Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, Villa La Angostura, Neuquen, Patagonia
The Nahuel Huapi Lake and mountain landscape that frames San Carlos de Bariloche makes for stunning scenery. But if you're headed in that direction its worth it to consider escaping the throng of tourists that flock to Bariloche by journeying only about an hour's drive to the western end of lake. There lies Hotel Correntoso in a privileged setting among some of the very best of Patagonia's spectacular natural vistas. This hotel's location is absolutely panoramic. It is situated lakeside and across the water from a national park, at the crossroads of two other lakes, and alongside the small but bountiful Correntoso River, which for years has enthralled fly fishermen.
At Hotel Correntoso, located five minutes outside the budding resort town Villa la Angostura (where smaller Las Balsas is also located), you will slip into tranquility. Perhaps best of all, at this historic hotel—founded in 1917, but the present building was built in 1936 and its interior was extensively remodeled in 2003—you're likely to forget you're in a hotel altogether. The homey décor, large living room and Patagonia–themed library, and laid back staff can make you feel at times as if you're staying in a friend's Patagonian country house.
Of course, a key feature for any good hotel is its restaurant, and Relais & Chateaux affiliated Hotel Correntoso does just fine in that area. In the warmest months, from November through March the hotel has two restaurants with a smaller restaurant located below the main building on the shores of the lake. Guests can enjoy a table outside at night there below their own heated canopy to ward off the chilly Patagonian nights. But a more sophisticated menu is offered throughout the year in the main restaurant, which also offers astounding views from its large plate glass windows. The lunch and dinner menus are a unique fusion of Patagonia and Mediterranean–styled cooking of trout, chicken, beef or pork. My favorite dish was a thick rib eye steak served in a light creole sauce of onions and tomatoes alongside an excellent baked potato filled with cheese. The wine list was ample. I was pleasantly surprised by a smooth reserve malbec made by Fin del Mundo, a young Patagonia–based winery in the same Nequen region as the hotel.
In a nice touch, after dinner you're invited to drink your coffee and eat dessert in the adjoining living room. Like the dining room, the floors and walls are a blonde native wood and the varied furniture shaped by local craftsmen pours on more of the rustic feel. Many of the couches are covered with fox or other animal skins. In the center of the living room, across from a large fireplace, is a small library with mostly large exhibit–format photo books of Patagonian landscapes or historical tomes on native culture.
Like the rest of the hotel, the 31 rooms, while complete with all the amenities you'd expect from a modern hotel in this price range, still make you feel as if you're a guest in someone's home. Every room, whether it's a suite or standard, offers the same rustic décor. The only substantive difference between the rooms are their size and vantage point of the lake or mountains. The best bets are the seven rooms on the ground floor, which are suites, each having their own porch overlooking the lake. The entire hotel has a first–class Wi–Fi internet connection. A few rooms on the top floors have large bath tubs where you can still peer out over the lake. All of the rooms are served by cable shown on 21–inch Grundig televisions that are nothing to write home about, but is that what you're really here for?
What most people come to Correntoso for is the close access to some of the most spectacular nature Patagonia can muster. The hotel can organize through its "Spirit and Adventures" office all of your outdoor excursions. The possibilities include all–day mountain outings in the nearby park on horseback or by foot that includes a typical Patagonia–styled barbecue for lunch. There are fishing trips to quiet, lonely spots with names like "The Last Hope." In winter, one can ski or snowboard at a small but challenging ski center close by called Cerro Bayo. Often, the hotel encourages guest to board the hotel's 9–meter boat built for 10 passengers to take in the sunset while drinking wine.
After your outings, the hotel spa is the place to relax. It features a heated pool where you can swim from inside the spa to the outside deck area that is surrounded by more inspiring mountain and lake views. There is also a beautiful, tiled Arabic Hamman sauna and a classic wooden dry heat sauna. The spa offers a range of massages and facial treatments. For the kids, there is amply stocked game room that includes a small gym, fooz ball and ping pong.
The hotel can take care of you the minute you get off the plane, providing transport from airports in Bariloche or Osorno (if you choose to fly to Chile). The large staff (there is always a ratio of one or more hotel employees to every guest) is attentive and polite and they're closely guided by the hotel owner's, Alejandro and Andrea Laurence, whom frequently come to visit from their native Buenos Aires.
This is an upscale Patagonia hotel that with its unique natural setting and all of the services on offer is a destination in its own right. The Hotel Correntoso has everything you need for a thoroughly enjoyable Patagonian getaway.
Review and photos by Jimmy Langman.
Web Site: www.correntoso.com
Total Number of Rooms: 31
Published rates: $188 to $392