Puerto Bories, near Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
A fast five-minute drive from Puerto Natales, the launch-town for tourists bound for Torres del Paine National Park, The Singular Patagonia is an excellent alternative for travelers seeking to also know the local culture and other attractions outside the park.
On my trip to The Singular to do this review, the hotel loaded me down with info to help inform my impressions of this stunning new addition to Chile's hotels. One such document,"Ten Reasons to Discover Patagonia with the Singular," gave several strong arguments in favor of the hotel. Maybe the most compelling reason stated there? "Best of Both Worlds" which they define as combining through The Singular the possibility to visit both the extraordinary Torres del Paine park and the authentic Patagonia culture and other notable destinations in the area outside of the park.
But perhaps the most singular reason that makes this hotel different from any other I have ever come across in Chile is that it is actually a historic, tourist destination in its own right.
The Singular is built on and around a 1915 cold storage plant for processing and exporting frozen meat and wool. After more than 70 years, the Frigorifo Puerto Bories plant closed down and in 1996 was declared a national monument. As Nicolas Sahli, the executive director and owner of The Singular tells it, this plant played an integral part in boosting the sheep farming industry in the region that his own great-grandfather several generations ago, Jose Menendez, helped establish. This industry now informs the cultural identity of Patagonia almost as much as the towering peaks in Torres del Paine.
"History is important to our concept in all of our hotels," says Sahli, who also has a Singular hotel in the downtown Lastarria neighborhood in Santiago. "We want the architecture and design of our hotels to not just honor local history and culture, but add to it and at the same time respect the natural environment around us."
The immersion with local history begins the minute you pull into the tin roof-covered parking lot that is made up of the remnants of an old slaughterhouse. It is just the first sign of the hotel's genuine attention to preserving the site's past while allowing the future a luxurious point of entry. Then, after going down a funicular elevator to reach the hotel lobby below, you are in the middle of the restored former sheep processing plant/museum itself; the 54 guest rooms and 3 suites are in a new, adjoining wing.
If the insides of an old sheep processing plant are an unconventional front and center for the hotel, the modern wing of rooms built for The Singular Patagonia also feature an uncommon design for a 5-star luxury hotel. This two-story wing keeps to the factory theme, with industrial-looking stainless steel walls along long corridors in which all the rooms are to one side to take advantage of a priceless view of the Last Hope Fjord. While it is a mini-hike for the unfortunate guest with a room at the far end of the corridors, the logic behind this design is that it also affords unusually large rooms for all: each of the guest rooms are a generous 500 square feet while the suites are 770 square feet. Inside the rooms, guests are rewarded with handsome Victorian-style furniture finely handcrafted by the Southeast Asia-based Theodore Alexander company. And the beds are supremely comfortable while facing the tremendous Patagonian vistas through a full-sized glass plate window. The result: one of the best hotel rooms I have had the pleasure to stay at.
The hotel's restaurant also does not disappoint. The French chef and his kitchen use local ingredients to make delicious Chilean dishes and tempting desserts. On my first night, I had a memorable meal of Patagonian lamb with an exceptional, award-winning Chilean Syrah wine from Vina Tabali. The hotel offers two rates: a bed and breakfast plan, and a full board plan with three meals and your choice of daily excursions. The approximately $200-$300 difference in prices, depending on the time of year, are likely worth the extra expense for the possibility to partake in one of the 20 varied activities on offer.
For me, the best excursion was a trip through the windswept Patagonian fjords on a high speed boat that included a hike and picnic lunch at Glacier Serrano in Bernardo O'Higgins National Park. The boat belongs to the hotel, and actually departs from the hotel's own pier. Some other trips include horseback riding, kayaking and hikes in Torres del Paine.
The Singular Patagonia is an original, with a concept that is very different from the increasingly competitive array of hotels both inside and around Chile's star destination, Torres del Paine. For its creativity and high-quality facilities, this is a great new addition to Patagonia travel and most definitely gets a hearty two thumbs up
Web Address: www.thesingular.com/hotel/patagonia
Total Number of Rooms: 57
Published rates: $520 to $1,820 BB or full board with activities.
Review by Jimmy Langman, photos courtesy of Singular Patagonia.