Hotel Salto Chico, Explora en Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park $$$$
Concierge.com's insider take:
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.
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