Miles from anything and surrounded by wild natural beauty, this hotel is truly unique. From its design to its food, everything about it is spectacular.
The vast wilderness of Patagonia is one of the last frontiers left on earth. For hundreds of miles sparsely populated plains (known as the Pampas) stretch over the horizon until they meet the dramatic snow-capped peaks of the Andes mountain range. After spending a few days preparing in Santiago, Chile’s busy capital, we were ready to head south and discover what the region had to offer.
To say Patagonia is remote is to put it lightly. It was only settled relatively recently and even today, many of the only European inhabitants are hardy cowboys or ‘gauchos’. Various native people still live in the area although their numbers are small. For the most part it is just open land as far as the eye can see. Somewhere out there – near the bottom of the continent - is the Torres del Paine national park, home to stunning scenery and exotic wildlife.
After some research we had decided to stay at Tierra Patagonia, right on the edge of the park. It sits at the top of a small hill overlooking Lake Sarmiento, behind which are the mountains of Torres del Paine. From the pictures on the website, we could tell it was a special place.
Getting there is all part of the experience. The distances down there are vast, and everything is spread out. We flew to Punta Arenas where a member of the hotel staff was at the airport waiting for us. He escorted us to the van where we were introduced to the other passengers going to Tierra. It was a four hour journey from here, across the beautiful open landscapes of Southern Patagonia. After a couple of hours we stopped for lunch and got to know the other travellers (there were only eight of us). As we got closer to our destination large herds of guanacos (relatives of the llama) started appearing, as did other exotic animals. Where were we? How are these animals now afraid of us? All the questions I had would soon be answered. Animals here trust humans, this is nature, in all its rustic beauty!
There is actually another town with an airport closer to the hotel - Puerto Natales. When we were travelling however, it was closed to commercial flights. While we enjoyed seeing more of Patagonia from the van, we would have taken the two hour trip from here if we could have. If you are heading down that way it is worth checking if the airport is open, it will save you a couple of hours journey time.
We arrived around mid-afternoon and after being checked-in we settled into our suite. After recovering from our long journey, we sat down with the guides to plan out the next few days. Tierra is all-inclusive meaning that once there, you don’t have worry about buying anything. These excursions, as well as food, drink, and transportation are all included. It is a good system because, as you are quite literally in the middle of nowhere, the trips into the wild are the main attraction. You can’t just walk out onto the street and find a tour or a restaurant, there is no street! When you book a room at Tierra, you are not just paying for a place to stay, you are getting access to the wilderness which would be very hard to explore on your own.
That is not to say that the hotel isn’t an attraction in itself, it is one of the most beautifully constructed hotels we have ever stayed in. In fact its design has won awards, and it is easy to see why. Built largely of wood, it blends into the hillside perfectly. Its curved facade blurs into the grass and becomes almost invisible when viewed from afar. Patagonia’s greatest feature is its sense of open space and this is mirrored in the hotel.
The building is long and thin with floor to ceiling windows running down much of both sides. This makes you feel immersed in the landscape (while still enjoying the comfort of being inside), as well as providing you with great views no matter where in the hotel you are. The public areas are spacious and, despite being at almost 100% occupancy, it never felt crowded. We spent much of our free time in the main room, enjoying a glass of wine and staring off into the distance. There is something magical about the open plains leading down to the lake with the snow capped mountains of Torres del Paine looming in the distance. Flocks of sheep or herds of wild Guanacos would cross the scene occasionally, foraging for food.
Our room was beautiful as well. It was large and open, with the same great views as the communal areas. The huge window looked out over the lake and I actually had to do a double take to make sure that it wasn’t a landscape photo hanging on the wall! There was a long bench just in front of the window, and this was the perfect place to curl up and stare at the landscape or dive into a book.
The design was simple and natural – even a bit indigenous. Most of the surfaces were made of light colored wood and almost everything else was white. There were some interesting design features such as the monochrome tree on the bathroom door, and the stylized maps of the local area on the wall behind the bed.
As part of their ethos, Tierra strives to provide a tranquil environment. While it has all the modern features to ensure that you are comfortable, the aim is to remind you that you are far from civilization and surrounded by nature. It’s a place to relax and unwind, away from the pressures of modern life and to encourage this there are no TVs in the rooms (there is one in the common room if you really want to watch movies though).
Similarly, Wifi is available only in the lobby, but it is not the most reliable. This is to be expected when you are so far from anything and it forces you to fully engage with the experience. Bring a good book or a pre-loaded iPad (don’t expect to be able to download or stream anything), and enjoy some time cut off from it all. To be honest, most nights you will be so tired from your daily excursions, that you will have no problem getting an early night.
If you are there for more than a few days, at some point you will probably want to take a day off from exploring and take some time to relax. Luckily Tierra also has a large and well equipped spa so you can do just that. Here you will find a swimming pool (with stunning views of course), a sauna, and a steam bath. There is also an outside jacuzzi as well as relaxation areas. You get access to all this just by staying at the hotel but if you want one of the treatments you will be charged for it.
After a week exploring, we indulged on our last day and spent the morning lounging around the pool. We then moved on to the jacuzzi (and watched hawks circle overhead), before getting an hour long massage. It was just what we needed.
Being so isolated, you might worry that the hotel would struggle to provide great food. This is not the case however! My mouth still waters when I remember eating there – it was just that good. Of course, there is nowhere else to go, so it’s a good thing it was so tasty. Its location is actually an advantage as its chefs use only locally sourced seafood, and meats from the local ranches.
The menu changes every day, but there is always something good. Breakfast consists of a delicious and hearty buffet with all the things you would expect, and the drink selection is also top notch. Chile is famous for its wines and there are some great ones here. They also have a clever cocktail menu featuring the Calafate Sour – made from the berries of the local calafate plant.
As I mentioned before though, it is the activities and excursions which make Tierra Patagonia so special. You don’t travel all the way to Patagonia, not to get out into the wilderness. There are a bewildering array of options, which is why we sat down to plan our week with the guides on the first night. You can walk any number of the half or full day hikes on offer. Some go down to the lake, others take you to the famed base of the horns of the Torres del Paine massif. You can see the glaciers, or walk around the lagoons found nearby. If you prefer you can go horse riding, or if you want to cover more ground you can head out in the van, stopping in various places to take short hikes to picturesque spots. If you are willing to pay extra, they can even organize fishing and sailing trips.
We did the horse riding at Estancia Lazo which took us through some nice forests and ended with a great view of the mountains. We also did a hike where we saw some paintings done by the native Tehuelche people, and on another trip visited, Laguna Azul (the blue lake). This was one of the prettiest places of the whole trip! Another highlight were the waterfalls of Cascade Paine and Salto Grande.
During all of our excursions we were guided by the excellent staff at Tierra. We both want to thank Basilio, Kineret, Kati, Moni, Alexandra, and Pato for making the experience so amazing.
This is one of those once in a lifetime trips (although I hope we will be back!). There is nowhere else quite like Patagonia, and being surrounded by nature really makes you appreciate the world and its wonders. The hotel is equally unique and we couldn’t have asked for more. Everything from the food, to the guides, and even the building itself was of the highest quality. I think it would make the perfect place for a honeymoon, but anyone who wants to spend some time in the great outdoors will love it.
For more information about Tierra Patagonia, follow the link below