacier itself. Although the hotel's exterior is unattractively boxy, designer Martín Churba has produced a lavish yet uncluttered interior. Flowing canvas drapes, 15-foot leather sofas, and tables of weathered quebracho hardwood section off the ground-floor public areas, and the 57 chocolate-and-burgundy rooms encircling the soaring atrium are Scandinavian in simplicity. Diners can savor Patagonian king crab, venison, or lamb as they gaze over the glacial waters and the gully-scythed mountains beyond.
212 Lionel Terray
Tel: 54 2962 493095
The village of El Chaltén is one of Argentina's hiking capitals, located at the northern end of Los Glaciares National Park and at the base of Patagonia's emblematic Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre peaks, with hiking trails winding in all directions. Owned by Alberto del Castillo, who also runs guiding outfit Fitz Roy Expediciones, 12-room Hostería El Puma is the perfect budget option for hikers who prefer to return to a bit of comfort at nighttime. It's cozy, rustic, and warmed by a crackling fireplace that serves as a meeting place for elated but footsore hikers after a muddy day in the mountains. The emphasis is on comfort rather than design: The brick-walled rooms are heated from beneath the wooden floorboards, and thick duvet bedcovers and powerful showers help keep guests cozy. The views from El Puma stretch across the Río de las Vueltas valley to the house built by El Chaltén's first European settler, Danish pioneer and cartographer Andreas Madsen. Unlike most Argentine lodges, El Puma goes beyond just a coffee and medialuna croissant for breakfast, serving a filling mix of granolas, breads, and cakes to prepare hikers for the day ahead. Local favorites such as fresh Patagonian lamb and trout await guests when they return for dinner.
Closed May through September.
Ruta Provincial 11
Los Glaciares National Park
Tel: 54 2902 499510
El Calafate is a dusty Patagonian steppe town on Lake Argentina, close to the three-mile-wide Perito Moreno glacier, one of 13 that flow into Argentina's two-million-acre Los Glaciares National Park. Each morning, hundreds of tourists drive out to gawk and gasp as huge columns of ice calve and collapse into turquoise meltwaters. But when the day-trippers start on the 50-mile return trip, guests at Los Notros—the only hotel in the national park area that faces the glacier—simply sit back and watch as the setting sun purples the ice. The hotel's cypress and pine exterior blends well with the surrounding Valdivian forest; inside are 32 Jacuzzi-equipped, discreetly decorated rooms and an award-winning restaurant specializing in hearty servings of Patagonian game. The outstanding view and guided excursions—including horseback riding across the steppe, sailing among icebergs, or donning crampons to clamber onto Perito Moreno's crevasse-scythed surface—partly justify the hotel's hefty price tag, but it's still a lot to pay for indifferently decorated rooms and inexperienced staff.
Pedro Montt 262
Tel: 56 61 412 000
Accommodation within Torres del Paine national park is limited to two extremes: the big-price Explora resort or a tent. To find shelter from Patagonia's fickle weather without a big hotel bill, one possibility is to spend part of the time in Puerto Natales and drive the 90-some miles to the park (it's a three-hour drive, though, so you might still want that tent part of the time). Hotel CostAustralis is on Natales's waterfront, and while it's no cozy boutique, its 74 spacious rooms (many with ocean views) are a good value. The hotel's peaked chalet roofs look pilfered from Disney's Magic Kingdom, but the view overlooking Last Hope Sound is superb. Extra points for its restaurant, Paine, with sautéed king crabs directly from the ocean, succulent lamb cuts, and Patagonian specialties such as conger eel, hare stew, and roasted salmon served with a shellfish sauce.
Tel: 56 61 711 000
Because it's so darn hard to get around this part of the world, airports are a big deal. (After spending hours in the back of a 4X4 or in a violently rocking ship, you'll understand why.) Which is why the city of Punta Arenas is important to travelers: It serves as a midpoint between the northerly Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego farther south. If you're traveling that far down, you'll likely be staying a night or two here, for which we suggest this property. The former residence of a rich family that made its profits on wool in the 1800s, the brick edifice on the central Plaza de Armas was completed in 1890. The family filled it with Europe's finest lamps, curtains, carriage clocks, and other adornments. Declared a national monument in 1982, it opened ten years later as a 22-room hotel, and is still crammed with much of the original furniture. The Old World elegance and comfort contrast nicely with the rough-and-tumble treatment you're likely to get on the rest of your trip. The elegance extends to the Club de la Unión bar and the glass-domed Pérgola restaurant, arrayed around an indoor winter garden. And although it's more about overstuffed furniture than modern amenities, it does have Wi-Fi in the lobby.
Torres del Paine National Park
Tel: 56 2 206 6060
No life list is complete without a visit to Torres del Paine National Park. The Explora Group's aim is exactly that: to make this inaccessible area accessible to the average (moneyed) traveler who neither wants to rough it nor is a super-athlete who's able to sprint up mountains. The group upset nature purists in 1993 when it laid the foundations to Hotel Salto Chico on the shore of Lake Pehoé, bang in the center of the park. The idea of a luxury lodge with true First World amenities and great food was unheard of in the region. (Explora's other properties are in the northern Chilean desert of Atacama and on Easter Island.) Daytime activities range from hikes that begin directly from the hotel, horseback or mountain bike rides, or boating on Lake Pehoé. Everyone returns at the end of the day to indulge in local meats such as slow-roasted lamb, fresh ceviche, and wines picked by the Chilean hotel owner. The property itself, with 50 rooms, is a boxy and modernist-looking structure whose wooden-planked exterior blends into the background. The interior uses a mix of local lenga wood, cypress, and slate, and clever lighting and glass that provide peerless views of the park's totemic granite skewers, the Torres del Paine. Rates include transfers from the Punta Arenas airport (be warned—it's around a five-hour drive along bumpy roads), all food, and unlimited use of guides, vehicles, boats, and horses.
Bahía Las Balsas
Villa La Angostura
Tel: 54 2944 494308
Situated on the fir-lined banks of Lake Nahuel Huapi's north shore, Villa La Angostura is unashamedly twee, its main street lined with wooden boardwalks and chinked-log chalets. Visitors come to cast for trout in the streams and lakes accessed from the picturesque Ruta de los Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Drive), practice their downhill at the 21-piste Cerro Bayo ski resort, five miles away; or hike directly from town across a narrow isthmus to Los Arrayanes National Park. Luxury lodge Las Balsas nestles among beech trees and is aimed at those who prefer to top-and-tail their outdoors pursuits with a bit of pampering. All 15 rooms and suites overlook a private jetty and boathouse on one of the lake's prettiest bays. After enjoying the great outdoors by day, guests return each night to sip a well-chosen malbec in a candlelit nook; sample the Patagonian trout, venison, and lamb paired with wild mushrooms, scallops, and forest fruits by chef Pablo Campoy; or soothe aching muscles in the well-equipped, stone-built spa next door.
1650 Avenida Luis Fernando Martial
Tel: 54 2901 430710
Set on beech-carpeted slopes two miles above Ushuaia, Las Hayas affords sweeping views of the city, the Beagle Channel, and the mysterious peaks of Chile's Isla Navarino beyond. The building's layout is designed to squeeze maximum mileage from the imposing location: A comfortable lounge stretches the length of the building; the bar, fireside den, and formal restaurant (specializing in local delicacies such as black hake and king crab) all share the same view. Within, wallpaper and upholstery can be startlingly florid, but the 93 rooms are light-filled and spacious, service is impeccable, and the well-equipped health club boasts one of Ushuaia's few decent swimming pools as well as a sauna, hot tubs, and squash court.
Av. Ezequiel Bustillo km, 25
San Carlos de Bariloche
Tel: 54 2944 448530
Anticipate "a lush landscape"Nahuel Huapi National Parkand "fabulous, joy-inducing vistas" of mountain and lakes. Constructed with cypress, hemlock, and green stone, the "well-kept property exudes an exclusive hunting lodge feel," with patterned carpets and woven fabrics among Argentine country furniture. Suites in dark wood tones have canopied poster beds. An à la carte lunch is offered at Patagonia, where "the food is delicious."
National Route 234 KM 57.5
San Martín de los Andes , Patagonia
Tel: 54 11 525266
Overlooking a forest of Oregon pine, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, and the north face of Mount Chapelco, this gable-roofed property may be set amid the untamed Patagonian wilderness, but there's nothing untamed about the hotel. Situated in a 560-acre gated community, it attracts those more interested in smart decor and safety than full immersion in Patagonian culture. The terra cotta-and stone interior with burnished and buffed wooden furnishings maximizes the hotel's biggest asset: its bucolic view. All 85 tastefully outfitted rooms, with a cavernous sitting room warmed by a crackling fire, face the mountain, as do the two restaurants, where local trout, venison, and wild boar are expertly prepared. There are tubs and scrubs aplenty in the slick spa, game rooms for kids, and, while golfing guests rarely need leave the property, capable staff can organize rafting and fly fishing excursions on the nearby Río Quilquihue. The more-venturesome can gallop through Lanín National Park, ascend 12,500-foot Volcán Lanín's icy cone, or, in winter, ski Chapelco resort, and return for a sundowner on the hotel's mountain-facing terrace.
1352-1370 Los Gauchos
Tel: 54 11 4348 5189
A single night at Casa Los Sauces costs three times the average monthly wage of an Argentine workerironic, considering the hotel is owned by the country's left-leaning president, Cristina Kirchner, whose private retreat sits mere yards from the hotel's eight-acre lawn, itself bravely coaxed from the Patagonian steppe. Providing high levels of comfort in such hostile terrain is expensive, of course: The three iron-roofed houses, modeled on traditional Patagonian sheep farms, are updated with underfloor heating, power showers, and impeccable insulation. Guests are met at the airport by a personal assistant and a driver and whisked straight to their room, where yet more assistants await, clutching champagne. The 18 ample accommodations are decorated with flowery throws and antique furniture, and open onto a private sitting room with a vast fireplace. Rise at dawn for a clamber on the Perito Moreno glacier, 50 miles to the west, or summit one of the nearby peaks accompanied by in-house guides toting a gourmet picnic. Blissful, light-filled evenings are spent gazing at scudding clouds while relaxing in the well-equipped spa or wavering between the king crab and the lobster in the exemplary restaurant.
2369 Avenida Siete Lagos
Villa La Angostura , Neuquén
Tel: 54 29 4449 5641
Perched on a steeply sloped lakeside lot a mile from Villa La Angostura's chinked-log cabins and gourmet food stores, the eight-room Luma overlooks some of the most compelling scenery in Nahuel Huapi National Park: lake waters of deepest azure, untouched forests of southern beech, and serried, snowcapped peaks. Within the handsome sandstone building are pleasantly sparse furnishings, iron radiators, pastel-shaded walls of distressed plaster, beams of rough-hewn cypress, and old-fashioned bathrooms with claw-foot tubs. The chatty, well-traveled staff give the place a lived-in feel. After preparing a generous breakfast of cherries, tartlets, and homemade scones, they send guests out to cast for trout, saddle up for a foray, or simply gaze at the Andean condors soaring overhead. Evenings are spent by the stone fireplace in the open sitting room or in the cozy, candlelit restaurant, where guests take afternoon tea or dine on locally caught shrimp or fish.
1326 Ernesto Riquelme
Palafitos de Gamboa
Castro , Chiloé Island
Tel: 56 65 530 053
Built among the humble homes of fishermen and craftsmen, this unique 12-room charmer is a modern interpretation of the palafitoa stilted wood house that is a symbol of the unspoiled Chiloé archipelago in southern Chile. Recycled larch shingles and hand-carved doors from the original building complement the traditional wool Chilote blankets and decorative carvings and sculptures. Arrays of windows deliver ample light as well as views of Castro, the capital of Chiloé Province, and its bay, a popular hangout for black-neck swans and kingfishers. Service is simplejust a single attendant at the front deskbut is ultimately forgivable as he or she is ready to stoke the communal fireplace or help you scout out the opening times of Chiloé's UNESCO World Heritage wood-shingle churches.
Ruta 9 Norte
Tel: 56 2 387 1500
The pretty Patagonian fishing village of Puerto Natalesskuas, petrels, and albatross whirling overheadis isolated from the rest of Chile by fjords, canals, and inlets, with the peaks of the Torres del Paine park visible just over 40 miles away. Amid this ode to nature, iconoclastic Chilean architect Germàn del Sol has threaded a group of severe edifices, their blackened wood-and-felt exteriors echoing the basalt strata of the Torres del Paine massif: Weight-bearing spars are vertically skewed, giant ventilation shafts protrude, windows are jagged-cut. The 72 ample-sized guest rooms, done in slate and untreated wood with vibrant sunflower-yellow accents, are in structures that zigzag with the sloping ground. A factory-sized building houses the lobby, reading rooms, and restaurant (locally caught seafood is a specialty). The impressive spa includes two ten-person saunas and an infinity pool that reflects Patagonia's constantly changing skies.
Camino Chile Chico, Km 1.5
Tel: 56 2 235 1519
This inland lodge sits on the shores of a beautiful lake, Lago General Carrera. Nearby is an immense ice field, the Campos de Hielo Norte, and 13,300-foot Mount San Valentin. We'd say that the Terra Luna Lodge gets full points for location, but, well, don't they all? But we do love this property: Guests have the choice of the main lodge with four "apartments" (two bedrooms and a living room), several separate bungalows, or a stand-alone house. In the heat of summer, it's an ideal setting to put down your travel-jostled bones and muse, Thoreau-like, on nature as you take in the views of the glacier-fed turquoise lake and the ice-carved peaks. Enterprising guests can fish the trout-rich Río Baker or buzz the northern ice field in a small plane, and by night sip a Pisco Sour while frolicking in the waterside hot tub. You can also drive west from the lodge for 30 miles to a knoll where the dense forests of lenga and arrayán open to afford an uninterrupted vista of Mount San Valentín.
Ruta Provincial 7 - Picada 6
San Patricio del Chañar , Neuquén
Tel: 800 525 4800 (toll-free)
Tel: 54 11 4343 3350
In a large oasis in the underexplored Patagonian plateau, former peach orchards are being transformed into vineyards. This 18-room hotel has been ingeniously draped around a working winery, its exterior of sandstone and textured concrete blending with the arid, stony soil. Sumptuous rooms, furnished in darkly austere wood and alligator leather, open onto rows of imaginatively lit oak barrels in the cellar. Viticulture is of course the theme here: Estate-bottled wines accompany wild boar and venison in the superlative restaurant, vinotherapy scrubs headline the spa treatments, and personable staff conduct impromptu bodega tours or happily direct guests to neighboring wineries. Regulars can even make their own blend, storing their creations until the next visit.