As I turn the lights off in preparation for bed, I head to the window, in need of some fresh air. I crack it slightly, and the sound of the howling wind rushes in. Just across Lake Sarmiento, the snow on the surrounding peaks reflects the moonlight, even as low clouds roll in around it. Stars dot the sky, and there’s not a sound to be heard except for that of the breeze.
The breathtaking view from my room at Tierra Patagonia is a constant reminder of the hotel’s remoteness, enveloped by the vast landscape of Chilean Patagonia. An hour’s drive from the nearest town, and four hours from Punta Arenas Airport, getting there requires an abundance of commitment and time. Though the logistics may seem daunting, Tierra’s location ensures that you’re fully immersed into the magnificence of your surroundings, and only adds to the extraordinary nature of a trip to the end of the world.
The property itself is an architectural marvel. Built low into the landscape, it’s hardly visible until you drive right up to the front door. The wooden structure looks like the cross section of an airplane wing, sloped and curved. Massive wood and glass doors allow you into the reception area, and a wide hallway leads to common areas ahead. To the left, two flights of stairs lead to rooms and suites, and the formal dining room is to the right.
For me, speechlessness is a rare occurrence, but the design of Tierra Patagonia took my breath away. Plush chairs face the giant windows, with views of Torres del Paine National Park and the Cordillera del Paine, the park’s central mountain range. To the side, a more intimate sitting area surrounds a giant, hand-illustrated map of the park, with a scattering of reading lamps providing soft, ambient light. A round fireplace separates the living room from the bar and dining area.
Trinidad, the manager on duty, escorts me to my room, where my luggage is already waiting. The room design mirrors that of the rest of the hotel, with hardwood floors and plush rugs. A king bed faces the window, while comfy chair and hanging lamp occupy one corner. Back in the entryway, a closet (with polished rocks as knobs), has plenty of space for clothes, as well as a small chest of drawers and safe. The bathroom has dual sinks and a massive white bathtub, while two opaque glass doors separate the toilet and walk-in shower from the rest of the bathroom. Perhaps the neatest feature is the long, rectangular window above the bathtub, which allows for an uninhibited view of the mountain landscape through the room’s larger window. L’Occitane shower amenities are lined up on the counter, while a plush bathrobe and slippers sit next to the tub. A reusable metal water bottle, perfect for excursions, is a welcome gift from the hotel.
After settling into my room, I head back to the common area to chat with the guides about tomorrow’s excursions. Rosario, one of the many guides on property, sits down with me and explains the day’s various trips. Both full day and half day excursions are offered, though after hearing about my length of stay and interests, Rosario suggests two full day excursions. On Saturday, I will head out on a driving tour of Torres del Paine National Park, ending with a boat trip out to Grey Glacier, and on Sunday I’m to attempt an 18km (~11mi) hike to the base of the Torres del Paine, the park’s namesake granite peaks. These two trips would allow me to see most of the park’s important landmarks in the shortest amount of time, while providing incredible photo opportunities.
By the time I’m finished up with Rosario, dinner service has already begun. Served in the main dining room, the food focuses on Chilean-influenced modern fare, made with fresh, local ingredients. The choices were different each night, but typically consisted of three appetizer choices, three entree choices, and two dessert choices. Everything was delicious, from the beef tenderloin with potatoes to the Chilean-style lamb stew. Desserts hit all the right notes, be it key lime pie or chocolate fudge dollop served atop a fresh cookie. Those staying under the all-inclusive package also have their choice of drinks, with house wines and spirits included. It’s difficult to go wrong with a Chilean red wine, and the wines served on property were no exception.
It’s Sunday morning, two days into my stay. The breakfast is impressive, with a huge variety of meats, cheeses, yogurt, juices, breads, and about six different kinds of jellies and jams. Huge, juicy squares of pineapple, honeydew, and cantaloupe are laid out, along with delicious grapes. Scrambled eggs and a french toast variant are also offered. It’s the perfect balanced breakfast, and good fuel for the body. I’m steeling myself for this morning’s eighteen kilometer hike.
It’s a relatively big group today; nine guests plus our guide, Catalina, a Ch. On the drive to the trailhead, she explains our route for the day. It’s a nine kilometer uphill hike to the base of Towers, some 2870 feet up, where we’ll eat lunch before heading back down. Eight hours of hiking are estimated.
So, we set off. The scenery is beautiful, with small streams and footbridges crisscrossing the path, and horses climbing a parallel route. The scenery is lovely and varied, ranging from lush forests to mountain overlooks. Roughly three hours in, Cata stops so we can take a break before heading into hour four, the immediate ascent to the lookout point.
It becomes immediately obvious that it will be a long, strenuous final kilometer. Dirt trail gives way to a wall of rock, taunting us with a quick glimpse of the peaks of the towers. At this point, Cata really shone, encouraging everyone and charting the best way to scale the last obstacle between us and lunch. After another forty-five minutes of climbing, we finally made it up to the base, where a turquoise glacial lake stood between us and a nearly unobscured view of the massive monoliths, reaching far into the sky.
It is a wonderful, fulfilling moment, not unlike the entirety of my stay at Tierra Patagonia. There is something inherently special about spending three nights at the end of the world, but the ambience at Tierra only adds to that remarkable feeling. The staff is second-to-none, and vibe is relaxing from the get-go. It’s a true immersion into the spirit of the land, an embrace that holds on tight and never lets go.