Cerro Alarken 1, Ushuaia, Argentina
There's a great new hotel at the end of the world. Sleek and sustainably built, set high on a cliff overlooking the mountains and the Beagle Channel, Arakur Ushuaia Resort & Spa has it all. You get smart modern design, an environmentally conscious philosophy, an excellent restaurant, and a series of indoor–outdoor swimming pools and hot tubs that look out over jaw-dropping views of the natural wonderland below.
You won't need directions or a map to get to Arakur Ushuaia. Whether you're arriving by air, land, or sea—all three are distinct possibilities, as Ushuaia is a hub for travelers heading to and from Antarctica—you'll be able to spot the hotel from far away.
Arakur, opened in 2014, is perched high on a natural balcony over the city, suspended between the Beagle Channel and the Martial mountain range. There's nothing around the resort, save for the quiet trails of the Cerro Alarkan Natural Reserve. So you won't need the GPS. Just look for the grand lodge off in the distance, then follow the steep, winding mountain road to its door.
Then again, it's not hard to lose sight of Arakur on the ride up. The hotel's exterior is slate-gray and green, blending into the environment. And that's the point of the resort. Inside and out, Arakur's design mirrors the spectacular landscape of Tierra del Fuego. Guest rooms and suites are lined with wood: not generic parquet flooring, but rustic blonde wood sourced from the surrounding forest. The striking indoor and outdoor swimming pools, separated only by a soaring pane of glass with a small opening you can swim through, echo the still surface of the bay and Beagle Channel beyond. Even the smooth stone in the lobby was salvaged from the initial stages of the resort's construction, when developers leveled the rock face to make room for a hotel.
But Arakur doesn't only reflect the landscape. It was designed to help guests fully enjoy the beauty of the archipelago, regardless of the weather. In a part of the world that's notorious for passing through all four seasons in a single day, that's a valuable asset. Almost the entire front of the hotel is glass, so whether it's sunny or snowing or somewhere in between, the hotel is flooded with natural light, and the views over the postcard-like scenes below are staggering.
The main level houses the lobby and the spacious lobby bar, where cozy armchairs and a massive crescent-shaped sofa face out over the harbor. This is the place for Argentinian wines by the glass, craft beers made in Ushuaia, and small plates, including outstanding lamb empanadas. Adjacent to the bar is Arakur's signature restaurant, La Cravia. It's the venue of a breakfast buffet that includes an extensive spread of freshly baked pastries, a fresh fruit and yogurt bar, and an a la carte menu of standard dishes like French toast and eggs benedict.
Doubly impressive is La Cravia's dinner buffet. You could order off the menu, but you probably won't want to after you take a quick look at the wide tables laid with gourmet salads, charcuterie platters, and fresh seafood dishes, not to mention an on-demand parrilla (grill) where you can sample everything from classic rib-eye to Patagonian lamb.
From the main level, take the wide wooden spiral staircase down to the spa and swimming pools. There's a pool bar, too, and glass doors that lead to a wooden terrace with a pair of outdoor hot tubs that remain open even when it's raining or snowing. It's an exhilarating feeling, sinking into the steaming water, the wind whipping all around you, looking down at the water on one side and up at jagged cliffs on the other. But when it's time to get out, make sure your terry cloth bathrobe is handy: the contrast of hot and cold is refreshing but startling.
Luckily, those bathrobes are provided for every guest at Arakur. They're conveniently stocked, with a matching pair of slippers, in each guest room or suite. Unlike at other hotels, they're not just meant to be worn around the room. That fact could be read as an admission of a certain fact about the resort: rooms are simple and understated compared to the rest of the hotel.
The guest rooms and suites at Arakur are lovely and perfectly comfortable, lined with indigenous materials from copper and stone to wood and leather. They feature large picture windows, some with water views and built-in window seating, some facing the mountains instead. You get nice white linens, TVs, and bathrooms with soaking tubs and appliances by Hansgrohe and Duravit. Housekeeping leaves artisanal chocolates as part of the turndown service. The guest quarters just don't have the wow factor of the public areas.
Ushuaia is the kind of destination where you might not spend much time in the hotel anyway. Unless you're staying at Arakur, that is. Even then, you'll spend more time by the pools or in the lobby bar, admiring the sweeping sunset views and long daylight hours over cocktails, than you would hanging around your suite. You'll certainly be glad to retire to your room after a long day of hiking, boating, and exploring, though—the resort runs a complimentary shuttle to and from town, where you'll inevitably want to go for dinner one night.
As you're rolling your suitcase towards the elevator at checkout time or enjoying one last drink at the bar, pay special attention to the larger-than-life wool artworks hanging on the walls around the hotel. You might not recognize it until you're on the plane later, lifting into the sky above Ushuaia, but their textures and colors mimic the patterns of land and water you'll see from the air. In both large and small ways, Arakur is an expression of a place, of a particular culture, and moreover, of a particular kind of wild beauty you'll only find at the end of the world.
Web Address: www.arakur.com
Total Number of Rooms: 117
Published rates: $262 - $831 incl. tax and breakfast
Review and photos by Bridget Gleeson