Pacific Patagonia, near the Lakes Region, 70 min West of Puerto Montt, Chile
Just over an hour west of the Lake District capital of Puerto Montt, The Cliffs Preserve brings luxury to the Chile's dramatic southern coast for the first time.
For a country so narrow, it is a wonder why the entire tourism infrastructure south of Santiago turns inwards toward the lakes and volcanoes. A visit here will have you questioning just how much this stretch of Pacific is overlooked. The wild, windswept beaches flooded with wildlife and backed by Nalca groves and Valdivian rainforest are comparable to the most dramatic sections of coasts of say, New England or the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. This is where Patagonia begins and is one of the region's most stunning settings.
The Cliffs Preserve Patagonia, which opened in December of 2007, is part of a larger Cliffs Communities project of upscale golf and wellness complexes based in North America that has recently begun branching out to other parts of the world. This is the company's first foray in Latin America and the focus here is an active, older, and sophisticated crowd, though small corporate retreats are a specialty. Their 8,000-acre private preserve combines vast tracts of temperate rainforest with six miles of Pacific coastline partly intersected by hiking and horse trails.
Excursions-one or two a day-are a main focus of any stay. They are less intense than programs at say, Explora hotels, though there are plenty of options available. While in Argentina, at roughly the same latitudinal line, whale watching is a massive tourism operation. Even though the world's largest blue whale nursery sits off the archipelago of Chiloé, which you can see off in the distance, few have the chance to see the creatures in Chile. Not so here. It is a major focus and morning boat trips take you right into the heart of the action and to also look for sea otters, seals, penguins, and marine birds. From December to March you can witness the spouts of whales from the lodge, your suite, and even your Jacuzzi tub.
Other excursions take you horseback riding, fly fishing, on visits to rural farms and communities, or hiking across a small network coastal trails. One of these trails has an awe-inspiring lookout point with 300-degree views of the ocean. Do as much or as little as you want and each evening over a pre-dinner cocktail the guides go over your plans for the next day, which can be as laid back as you desire. Considering the distance to the resort from Lago Llanquihue, one downside is that the resort is so far removed from the rest of the Lakes District. To do some of the more common activities in the region, such as visiting German settlements, whitewater rafting on the Rio Petrohue, or hiking in Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales, you will spend more than an hour and a half each way in transit. Though there is more than enough to do at and around the resort, if these activities are a main concern a separate stay in Puerto Varas is advised.
The Cliffs have brought in a team of guides, chefs, and managers who have worked in some of the finest resorts all across Chile and the experience shows. Service is superb at every level: the cuisine, selection of wines, the waiters, and the guides. Executive chef Pablo Galvez is one of the better resort chefs anywhere in Chile and ventures from gourmet traditional Chilean fare and fresh seafood to international standards. Produce used in the kitchen comes from the organic farm on the property. The resort is actively involved in the nearby community of Los Muermos and funds an orphanage for young girls in town, as well as having built a small complex for the families of area fisherman on their grounds for when the men go off to sea.
As all of the villas are isolated from one another along a small bay just above a stony beach, all activity at the resort revolves around the resorts 20,000 square foot glass, wood, and stone lodge/spa. This building holds the majority of the hotel's amenities such as the dining area, lounge, bar, patio, heated outdoor pool, and fully equipped conference facilities. The second floor is taken over by their sleek spa facilities. One of the most eye-catching elements of the lodge is the fine woodwork, created on the property, used in intricate hand carved doors, furniture, statues, figureheads, and candleholders.
The four suite and two suite villas, built unhurriedly the managers claim, all have sea views from every angle and each villa shares a large common area that adds DirectTV, a full kitchen, living room, laundry facilities, fireplace, patio, and an outdoor wood-burning hot tub. You can just rent a suite (with or without use of the common area) or the entire villa. Each suite is a generous 750 square feet with high ceilings, a small sitting area, and a two-room bathroom. Little extras like your own Wi-Fi router, heated towel racks, coffee table books on Patagonia, slippers, crocs, bathrobes, and a Jacuzzi tub help keep you surprised and prepared for the unpredictable Patagonia weather. The décor is almost straight out of Vail-if Vail had more personality and taste. It's reminiscent of a contemporary mountain lodge with splashes of Patagonia in the occasional carved Ibis or hand woven Mapuche rug.
Despite a host of eco-friendly initiatives, this is clearly one of Chile's finest resorts and a big step up from most lodges throughout Patagonia.
Web Address: www.cliffspreserve.cl
Total Number of Rooms: 14
Price Range: 4 nights/5 days: $2,700 per person (junior suite) to $32,700 (entire 4 Bedroom Grand Villa). Resort packages, a minimum of 4 nights, include all excursions, land transfers, 1 spa use, food, and alcohol.
Review by Nicholas Gill, photos courtesy of The Cliffs Perserve.