Photo: Mallin Colorado Ecolodge/Facebook

6 Unforgettable Patagonian Lodges to Inspire a Trip This Winter

Argentina Chile National Parks Epic Stays
by Stephanie Frias Sep 17, 2019

For the Northern Hemisphere, summer is slipping away. If you’re left pining for another few months of summer, the other side of the equator is not as far as it sounds. It beckons with its own summer season that is at its warmest between November and February. South America is a prime spot for a winter escape, particularly if you’re dreaming of Patagonia.

Opt for the northern sections of Patagonia that straddle both Argentina and Chile — like the Lake District, Neuquén, Chubut, Aysen, and Chaiten — where snowy havens melt away into pristine woodlands, flowering mountainsides, and cerulean waterways. There, you’ll find elegant lodges tucked away in the remote wilderness, peacefully devoid of mass tourism. These are the dreamiest among them.

1. Rio Hermoso Hotel de Montaña

From the moment you pull up, you’ll feel as if you have woken up as a Patagonian millionaire. It’s easy to forget this is a four-star lodge as the six exclusive rooms overlooking the river feel like home, exuding a rare elegance only captured in the hands of nature.

The fuss-free hospitality urges guests to leave behind the fancy stuff in favor of getting dirty. This is the place to come if you want to spend your days roaming where the golden pumas go, casting a line for world-class fly-fishing, following the sounds of songbirds, or kayaking into the Patagonian wilderness. Top it all off with luxurious linens, roaring fireplaces, bubbling tubs, and exquisite fine dining as the last light fades from the sky.

The main draw of this section of Patagonia is the Route of the Seven Lakes, an unforgettable road trip that passes through 66 miles of Argentina’s famed Route 40. The scenic pathway follows far more than the seven lakes it’s famous for. It offers nature’s best eye candy with lakes, waterfalls, forests, mountains, and beaches worthy of legends.

The area surrounding the hotel is a worthy destination of its own. Lanin National Park holds one of Patagonia’s oldest conservation areas, established in 1937. It’s the ideal place to witness the grandeur of Patagonian trees like the araucania, ñire, lengue, and coihue; stratovolcanoes like Lanin, Villarica, and Quetrupillán; and endless lakes. Wildlife is abundant within the haven, and the park seduces explorers with 25 established trails stretched over its 2,350 square miles.

Getting there: Rio Hermoso Hotel de Montaña is the northernmost lodge on this list, located in the Neuquén province within Argentina’s Lanin National Park. Find it just off the Ruta 40 on the hems of the legendary Seven Lakes Route, 17 miles south of San Martin de los Andes. Guests can arrive by air with a two-hour flight from Buenos Aires to the Chapelco Airport, followed by a 45-minute car ride.

2. El Aura Lodge

Photo: ElAura Patagonia/Facebook

Nearly 250 miles south, intrepid explorers can head to the shorelines of Lago Verde and into the landscapes of one of Argentina’s longest-standing national parks. The Los Alerces National Park boasts more than 700 square miles of remote parklands and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017.

El Aura Lodge is the only hotel located within the park boundaries, keeping to the highest standards of both luxury and sustainability. The lodge houses just five opulent cabins that will impress discerning travelers. The property also includes a restaurant, cafe, tea house, and market, plus budget-friendly eco domes and campsites.

The primary allure of El Aura Lodge is the epic landscape and the eco-tours through which to explore them. The lodge hosts an array of unforgettable Patagonian experiences. From here, visitors frequent the oldest living trees on the planet — the Alerces are 3,600 years old — the iconic Futaleufú River, Lago Verde, Lago Menendez, and the 24,000-year-old Torrecillas Glacier. The territory is also prime grounds for wildlife spotting. It’s home to endemic and endangered species like the pudu and huemul deer, mini snow leopards, carnivorous otters, and 126 species of birds including the Magellanic woodpecker.

Getting there: El Aura Lodge is located in Chubut, an Argentine province about 150 miles south of Bariloche and 45 miles north of Esquel. The nearest flights connect from Buenos Aires or Santiago, Chile, to Puerto Montt, Bariloche, and Esquel.

3. Oceano Patagonia

If warmer temps conjure up images of beaches and turquoise seas, you might be surprised that some of that exists in Patagonia, too. Check into Oceano Patagonia on the Atlantic coastline of the Valdes Peninsula, arguably one of the best places to spot ocean wildlife in Patagonia. The small oceanfront oasis offers the only luxury digs in the tiny village of Puerto Piramides, which services the 890,000 acres of the remote, UNESCO-protected peninsula.

The minimalist, eco-friendly hotel contains 11 luxury condos with panoramic views looking out over the wildlife-rich beach cove. Not only is it the loveliest hotel in the area, but Oceano Patagonia is also actively working toward a LEED (Leadership and Excellence in Environmental Design) certification.

Winter — aka summer in the Southern Hemisphere — is the prime season for seeing for an array of Patagonia ocean wildlife. Among the most popular animals to see are the southern right whales, an endangered baleen species. Guests can literally see them leaping in the bay from their room balcony. But Oceano Patagonia is aligned with the local, sustainable whale-watching organization, Bottazzi Whale Watch, so you can get a little closer by way of whale-watching boat tours between the months of June and December. A well-known pod of surfing killer whales, or orcas, also resides offshore from the Valdes Peninsula. It frequents certain areas of the coastline from February to April when the whales come to hunt seal pups.

The Valdes Peninsula is also home to enormous populations of Magellanic penguins, which nest from September through March; southern sea lions, which birth and breed on the beach from December to February; and elephant seals, which birth from November to December. Several species of unique dolphins — including spinner dolphins, Commerson’s dolphins, dusky dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins — can be spotted year-round.

Getting there: Oceano Patagonia and the Valdes Peninsula are in Argentina’s Chubut province, located about 60 miles northeast of Puerto Madryn. Many visitors arrive via two-hour flights from Buenos Aires to either Puerto Madryn or Trelew, followed by a one- or two-hour drive.

4. Yelcho en la Patagonia

Photo: Yelcho en la Patagonia/Facebook

For those in search of true remoteness, getting to Yelcho en la Patagonia offers an adventure as grand as the stay itself. Unless you’ve got the cash for a private helicopter ride or small charter flights, the journey to this chic, rustic getaway can take a couple of days. It’s so worth it.

Six full-size cabins, eight lodge rooms, and 15 campsites provide the ultimate Patagonian experience in total alignment with nature. It’s situated along the impressive Yelcho Lake of the Los Lagos region, with views of the snowy peaks reflecting over the stunning lake as just one prize for the effort of getting there. There’s also a gourmet restaurant, full bar, lounge, library, viewing deck, and wood-heated jacuzzi, as well as shops for gifts or fly-fishing supplies.

Whether you’re a road tripper or a thru-hiker, this is the ideal territory for embarking on a Patagonian adventure. Located within Chile’s new Route of the Parks, adventurers of either breed can easily step or drive onto the 1,700-mile pathway right from Yelcho Lake. October to May, when snowfall is limited and Patagonian daytime temps hover between the mid-40s and mid-70s Fahrenheit, is the perfect time to do so.

If staying put is more your style, Yelcho en la Patagonia can support any ambition of getting off-grid. The vast property includes its very own beaches, forests, trails, ranchlands, and access to lake activities like sustainable fishing, kayaking, and hiking. Off-site nearby attractions include the Corcovado National Park, Pumalin Park, Alerce Andino National Park, Hornopirén National Park, and the Futaleufú River, just to name a few.

Getting there: The journey to Yelcho en la Patagonia begins with a one-hour-and-40-minute flight from Santiago Chile to Puerto Montt, Chile. (If you fly from Buenos Aires, you’ll need to connect for at least 5.5 hours of air travel.) It’s followed by another 7.5 hours by road and ferry from Puerto Montt nearly 190 miles along the legendary Carretera Austral, the Chilean Patagonian highway, to 30 miles south of Chaiten. Of those 7.5 hours, 4.5 are on ferries that cross the glacial fjords, while the remaining three hours have you driving through isolated, national parklands.

5. Mallin Colorado Ecolodge

Photo: Mallin Colorado Ecolodge/Facebook

The final two lodges are literal neighbors residing on either side of Lago General Carrera, near the small Chilean village of Puerto Guadal. Although it’s unlikely that one would stay at both, the hotels often work together, sharing their precious resources. Yet, the ambiance and activities between the two are spectacularly different.

Mallin Colorado is the most upscale lodge on this list, topping out with mind-blowing lakeside log cabins. Owned and operated exclusively by seven siblings — the second generation of a family of eco-enthusiasts — this Patagonia lodge has an irreplicable story of family history and nature.
Location and charm are only half the mix, though, as exclusivity also takes center stage here. There are just four private log cabins on the site — ranging in size from 325 to 970 square feet — boasting every imaginable comfort of home, plus a six-room inn named the Casa Lenga.

Mallin Colorado also has a clubhouse and a quincho, a grilling house, but the true allure is the private hiking trails stemming out from the lodge. Right from the threshold, you can step into the Patagonian wilderness with virtually no one else on the path. Three exclusive trails rise to glaciers and descend to beaches for anywhere from a 30-minute to six-hour excursion.

The main attraction for guests in either this or the Terra Luna Lodge is the General Carrera lake and the Marble Caves protruding out from the depths. Although still a lesser-known Patagonian destination, the mysterious caves in the middle of the lake might be among the most unique features of the region. Travelers visit the opalescent Marble Caves with a boat ride over the lake that takes them close to Puerto Rio Tranquilo. Although the caves are open year-round, November to February offers the best conditions for being on the frigid water.

6. Terra Luna Lodge Patagonia

Photo: Terra Luna Lodges/Facebook

On the other side of the lake, Terra Luna Lodge claims an ideal portion of the southeast corner of General Carrera lake. The gargantuan property has accommodations for every type of traveler, as long as adventure is your middle name.

Within the 15 acres, guests can choose from full-size cabins, bungalows, apartments, treehouses, standard lodge rooms, refuge style lodging, camp huts, and igloo dome tents. But, even the epic views, on-site zipline, and kid’s rock climbing sectors pale in comparison to the legendary owner of Terra Luna Lodge and his equally genius side ventures.

Terra Luna Lodge, in combination with the renowned Patagonia Jet boat tours and Patagonia Heli Tours, is the brainchild of Phillipe Reuter. He’s a mountain climbing legend in his own right who has not lost his enthusiasm for the outdoors. He says the property was not conceived to provide five-star luxury, but rather five-star experiences. So, this is the place you want to be if you want an out of the ordinary Patagonian experience.

Phillipe personally creates, pilots, and leads expeditions around Patagonia with all-inclusive trips based on adventure excursions. From one-hour excursions to 20-day trips, adventures include anything from hiking and kayaking to mountain biking, camping, boating, rafting, mountain climbing, skiing, and helicopter rides.

Getting there: Travelers who wish to stay at either lodge must get to Puerto Guadal, located in a very remote area of the Aysen region of Chilean Patagonia. Public transport is rarely available, and most travelers arrive by private car. The closest cities are Coyhaique, 165 miles north, and Cochrane, 38 miles south. The nearest airport is in Airport Comodoro Rivadavia in Chubut, Argentina, with service from Buenos Aires in about 2.5 hours. Both lodges can assist with airport transfer service.

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