The Essential Patagonia

Explore Patagonia’s epic wilderness in style. We’ve curated a list of the most fabulous hotels in the region as well as the top outfitters and guides to take you into the wild.

Highlights
Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica, Chile
Hiking the French Valley is part of the W-trek through Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. It’s about 16 mi round-trip from Refugio Paine Grande to the French Valley Mirador, to see the French Glacier and the Paine Massif as close as you can get. The trail is diverse and only reaches a steep height at the last 5.5 km on the way there. You begin at Lago Pehoe and take grassy paths through the forested valley, on an terrain that the locals call “Patagonia flat,” i.e. an undulating up and down of several feet. On the way you’ll see tiny magenta--and edible--berries that taste just like apples; you’ll cross small glacial streams where you can fill up your water bottle with fresh, wild water. You’ll trek right by the Cuernos, or the “Horns,” another well-known set of peaks in Torres del Paine. Over the French River you go as you get deeper into the valley, over wobbly rope bridges. The final 5.5 km to the French Valley Mirador has you balancing on thousands of loose boulders on your way up. The very top of the trek feels like being in the middle of a Patagonian fishbowl: Paine Massif to your left, French Glacier in front, the Aleta de Tiburon (the Shark’s Fin) and the Cuernos to the right, and turquoise Lago Pehoe behind you. The weather up there turns freezing since you’re so close to the glacier, so make sure to wear all your layers once you stop. The whole trek takes about 10 hours with a group. On the way back, be prepared for crazy weather patterns as you go in between the mountain passes in the afternoon; it can turn windy, rainy, cold, then sunny all in the same hour.
Km 5, 5 Norte S/N, Natales, Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena, Chile
If there were ever a hotel with history, it’s the Singular Patagonia. Opened as a hotel in November 2011, the original building once served as a post-Victorian cold-storage factory built by the British in 1915 for the purpose of processing sheep’s wool and meat to be shipped back to England. Overlooking the waters of Last Hope Sound, the long, red-brick building is located just outside the town of Puerto Natales. After operating for almost 70 years as a factory, it was declared a national historic landmark before being transformed into a luxury hotel.

History is by no means forgotten. The hallways are still stocked with brightly colored machinery—from steam condensers to boilers and forges—all stamped with the name of the British city in which they were built: Derby, Birmingham, London, or Glasgow. Designed by Chilean interior designer Enrique Concha and local architect Pedro Kovacic, the 57 bedrooms stretch along a new wing that was added to the original buildings, and these rooms are furnished with Victorian-inspired furniture.
Hotels
Fundo Sierra Nevada S/N, Machalí, Región del Libertador Gral. Bernardo O’Higgins, Chile
About a two-and-a-half hour drive from Santiago (or 30 minutes by helicopter), Puma Lodge is located in the Andean foothills near the Argentine border. The lodge is part of the Chilean-owned Noi hotel group, which also has properties in Patagonia, Atacama, Santiago, and more. Opened in 2011, Puma Lodge has a ski chalet feel, with wooden interiors and a large fireplace in the middle of the bar and lounge area. The 24 rooms are all the same category, and the design is simple and comfortable with touches such as colorful throws and local artwork.

Many guests choose Puma Lodge for the heli-skiing, but there’s plenty on offer year-round and for the less intrepid traveler. Activities include hiking, horseback riding, or heading out for a picnic lunch by the river. There’s also an on-site spa, yoga studio, and wine cave. Outdoor hot tubs are great after skiing, and a swimming pool is a draw in the summer months.
Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena Region, Chile
Consisting of 25 domes, EcoCamp was inspired by the round houses of ancient tribes that formerly inhabited the area now known as Torres del Paine National Park. There are three categories of domes, all made from green plastic with sheer windows. Standard domes feature twin or double beds and a shared, campsite-style bathroom. Standard domes don’t have central heating and can be nippy in the Patagonian climate. Superior domes have gas heaters and en suite bathrooms. The suite domes are similar to the superior rooms, but have wood-burning stoves (and the suite dome loft has two floors). Domes are connected by raised wooden walkways for minimal environmental impact. Communal meals and pre-excursion briefings take place in the central community dome.
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