Ave Bustillo, Km 25, San Carlos de Bariloche, Patagonia
If the old saying applies about location, location, location being everything, then Llao Llao is in luck. When construction began in 1934, this pristine area of Patagonia was completely virgin land, and Llao Llao was a hidden getaway seemingly at the end of the world. It’s still fairly isolated with jaw–droppingly beautiful scenery on all sides, yet you are a simple half an hour scenic drive from the shopping and skiing town of Bariloche, which itself is less than a 2 hour flight from Buenos Aires.
Upon entering the lobby, you will notice the Alpine–style décor, beamed ceilings, a gigantic fireplace, antler chandeliers, and walls made of polished logs. It is like an upscale hunting lodge that happens to offer 18 holes of golf , tango, yoga, and windsurfing classes, and high tea in a formal, glass-encased atrium lounge.
Depending on your mood, you have many dining options to choose from. You will find the kid–friendly Patagonia Coffee Shop, the Club House along the greens, and the formal Los Cesares, which is a place to linger for hours over fine Argentine wine and exquisite meals. Vegetarians beware – while there will be some options available, this is a place that works hard to show off the unique gastronomy of Patagonia, and does so with venison, lamb, wild boar, and fish dishes.
Included in the room rate of Llao Llao are an impressive variety of activities that you can choose to participate in, with choices ranging from archery, mountain biking, rappelling, bird watching, and canoeing. If group classes are not for you, take a dip in the massive indoor–outdoor pool where you can swim under the wall and surface to a view of snow–capped Andean peaks. There is an well–equipped exercise room and tennis courts, with a whirlpool, sauna, and steam bath to help you relax your tired muscles.
It should be noted that Llao Llao attracts both business groups and many families, so it can be bustling at times. Children have their own game room and plenty of organized activities specifically for them supervised by Nahuelito’s Club, so parents can do their thing while the kids are occupied from 12–6pm.
There are two parts to Llao Llao, with very different personalities. One is the original and historical Bustillo Wing, with 162 rooms, 12 suites, and 11 studios. The economy rooms here are small (a mere 237 square feet), so it is worth it to upgrade to at least a standard suite, offering a more spacious 516 square feet. Rooms can be matronly in décor. Also, make sure upon reservation that you are clear about what type of view you prefer – garden, mountain, or lake. Guests looking for more modern accommodations may want to stay in the Lago Moreno wing, which was finished in 2007, consisting of 43 studios and deluxe suites. It was not held to historical building codes, so it has larger rooms with slightly better layouts, and the rooms includes a terrace and a jacuzzi. It is in this wing that you will find the 1700 square foot Presidential Suite with room for 12 to dine.
The most coveted place to be on the Llao LLao grounds is the romantic two-bedroom Lago Moreno Cottage. It's a charming cabin with its own deck and garden, with some of the best views available. But no matter where you stay, all rooms come equipped with Wi–Fi, minibar, phone, cable television, and safe.
Some may choose to stay closer to the Bariloche center (try the Design Suites) or want a more intimate, romantic getaway in a small boutique villa (think Luma across the lake in Villa La Angostura). However, Llao Llao is such a well–known hotel around the world, in an incredible location and with a competent staff that is used to dealing with demanding clientele, that it is definitely worth experiencing at least once.
Revised review by Cathy Brown. Top photo by Cathy Brown, middle courtesy of Llao Llao, bottom one from Timothy Scott.
Web Site: www.llaollao.com
Total Number of Rooms: 205
Published rates: $385 to $2,244