National Nahuel Huapi Park, C.C. 26, Isla Victoria Island, Patagonia
Want to really get away? How about a hotel on an island in the middle of a lake, reached after a 40 minute drive and then a 30–minute boat ride? They make up for the journey in style at Hosteria Nacional Isla Victoria in Argentina.
Picture a hotel perched on a cliff, occupying its own Patagonian island in a large lake, looking at the expanse of the southern Andes all around. How much would that view be worth? Fortunately this exclusive hotel lives up to its promise and its rates—assuming you're ready to spend a minimum of two nights being unreachable and blissfully unwired.
The modern steel and wood structure was rebuilt at the edge of a national park after the original—and less luxurious—structure burned down in 2002. Guests catch the boat ride over from the dock at sister hotel Tunquelen and settle in for a scenic trip across Lake Nahuel Huapi. The high hotel is surrounded by nothing but water, forests, and snow–capped mountains. An outdoor terrace is popular for soaking it all in and watching the birds fly by. Inside is a warm lounge with a massive fireplace, a game room stocked with leather chairs and with lots of reading materials, and a bar with a surprisingly deep wine list considering the transportation situation. Drinks are also served in various spots inside the hotel or on the terrace. Nearly every spot offers some kind of view.
The restaurant, serving a mix of Patagonian and Mediterranean specialties, does an admirable job considering all ingredients must arrive from afar, plus fine glassware and linens make this more than a rustic outpost. Meals (but not drinks) are included in the rates. Several spaces are set up for small business meetings, but Type–A execs should book elsewhere: there is no Internet access and making a phone call is not a simple affair.
The heated outdoor pool here is strangely the one spot without a view: it sits in a clearing surrounded by the forest—still not a bad place to relax. A spa, sauna, and whirlpool create alternate places to relax inside. For more active types, horse rides, mountain biking, and kayak trips are available to guests. There are some 30 miles of trails reachable from the lodge, and the staff can arrange fishing trips.
Guests here tend not to spend all that much time in their rooms, but the quarters don't disappoint when it's time for bed—unless you're expecting a TV and a minibar, both absent in this island lodge. All 20 rooms are more spacious than the standards at Tunquelen and Llao Llao. Hardwood floors are topped by area rugs in local weaves and white duvets complement the cyprus dressers and navy armchairs. A small writing desk works for letters home or journal entries. Robes, hair dryers, and quality toiletries adorn the simple white tile and porcelain baths. Half the rooms face the forest, so be sure to book a lake facing room when making reservations if you want the panorama view. There are only two suites, both with an extra room and a whirlpool tub.
Note that Isla Victoria Lodge has traditionally been closed between June and August, though this could change if demand increases. This isolated outpost requires the will to put everything in the hotel's hands for a few days and give up contact with the outside world. For many guests who come here, however, that's the main appeal: a whole island shared among just a few guests.
Review by Cathy Brown, photos courtesy of Isla Victoria Lodge.