We may have only been able to travel for a few months in 2020 due to Covid pandemic restrictions, but we visited a lot of great hotels in Argentina and Chile during that time. Welcome to part 2 in our Best of the Trans-Americas Journey series–our guide to the Best Hotels of 2020 including truly bespoke luxury, floating rooms, a fluffy keychain, and more. Part 1 covers the best travel adventures of 2020 and part 3 covers the best food and beverages of the year.
Best hotels of 2020 in Argentina & Chile
Best bespoke luxury adventure lodge: Like the idea of your own private guide and vehicle so you can go where you want when you want? Want a dish that’s not on the menu? Need Wi-Fi in the main lodge but want it turned off in your private 800 square foot villa? The all-inclusive Awasi Patagonia in Chile, part of the exclusive Relais & Chateaux group of hotels, gives guests all of that and lots of other ways to personalize their stay based, in part, on answers to a detailed pre-arrival questionnaire. We worked with our private guide, for example, to craft a day of hiking to Base de Torres in nearby Torres del Paine National Park that included a very early departure from the hotel because we wanted to beat the crowds (as many as 3,000 people hit this trail per day). It worked, and we also got a fleeting glimpse of two young pumas on our way out of the hotel’s reserve in the pre-dawn hours.
Best private lake lodge: The only structures on the shore of Lago Deseado are the bungalows and restaurant of Lodge Deseado which opened as a fishing lodge in 2005 but was recently transformed into a luxury adventure hideaway in Tierra del Fuego which boasts one of the lowest population densities in the world. The lodge still offers fishing along with hikes and boat adventures lead by passionate English-speaking guides. Accommodations now include six very spacious standard rooms constructed with two walls of windows to maximize lake views. There’s a king-size bed, a wood-burning stove, reading chairs facing the lake, and a shared furnished patio between each block of two rooms. The three premium rooms have the same features, but are a bit bigger and have private patios or decks. All rooms have wood and slate floors, rain showerheads, copper lamps, and decor in natural tones and textures including striking modern tapestries. Large pieces of woven art also decorate the rustic main lodge building which houses the restaurant and a library and reading room with a welcoming fireplace. Overall, Lodge Deseado presents the very best dilemma: Sleep in? Read by the fire? Or go out and explore?
Best keychain: The design of Remota Patagonia Lodge, in Puerto Natales, Chile, was inspired by the ruggedly beautiful utilitarian buildings on vast Patagonian sheep farms. That inspiration can be seen in details throughout the hotel including the black and white color scheme and even in the keychains which are fluffy sheep made out of local wool. For more reasons to visit this hotel near Torres del Paine National Park, including unexpectedly good cuisine, read our full review of Remota Patagonia Lodge for Luxury Latin America.
Best unexpected charmer: Los Ponchos Boutique Hotel in El Calafate, Argentina charms instantly with friendly staff, a casual living room lobby, 12 rooms with kitchens, a large garden, fresh-cut flowers, and views of Lago Argentino. That easy atmosphere is enhanced by the decor which features antiques (the owners had an antique shop) and a collection of beautiful textiles from Guatemala, Peru, and other areas. There’s no hotel restaurant, however, a great breakfast, including homemade bread, homemade yogurt, homemade jam, eggs, fruit, good coffee, and more, is served daily to set guests up for their Patagonian adventures.
Best hotel spa: One of the largest and best-equipped hotel spas we saw all year was at the Rio Serrano Hotel & Spa on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. Added in 2018, the spa has his and hers dry saunas, a full gym that’s open 24 hours a day, an enormous heated pool, and many relaxation and treatment rooms where facials, massages, and more are offered using ingredients, rituals, and techniques inspired by Indigenous Aónikenk and Kawésqar cultures.
Best luxury adventure lodge location: More than two decades ago Eric saw a photo almost identical to his shot above and he vowed that he would see that place for himself someday. That view of Lake Pehoé, with Torres del Paine massif in the distance, had a similar effect on Chilean businessman Pedro Ibáñez who was inspired by the vista to create the explora group of luxury adventure lodges. Of course, the very first explora lodge was this one with this view and, to this day, the explora Patagonia lodge is the only luxury hotel option inside Torres del Paine National Park. We finally got there in 2020 and we can assure you that the privileged location and the view aren’t the only perfect things about this place. For many more reasons to book a room, read our full review of the explora Patagonia lodge for Luxury Latin America.
Best “hometel”: Even by Patagonian standards, Aguas Arriba Lodge is secluded. Located 25 miles (40 km) from the town of El Chalten, Argentina on the shore of Lago Desierto, guests travel by car and then by boat to reach the place. Once there, most never want to leave what intrepid owners Ivor and Patricia have created. They call their 5 room lodge a “hometel” and the place does have a natural home-like feel–as if you’ve arrived at a friend’s lake house. Few guests ever lock their rooms. People wander in and out of the kitchen. We wore slippers inside the lodge and left our hiking boots in the mudroom. Not surprisingly, there are no TVs, no cell service, and only iffy internet access. The idea is to get out and explore the 1,800 acres (700 hectares) of untouched forest and lakeshore around the lodge. Guides are on hand to take guests trout fishing. A network of trails offers great hiking as well as the chance to spot a huemul deer. And there’s a yoga and meditation dome in the woods. Pleasantly exhausted guests return “home” to settle into overstuffed sofas or lounge chairs on the deck and enjoy views of the north face of Mt. Fitz Roy, the Vespignani glacier, and Mt. Torre.
Best national park hostel: La Posta de Los Toldos in Parque Patagonia in Argentina was formerly known as Hosteria Cueva de Los Manos before a complete renovation transformed the single-story structure into a weathered wood and earth tone haven that’s home to the excellent Auek Yenu restaurant (don’t miss the lamb ravioli), a sitting room with wood furniture draped in sheepskins, and nine rooms each with one bathroom and single beds sleeping between four and six people (US$10 per bed plus US$7 if you need bedding and a towel–if you want a private room you have to buy all the beds). The place reopened in 2019 and is now run by the Rewilding Foundation of Argentina which is associated with Tompkins Conservation. When we arrived a small group of choique (an emu-like bird) and some guanacos (the llama’s wild cousin) were eating contentedly in front of the building. Wildlife sightings are so common in the area that there’s a book for guests to log the animals they’ve seen. We saw a puma just a few miles from the lodge. Bring cash because Wi-Fi is iffy and when it goes out the credit card machine doesn’t work.
Best floating room: The lodge rooms and bungalows at Hacienda Tres Lagos, near Puerto Guadal in Patagonian Chile, are welcoming and comfortable but our favorite rooms at this lakeside hotel are the ones that float. Two identical rooms were created in a shared pre-fab building on a floating dock on Laguna Negra. Each room has a queen-size bed, a wall of windows to maximize the lake views, a minifridge, and a large bathroom, and they’re surrounded by a wrap-around deck with lounge chairs. But the best thing about these rooms is that you get rocked to sleep as the floating dock moves gently on the lake.
Best hip and historic hotel: Not many hotels offer guests a one-hour guided history tour that’s legitimately fascinating. Then again, not many hotels have the history of The Singular Patagonia where a large part of the personality of the hotel lies in its past. Located in Puerto Bories, just outside the town of Puerto Natales in Chile, the complex opened in 1915 as an abattoir and cold storage facility that became one of the main suppliers of lamb to Europe, processing up to 250,000 sheep per year. As you walk through original brick buildings and past machinery still in place, guides explain how the work that was done here was a vital part of the massive network of sheep farms that were the financial backbone of the first non-indigenous inhabitants who arrived in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego from Europe in the 19th century. The property was named a National Historic Monument in 1996 and the modern portions of the hotel, where rooms are located, were skillfully and carefully integrated. The result is warehouse chic on a massive scale. Huge pieces of Victorian machinery gleam like hulking industrial art inside even larger spaces and utilitarian materials are cleverly folded into the polished design. For more reasons to book a room, read our full review of The Singular Patagonia for Luxury Latin America.
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Here’s more about travel in Argentina
Here’s more about travel in Chile