Lake Toro, Patagonia, Chile
Located just 20 minutes outside of Torres del Paine National Park on a private property overlooking a large lake, Patagonia Camp gets you up close to all of the park’s and nature’s charms without compromising first-class comforts.
For years, Alberto Gana and his partners at the Chilean outdoor tour operator Latitud 90 had organized camping trips for tourists in Torres del Paine National Park. And every year the park attracts increasing interest. Located in southern Patagonia, its one of the best places in the world to experience enormous glaciers up close while taking in breathtaking landscapes that abound with exotic wildlife like guanaco and nandu.
The park is a backpacker’s wonderland, with some avid hikers completing an 8 to 10 day circuit through the entire park, or opting for a shorter, 5-day trek called the “W.” Still others opt to rough it in hotels and do day trips to the park’s main sites, like the Paine massif, the famous spires known as the “torres” or towers,” that crown the postcard views of the park.
Still, Latitud 90 saw a glaring need for a lodging option for upscale tourists who want adventure and 5-star comforts combined.. Borrowing from the luxury camps common to African Safaris, Gana’s company created Patagonia Camp.
The first of its kind in South America, its an ecologically-minded complex situated just outside of the park that is centered around 18 “Yurts”: Mongolian-styled tents made with cloth and wood but counting with all the amenities of a 5-star hotel room. “This has always been one of the continent’s best parks,” says Gana. “Now, its possible to experience the park with all the comforts.”
The heated, tastefully decorated interior of the Yurts are fit for a king yet at the same time the slim tent walls allow a camper’s feel for the natural power found in the region’s famed gale winds (which in Patagonia can obtain speeds as fast as 100km per hour) and frequent rains. Like camping out, but instead of sleeping bags from your immensely comfortable bed it is not uncommon to fall asleep within minutes listening to the soothing rain beat down upon the roof. The biggest step up from camping tents: your Yurt has its own private, modern bathroom stocked with whatever you would need.
My trip occurred in late April, at the tail end of the tourist season. I expected cold and rain, but was pleasantly surprised by sunny days, perfect for hikes. Every morning, after an early and excellent breakfast in Patagonia Camp’s cozy restaurant, we set off in vans to take on varied hikes around the park. Then, about an hour or so drive back to the hotel in the early evening where, after warming up on Pisco Sour drinks at the bar, we then feasted upon some of the best food by far that I have dined on in a hotel in Chile.
We were simply spoiled by their restaurant. The several dining tables—all with a postcard Patagonian view of a lake, mountains and forest—allow for a private conversation but are not so far apart that you cannot easily get to know your neighbor. Appetizers like Magallanes crab and Parmesan clams were a treasured delight. The main course dishes included immensely satisfying plates such as roasted lamb in a Merlot wine sauce, roasted chicken with goat cheese, or fried conger fish accompanied with Chile´s classic “pastel de choclo,” a corn and meat pie. To top off the meals, the restaurant features the very best wines of Matetic Vineyards, a co-owner of Patagonia Camp and a winery with an especially noteworthy, award-winning Pinot Noir.
The combination of beautiful hikes, great food and accommodations that get you close to nature and in style is definitely a recommended alternative for basing your explorations of Torres del Paine.
Web Address: www.patagoniacamp.com
Total Number of Rooms: 18
Published rates: $1,550 to $2,950 for all-inclusive 3 or 4-night programs
Review by Jimmy Langman