Inside Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia, there are many fabulous and transporting options for lodging, most of them highlighting the incredible natural riches of the area. But perhaps nothing will get you closer to the outdoors than a stay at Patagonia Camp and its collection of 18 luxury yurts on the edge of Lake Toro.
Patagonia Camp has an ecological mission to minimize its impact (as well as its guests’) on the environment. For example, instead of mowing down trees (like the lenga, a tree indigenous to Chile)) that surround the property to make space for your bedroom, all the camp architecture is placed on wooden stilts and platforms. Patagonia Camp also recycles its water through a waste treatment plant, which is why you’re discouraged from using your own bath amenities and should instead go to town on the ones already in yurt. And before visions of ho-hum shampoos and soaps clog your mind, know that the hotel collaborated with a company in Santiago to create products that are not only biodegradable but sweet-smelling, too. The travel-size bottles of body treats are packed with ingredients like aloe vera and lavender that will make you forget you ever brought your own stuff. I loved the shampoo so much I took it with me at check out.
The All-Inclusive option, which is what most guests go for when booking here, includes a variety of perks, from local transfers and the park’s entrance fee to an open bar, meals and a selection of excursions. More intrepid (read: fitter) travelers will definitely want to do the Torres Base Trek, one of the famed hikes in Patagonia that will inflict all sorts of physical demands such as the final 45-minute uphill climb to the foot of the Three Towers, one of the geographical icons of South America. Patagonia Camp’s location right by Lake Toro, however, affords its guests plenty of exclusive excursions, too, like fishing on the lake and a fairly easy hike to one of the nearby waterfalls. If you want to spring for activities not included in the program but well worth the added expense, kayaking on Lake Grey is one of those Bucket List experiences you never thought you had. An afternoon spent paddling around with floating glaciers close enough to touch is simply unforgettable. All of it is guided by kind (and thankfully patient) locals who have mastered this area and, more than likely, the English language. Patagonia Camp is constantly developing new excursions to give travelers truly immersive opportunities when they’re in Patagonia. Who knows what new-fangled itinerary they’ll come with next?
After a day of adventure that will acquaint you to Patagonia’s natural majesty, you’ll retreat back to camp for a little R&R before that evening’s meal. The main house is essentially the one-stop shop at Patagonia Camp. It’s where you check in, there’s a lounge where you can hang out and perhaps meet other guests, there’s a small bar where you can try some Chilean vinos, and it also houses the main dining room where all meals are served. Almost everything that comes from the kitchen is local and sourced from Puerto Natales, a small town outside the park. One of the more spectacular meals at the camp is the traditional lamb BBQ, which is organized three nights a week. An entire lamb is slow-roasted for five hours leaving it deliciously tender. Its served with all sorts of sides and vegetables, filling enough to reclaim all the calories you would lose after a full day’s hike.
The yurts themselves aren’t particularly huge (each is about 300 square feet in total plus a terrace), but they are wonderfully decorated with locally handcrafted furniture like the pale wood desk and bed plus colorful woven textiles and plush animal hide area rugs. Each unit is simple, uncluttered and stylish. The bed is placed directly under a clear patch of the yurt’s roof allowing you to soak in star-lit skies before going to bed. It’s a fantastic inclusion that you may not think you want but given the low air pollution in Patagonia, you’ll (especially city dwellers who never see the star) be glad it’s there. And the large windows that look out to the lake will constantly remind you of just how gorgeous and unspoiled this pocket of the world is. Leaving the curtains open at night and letting the stream of sunlight to wake you up in the morning is the perfect start to a day in Patagonia. And the bright turquoise of Lake Toro will be the first thing you’ll see.