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The view from my bed was picture-frame perfect. Lake Sarmiento glistened turquoise. The wind howled and Cordillera Paine, the crown jewel of Torres del Paine National Park, glowed powder pink as day broke. Few places take your breath away like the steppes of Patagonia at dawn.
I recently visited Tierra Patagonia and the experience was overwhelming. It’s not often that you experience the vulnerability of being very far away. I have to say, the feeling is liberating.
In a time when awareness is managed through devices and connectivity is escapism, it is rare to find yourself without tools to control interaction. Patagonia is immersive. Internet and cell access is limited, lifting the pressures of distraction. It’s easier to appreciate the breadth of the sky, the smell of local linga wood, and the curious bleating of lambs just outside the windows. The Carmenere tastes better and the delineation between in and out, of and apart, melts away.
Tierra Hotels are committed to simple luxury, sustainability, and service. Properties are always in remote places and each is designed to deliver a strong sense of place. The sensitivity to local communities has resulted in small ecological and cultural footprints.
The properties feel like luxurious homes-away-from home. Bedrooms are small, designed for sleeping. Dining spaces offer breathtaking views and proximity to nature. Lounge areas are comfortable, with plush couches, fireplaces, shaggy rugs, and arrangements that encourage impromptu gatherings and interactions. Every expectation is anticipated, every desire is considered. The focus is experience.
During the few days I was at the end of the world, I hiked around the lake, rode horses with gauchos on a local estancia, and trekked 22km out and back to the base camp of Torres del Paine. One evening, I checked into the hotel’s intimate spa. Beyond the glass, lambing season was in full swing. Ewes called their little ones close, wary of wayward travelers and waiting pumas.
Temperatures take a dip in the evenings in Patagonia. That’s when guests gather around stove fireplaces, sip pisco, and swap stories from the trails. The general manager, ever the most gracious host, is always present to entertain and engage.
True luxury is heritage. Tierra Patagonia’s strong sense of the place, incorporation of history and legends, and intentional melding with its environment is a reminder that some of the most valuable places have existed thousands of years before us and will continue to exist long after we pack our bags for home.
Tierra Patagonia rewards those who make the trek. To reach the property, travelers fly into Punta Arenas or, in high season, Puerto Natales. From there, guests are transferred to the lodge via the appropriately-named Ruta del fin del Mundo. Depending on the point of departure, the scenic drive can take from 4.5 hours to 1.5 hours.
Patagonia is a seasonal destination. Tierra Patagonia is open in the Southern Hemisphere’s Spring and Summer–from September through May.
Also on the Tierra Hotels must-stay list:
Tierra’s commitment to sustainability and strong sense of place was made apparent when Tierra Atacama made headlines as the first property in Chile to supply 100% of its daytime energy with solar electricity. It makes sense though, everything in Atacama extreme.
The Atacama Desert is one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Considered the driest desert on Earth, Atacama is home to extensive salt flats, prehistoric sea-beds, jaw-dropping hikes, and petroglyphs that seem to come from another world.
Located on the outskirts of the oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama, Tierra Atacama gracefully melds into its environment by incorporating cultural and historical elements into its design. The entryway to the hotel is a century-old cattle corral that winds through a lavender and herb garden to the main lobby and communal spaces. Rooms at Tierra Atacama are spacious, comfortable, and neat. One of my favorite spots to relax was on a sunken patio overlooking fields of herbs and the Andes mountains in the distance. Sitting around the fireplace at night with a signature Atacama Sour, beneath stars so bright you could practically read a book, felt like the perfect way to wind down after a day of hiking.
Miles off the continent, the undulating hills Chiloé Island are cloaked in mist and legend. Miles of small-scale, agricultural outfits, colorful wooden palafito stilted homes, and iconic wooden churches are reminders of a proud history and fiercely independent culture. It feels like you’ve arrived at the edge of the Earth. The people of Chiloe Island have long been a seafaring lot and the architecture on the island strongly reflects that heritage. The island is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, most notably the unique wooden churches with insides reminiscent of the hull of a ship. Besides mussels and fish, wool is an important export. I suggest visiting a local market and picking up some of the softest sweaters and blankets you’ll find anywhere.
The hotel itself is breathtaking. True to the style of the region, the architecture of Tierra Chiloe focuses on the natural beauty of the destination and its natural resources. The hallways smell like Chilean linga wood. In nooks around the property, local artists are featured with work depicting daily life and Chiloean myths. Outside, the smell of eucalyptus mingles with wood-burning stove. The entry drive is made of crushed mussel shells.
Tierra Chiloe is the only five-star hotel on Chiloe Island and the perfect place to retreat for long hikes, evenings by the fire, and for some of the freshest food in the world.
(Leslie Canter, of Departure Lounge, is a travel advisor and travel/lifestyle blogger based in Washington D.C. Her story first appeared on www.canterburyjourneys.com).
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