October 30, 2019
By Erin Lentz
When travel is at its best, it stirs our emotional landscapes while physical terrain is traversed, trekked, and discovered. While recently exploring Chilean Patagonia, I quickly realize that its pampas, or ranch land, and the iconic Torres del Paine National Park are much more than a bucket-list check. If you’re lucky, it’s a place to return to—and if unable to physically revisit, it will forever remain an enchanting mental escape. Between the ethereal Atacama Desert, spirited Chiloé Island, and the massive, Patagonia peaks, this part of the globe is at once ethereal, peaceful, and mysterious.
During adventures with Sentient Jet Exclusive Benefits partner Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic, you’re nearly guaranteed a trip of a lifetime. Here’s our insider access to Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa and Torres del Paine National Park.
Torres del Paine National Park
Stay: When traveling with Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic’s “Best of Chilean Patagonia” adventure, you’ll stay several nights at the inspired Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, recently named the top hotel in South America in Conde Nast Traveler’s annual Reader’s Choice Awards. Here, everything is elevated: The architecture and design of the hotel seamlessly feels part of the land it graces, while each of the 40 rooms (two Family Suites can accommodate up to six) frame indelible views across Lake Sarmiento to Paine Massif and the iconic peaks of Torres del Paine National Park. The hotel rises from the foot of the park like a 200-foot-long sand dune, resembling forms crafted by the wind or “an old fossil, a prehistoric animal beached on the lake shore, like those studied by Charles Darwin,” according to its Chilean architect, Cazu Zegers. The interiors—designed by the dynamic Chilean design duo Alexandra Edwards and Carolina Delpiano—are meant to complement nature and not overwhelm the senses. The result? Interior walls intricately patterned with Lenga wood paneling, a blonde Patagonian beech wood that gives dimensionality to stylish spaces, and regionally-sourced furnishings made by local artisans. To further celebrate sense-of-place, the property houses local artifacts and traditional Patagonian textiles. Spend time in the library, arguably the hotel’s best view and an impressive hub of Chilean literature.
See: After arriving at the hotel to a Calafate Pisco Sour (local legend suggests if you eat or sip the calafate berry, you’re guaranteed to return), you’ll meet head guide Basilio, who has 20 years park experience (seven specifically with Tierra Patagonia). With meticulous knowledge of the park and its finicky weather, his team of guides is the best in the business and lead varied and vast excursions: hiking, birding, horseback riding, kayaking, mountain biking, and boating to enchanting glaciers. The tricky part is deciding on just what to do, as every excursion holds once-in-a-lifetime promise and dare-to-leave-me terrain. The guides will also explain there’s a tangible respect here for the land on which you’ll roam. In addition to diverse ecosystems and its famous natural splendor, the region is rich in history, too, celebrating indigenous communities and the famous explorers of the West, including Magellan, Drake, Fitzroy and Darwin. Adventurous guests are able to hike to areas around Lake Sarmiento in search of rarely spotted pumas, which can be found in caves around the lake.
Play: “Vamos!” exclaims Luco, Tierra Patagonia’s head gaucho. I dutifully follow orders, giving my horse, Brewho, a gentle nudge. And off we ride, literally, into a cotton-candy Patagonia sunset, with nothing but the click-clack of fellow riders and the wind stirring above the pampa. Horseback riding in Patagonia is all but mandatory—a tradition that celebrates the scent of the earth, the spirit of the south, and the intoxicating natural cocktail of land, nature, and the area’s authentic cowboy culture. As a beginner to intermediate rider, I appreciated Luco’s quick assessment of our ability, which led to fun, stop-and-go sessions on trotting skills while breathing in the otherworldly landscape.
Not to Miss: When we initially arrived at Tierra Patagonia, the aforementioned head guide, Basilio, quickly explained that if there’s one thing that must be conquered while visiting Torres del Paine National Park it’s hiking the gorgeous 14.5-mile trail to Las Torres or “The Towers.” So I sign up, eager for the challenge. Our group is warned it’s a haul—a lung- and leg-buster (expect 9 hours hiking time) of a trek, but worth every step. And when I round the last steep boulder field—while constantly eyeing the three massive spiral towers that grace book covers, field guides, and imaginations—it’s quickly apparent why. Pictures simply can’t do this view justice. When standing at the base of these three granite peaks, known left to right as Torres d’Agostini, Torres Central, and Torres Monzino, I am speechless. Hugging a turquoise lake, the towers stand sentinel to what feels like the end of the earth. Here, we’re reminded how nature is in charge. While standing on a massive boulder at the base of the lake to drink in the view, I say a silent prayer of gratitude and hope my son will someday glimpse these giants.
Sip & Savor: Authentically fusing Chilean favorites with his unique culinary stamp, Tierra Patagonia Master Chef Rafael Figueroa concepted Tierra Patagonia’s daily, seasonally inspired menus to be simple yet hearty. Sourcing seafood from the Straits of Magellan and Beagle Canal, meats and lamb from the nearby ranches, and calafate and myrtle berries from the pampas (with plenty of savory vegetarian dishes served, too), Figueroa strikes a tasty balance of sea and land. After 10 days in Chile, his citrus crusted Chilean sea bass is crowned the favorite meal of the trip. What’s more, weekly Patagonian “asados” or barbeques feature slow-cooked lamb and showcase a historic local tradition.
Unplug: Spa with a view? Check! Tierra Patagonia’s UMA Spa can confidently claim one of the globe’s top vistas. I sat at the edge of the infinity-edge pool, overlooking Lake Sarmiento and Paine Massif, and simply couldn’t tear myself away, see-sawing between the pool and the outdoor Jacuzzi. Small and cozy, additional spa facilities include steam baths, saunas, and meditation lounges. A full treatment menu features signature body and facial treatments embracing local tradition and such elements such as stones, crystals, plants and herbs—ideal remedies after discovering Patagonia’s penchant for outdoor play.
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