Patagonia's Best Accommodations
Explora El Chaltén
A comfortable base in El Chaltén, the young resort village at the northern end of Los Glaciares National Park, makes Patagonia accessible and approachable from this adventure lodge. The expedition team (almost all of whom are female) shines as the organization's mission is to get you away from the hotel as much as it does to keep you around. They answer questions before you even think about them and switch languages effortlessly to help different travelers. In addition to helping you navigate difficult landscapes, they also help you gain a better understanding of them. Even if you don't plan to venture out, the spa and carnivore-friendly restaurant are worth staying for.
The rustic lodge Eolo, located in the windswept La Anita valley, 30km west of El Calafate, is hard to imagine a property more suited to the arid, desolate Patagonian steppe. Corrugated zinc walls and gabled roofs protect the central courtyard from the elements in this lodge modeled after a classic sheep farm. In addition to caved woods, refurbished antiques, and leather and cord upholstery, the place has a rustic homey feel. A simple hike or bike ride across the lodge's 3,000-hectare grounds can be just as captivating as visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier, which is close enough to the lodge to allow a visit. Many guests are captivated by the setting, opting to spend hours squinting at the distant peaks of Chile's Torres del Paine national park, or gaze through picture windows at Lake Argentina's icebergs float through an otherwise parched landscape while squinting at its peaks.
El Casco Art Hotel
El Casco Art Hotel quickly established a reputation for restrained elegance when it reopened in 2007 after a decade of neglect. The new owner, Ignacio Gutiérrez Zaldvar, an art collector in Buenos Aires, has surrounded the home with more than 300 works of modern Argentine art. Its 33 spacious rooms offer a view of upland geese, cormorants, and Mount Otto, which is popular with hikers. Chef Fernando Trocca pairs turkey with truffles, trout with ginger, and duck with blackberries and roast figs to enhance Patagonian staples at Sucre in Buenos Aires. In the winter, skiers can access a private lounge at the foot of the Cerro Cathedral slopes from a super-heated outdoor pool that releases steam into the chill evening air.
There are 15 rooms at the Las Balsas resort on the north shore of Lake Nahuel Huap, near the chinked-log chalets and gourmet delis in the village of Villa La Angostura. The lodge's boathouse and jetty are located in a beautiful bay on the lake, making it perfect for those who enjoy both strenuous outdoor activity and relaxation. In addition to casting for trout in streams and lakes, visitors also practice downhill skiing at the 20-piste Cerro Bayo ski resort. As well, visitors come to Los Arrayanes national park to view the only cinnamon-barked myrtle tree forest in the world - the inspiration, it is believed, for Walt Disney's Bambi scenery. A well-equipped stone-built spa is also nearby, where visitors can soothe aching muscles and sip Malbec in a candlelit snug.
El Pedral Lodge
In Patagonia's Atlantic coast, Darwin discovered fossilised molluscs encrusted in striated rocks some 175 years ago. Sea lions, elephant seals, and Magellanic penguins are among the animals visitors can observe today. A hammer-shaped wedge of scrub-covered steppe just into the Atlantic Ocean, the Peninsula Valdés is a breeding ground for Southern Right Whales and killer whales that patrol its azure waters. El Pedral Lodge boasts a private stretch of coastline, complete with elephant-seal colony, set on dun-coloured cliffs. With its ornamented balustrades and ocean-view veranda, the main house of the 17,000-acre former sheep farm dates back to 1904. A mahogany dining table and iron bathtub from the founding family remain, along with a spiral staircase that leads to a cushion-strewn turret that overlooks a kilometre-wide pebble bar - the pedral. With wooden floors, antique furniture, mustard-colored rugs and worn wooden floorboards, the 10 rooms are simple. Guests go on two-daily excursions by sea kayak, mountain bike or horse, hoping to see gray foxes, guanacos (cameras that look like llamas) or maras (Pagonian hares about the size of a small dog), while petrels, albatrosses, and oystercatchers watch the sky over them.
Valle Perdido Wine Resort
Mapuche people inhabit the underexplored northern Patagonian plateau, north-west of Neuquén province, where monkey-puzzle trees stand in oddly sculptural clusters. Ingeniously embedded within 230 hectares of these vines is this 18-room hotel, set within former peach orchards, that are rapidly becoming the southern-most vineyards in North America. With its arid, stony soil and low-impact exterior, it blends in with the landscape. Featuring alligator-leather furniture and muted shades of coffee and sand, the rooms are decorated with muted shades of coffee and sand. Visitors can fish for trout or spot birdlife while canoeing on the river, explore archaeological sites, or even dig for dinosaur fossils as volunteers. The spa offers vinotherapy scrubs, mud, honey, and seaweed body wraps, and guests can take impromptu tours of the winery. Estate-bottled wines accompany venison and wild boar in the restaurant. Even regular guests can store their own wine in the hotel's cellar until their next visit.