Explora Patagonia is a property I have always wanted to visit. So, when the opportunity presented itself I jumped on it. If you have an interest in exploration, adventure and nature this is the place for you. This is not exactly the easiest place in the world to get to (if you have any questions about getting to and from Explora feel free to contact me). I arrived inPunta Arenas,Chile(viaSantiago) fromNew York. I was immediately met by a representative from Explora and from this point on; I didn’t have to worry about a thing. Explora Patagonia is an all inclusive which means you pay one price and everything is included such as meals, excursions, transportation and even the wine!
I met up with some other travelers also arriving and we were loaded up into a van for our 5 hour journey through the valleys and mountains into the Torres del Paine National Park and Explora Patagonia. Unfortunately, due to the flight being delayed, the last half of the drive was in darkness.
Upon arriving at the property we were graciously met by the General Manager, Carlos. The hotel is actually called the Salto Chico Lodge and it is literally perched right next to the Salto Chico Waterfalls however I usually refer to this property “Explora Patagonia”.
All of the rooms at this property are very similar in size and set up with the difference being the view. There are a couple of junior suites which are larger but on average the rooms are on the small side. They are cozy and simply designed. They have excellent beds and bedding. Very comfy. Crawling into the bed after a glass of tasty Chilean wine and a long day of hiking was divine! The bathroom is also on the small side (only room for one person) however I noticed that there was never a lack of hot water for showering and the water pressure was excellent, not to mention the in room Jacuzzi which is also a nice perk after a day of hiking and/or horseback riding. By the end of my stay I realized that the only time I actually spent in my room was to shower and sleep so the size ultimately did not matter. Clearly, the owners of the property took the important things into consideration: The Bed and the shower!
One of the most amazing moments for me was the first morning I woke up and rolled up my blind. Because I arrived in the dark of night, I had no idea what to expect out of my window. The view took my breath away. The mountain peaks just outside my window were spectacular. From then on, I slept with my blinds open so I could lie in bed in the morning watching the sun rise on these beautiful mountain peaks.
Food & Service
It is hard to understand how this property, located many hours drive from any town or civilization, is able to serve a fresh, enjoyable menu. Breakfasts consisted of European buffet with meats, cheese, breads, muffins, grains, etc. in addition to a full menu from which you could order eggs, waffles, etc. Coffee, like wine, is a different experience depending on where you might find yourself in the world. The coffee at Explora Patagonia was delicious! The menu changed daily for lunches and dinners, always with a vegetarian choice on the menu. All in all the food was pretty darn good. I always like to point out I live inNew York Cityand enjoy a different restaurant on average 5 nights a week so I am a tough critic when it come to food. I was shocked at the quality of the salads. Where on earth are they getting these fresh ingredients in the middle ofPatagonia! And as I mentioned before, the never-ending flow of excellent Chilean wine also adds to this satisfying dining experience. There are also days where you might enjoy a full day hike and so your lunch becomes a picnic lunch served somewhere interesting during your hike. These picnic lunches were also very enjoyable, sitting out doors, enjoying the view and noshing on some interesting salads, sandwiches, etc. The service level was very good in the restaurant and within the hotel. At no point did I ever feel my needs were not being met in anyway. Everyone is incredibly friendly and the guides were great too.
Exploration & Experience
As I mentioned previously, this is a destination of adventure and exploration (and amazing scenery). The property offers a myriad of hikes and walks and horseback riding for all age groups and capabilities. To be honest, I was a bit nervous before my trip about my level of fitness for my visit to Explora Patagonia. However, I soon realized that they tailor everything to each travelers needs. It was a bit intimidating at first not knowing what to expect on the hikes so I enjoyed the fact that I could work my way into it. For example, on the first day I broke up my day into a very enjoyable ½ day walk which was about 3-4 hours, returned to the lodge for lunch and then went on a 2 hour horseback riding excursion. During my stay I worked myself up to taking the full day 9 hour hike to the Grey Glacier, the highlight of my trip. So if you have a concern about being capable, don’t. If you enjoy walking and scenery, you will enjoy this experience.
Each evening, before dinner, guests tend to gather in the wine bar area, where they will enjoy a glass of wine with some savory appetizers while talking about their current days adventure with other guests, use the internet and discuss and explore with the guides plans for the following day. I called this my “Patagonia Happy Hour”. This is an environment (similar to a safari) where you easily meet and chat with other travelers. You will often be grouped with others during hikes and the intimate happy hour atmosphere is quite enjoyable since everyone is experiencing the same excitement of their day.
On one of my days at Explora I decided to stay at the hotel after lunch and arranged a massage. Carmen was my masseuse and I was pleasantly surprised. Because of my business, I travel extensively to luxury resorts and rarely book a massage. Living inNew YorkI am spoiled by having one of the best masseuses. So needless to say I am usually disappointed paying an excessive amount of money to receive an average massage. Carmen did not disappoint and I found the price to be reasonable at $130.00 USD. I also took the time to enjoy the hot tub and indoor pool.
Overall, this is an unusual experience for individuals seeking something different. I was at the hotel in May when the peak season is winding down. At the end of my stay, Carlos, the manager, took me on a tour of the lodge and explained that the hotel would be closing for a period of time this summer where they would be making some major improvements to the communal area of the hotel including the bar and dining room and also the sleeping rooms. It all sounded very exciting and for those of you considering a visit in the future, I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised. If you have any questions about my experiences or would like recommendations please feel free to drop me a line, I am happy to help.