Ruta Provincial N 11 km 23, El Calafate, Argentina
Just 30 minutes outside of El Calafate town, directly en route to Los Glaciares National Park, is the seductive Relais & Chateaux hotel, Eolo. While it is easy to be distracted by the bright blue Lake Argentina to the north (the country's largest lake and the third largest in Latin America), it is difficult not to notice Eolo, an estancia that stands out amongst the expansive La Anita Valley with the majestic Torres del Paine in Chile visible in the background on a clear day.
What Eolo offers is an upgraded taste of authentic life in Patagonia: rugged, but with a much higher thread count, more L'Occitane amenities, and a larger wine list than the local gauchos are used to. This hotel is definitely not for everyone, though. If a bustling nightlife scene or daily access to shopping is important to you, go stay in town. If a silence more profound than anything you may have experienced in your life sounds inviting, or if your idea of a good time is trotting on horseback across expansive plains while pink flamingos relax in nearby lagoons, you will find Eolo to be a paradise that is well worth the relatively high room rate. As one Eolo guest shared "you can't put a price on incredible experiences that you will carry with you for a lifetime."
As you walk through the front entrance, you will notice warmth all around. Warmth in the temperature as you escape from the chill of the outdoors, warmth in the genuine hug or handshake that you are greeted with by the staff, warmth in the pervading smell of vanilla and fresh grasses, and in the buttery tones and indigenous fabrics used in the minimal–yet–homey décor. Check–in is relaxed, done as you sip on an espresso or a Tealosophy tea while lounging on a cushy couch.
Your concierge will work with you to plan your activities, which could include any level of trekking, mountain biking, birdwatching, kayaking, horseback riding, ice trekking, cultural visits, fishing, or of course a visit to nearby Perito Moreno. All of these options are accompanied by a skilled, bilingual guide. If intimacy and privacy are more of what you are looking for, certain mountain biking and trekking can be done solo, as it is impossible to get lost. You could be miles away and still be able to spot the hotel. Eolo would be more than happy to send you off with a boxed lunch, some pastries, even a kit to prepare the traditional drink of mate. For those guests who are happier to stick around the hotel, there is an indoor pool (the water is not overly warm, but is definitely swimmable), and there is also a sauna available.
All of the 17 rooms are situated around a central courtyard filled with lavender and other aromatics. They are large and filled with natural light, with exquisite views no matter where you are situated in the hotel. Reserve a corner suite to bask in as much of the scenery as possible. Bathrooms are good–sized, with deep bathtubs perfect for lounging in after a long day playing in the outdoors. In addition to the typical L'Occitane amenities such as shampoo, conditioner and soaps, effervescent bath tablets are provided, a nice touch. A candle is set at the bathtub's edge, and is lit at the nightly turn–down service. None of the rooms have television (simply open the curtains for a better nature show than the Discovery Channel could offer), although there is a television downstairs in a common area and in the bar for those who can't go without. But honestly, if you are missing television so badly, you've probably ended up at the wrong hotel for you.
Breakfast offers both a buffet and a la carte options, including omelettes made with local organic eggs, veggies, and goat cheese, as well as crepes topped with regional berries. All of the meals and drinks are included in the room rate, minus alcoholic beverages. For lunch and dinner, an appetizer, entrée, and dessert are offered from a daily–changing menu that includes both vegetarian options and traditional local meats such as cordero (lamb) and bife de ojo. Every fourth day a traditional asado takes place at the hotel. The atmosphere in the dining area is reserved, quiet, and slightly conservative. While you are more than welcome to arrive however you like, you might be most comfortable showing up for meals in elegant sport attire. Traditional Argentine music such as Mercedes Sosa or a passionate tango often fills the room, creating a lovely ambiance. Many guests are couples who book a stay at Eolo for a private getaway to relax and reconnect with each other and nature; most seem to keep to themselves. If you are looking for a very social atmosphere where you can meet and mingle and party with other guests until all hours of the night, there are better options than Eolo.
For travelers who come to Patagonia envisioning a picturesque landscape colored with towering Andean mountains, vast wind–swept plains dotted with wild horses, incredible flora and fauna, and pristine glacial lakes, the luxuriously homey Eolo can fulfil your expectations like no other hotel on the Argentine side of the Southern Cone.
Web Address: www.eolo.com.ar
Total Number of Rooms: 17
Published rates: $950 — $1470 double, meals and certain activities included
Note: Eolo is not open year–round. Usually the season runs between October and the end of April.
Review and photos by Cathy Brown