Ave Ezequiel Bustillo Km 24.5, San Carlos de Bariloche, Patagonia
Located one kilometer from the more famous Llao Llao, Hotel Tunquelen is more low–key alternative, with panoramic lake views, intimate public areas, and creaky old–world elegance throughout.
Built in 1930 as a convalescent home and then becoming a hotel in 1949, Hotel Tunquelen's original building is an impressive wood and stone structure that feels rock solid. The hotel makes the most of its coveted acreage facing the lake, across from Isla Victoria.
A private drive leads from the lakeside ring road and guests check in at a lobby with a glass wall facing the lake, with mountains in the distance. The main restaurant changes the linens and chair slipcovers for each meal, one of many small touches that keeps guests returning year after year. It serves plenty of local fare, including Patagonian lamb and trout, on heavy wood tables with original plank floors underfoot. The cozy bar is split into two rooms facing the lake: one a Scandinavian style room with stumps for stools and the other sporting a more traditional look.
Tunquelen has the facilities of a hotel larger than its 40 rooms, including a complete spa and health club, indoor/outdoor pool, and meeting facilities. These are all in an annex building reached by a raised walkway. The health club has a well–equipped gym and spa, including a sauna that allows guests to gaze out at the lake while baking. In a feature that's popular in this area, the heated indoor pool extends under a swim–under partition to the outdoors, even in winter. A full kids club keeps the little ones entertained all day and, in a welcome touch for parents looking to have a romantic dinner, it serves them a special meal in a room apart from parents.
Creaky plank hallways and skeleton keys for the accommodations show that the owners are careful to retain the historic feel that is the main attraction. Alas, rooms are sized for a different era, when guests didn't do much in them besides sleep and wash up. The size of the rooms means they are furnished with two twins or one queen bed. Furnishings are in line with a tasteful country bed and breakfast, with simple white cotton spreads, area rugs, and red armchairs. Radiators supply the heat and small TVs are supplied–probably grudgingly. Tile baths with pedestal sinks have combo tubs, but come with nice towels, hair dryers, and quality toiletries.
All rooms face either the forest or the lake, with the latter being well worth the premium. The best bets overall are the 4–person family suites. These have a small balcony and a cozy fireplace, making them feel more like a private cabin that has easy access to a restaurant, bar, and health club. Boat trips run from the hotel's dock and those who have the time should take a ride out to Tunqulen's sister hotel Isla Victoria, isolated on an island in the lake.
Tunquelen Hotel can't live up to the scale and grandeur of Llao Llao, the seclusion of Isla Victoria, or the impressive cuisine of Las Balsas, it makes guests happy with an old–timey coziness enhanced with quality meals and service. Plus those looking for a drop–dead view won't be disappointed here.
Review by Tim Leffel, photos courtesy of Tunquelen Hotel.