Take a journey through Patagonia’s top properties with Knowmad Co-Founder, Jordan, to learn about their subtle differences in location, excursions, spa amenities, dining, and more to discover which lodge is best for you.
We’re all different and what’s a perfect Patagonia trip for you may be very different from someone else’s. This Patagonia lodge and hotel review will keep that in mind, and focuses exclusively on the lodges that serve Torres del Paine National Park in Chile’s southern Patagonia.
Adventure lodges offer guests a flexible ‘choose your own adventure’ approach with a wide range of excursions, from wildlife and photography focused days only requiring light walking all the way to summiting the famed Base of the Towers, a demanding 8-hour roundtrip with over 2,000 ft. of elevation gain. In addition to having far reaching explorations throughout and beyond Torres del Paine National Park, arguably the crown jewel of Southern Patagonia wilderness, they offer lodging featuring the country’s top chefs, wine lists, and some of the most sweeping hotel views on the planet. This flexibility of adventures with seasoned wilderness guides in one of the world’s most stunning landscapes coupled with a world-class lodging experience is a unique combination that provides the foundation for an unimaginable travel experience.
My favorite of the luxury lodges in the Torres del Paine, Patagonia area are Explora Torres del Paine, Patagonia Camp, Tierra Patagonia and Awasi Patagonia, as well as the newly transformed Cerro Guido. Long the standard bearer of hotels in Torres del Paine, Explora Torres del Paine was the pioneer and in the last fifteen years it has been joined by Tierra, Awasi, Patagonia Camp, with Cerro Guido proving itself in 2022/23. These lodges consistently rank in the top 10 lodges in South America and top 50 lodges in the world, and the question of ‘which is the best lodge in Patagonia’ has become hotly debated. Having experienced all of these lodges multiple times, including post-pandemic, I will draw distinctions between them in the quest to help you answer how to choose the best Patagonia lodge for you.
The Best Patagonia Luxury Lodge For You
Explora Torres Del Paine
Explora Torres del Paine has the best location, views from the property, and retains the feel of a perfectly situated basecamp from which to enjoy a flexible Torres del Paine expedition. They place as much focus on the overall experience as they do the facilities, and have the most extensive excursion offering.
Now 30 years old, the sleek lines of the hotel set with the Paine Massif as its backdrop still makes for a jaw-dropping lodge that maintains a sense of simple elegance. Although all these lodges have incredible views, being tucked so closely to this multi-colored jagged peak and sandwiched between two lakes gives Explora the best views of them all. The rooms are far simpler than Awasi’s villas for example, but the views from the rooms are more dramatic than anything I’ve ever experienced, anywhere, period. Having moved past a couple challenging seasons 2017/18, they put renewed focus on the cuisine and consistently get pretty good client feedback on the culinary experience.
Explora Torres del Paine’s biggest differentiator has always been with its excursion offerings. They’re located on Lake Pehoe which connects to others in the park, and with the use of their private catamaran they have better and more regular access to Grey Glacier excursions as well as the French Valley, both park highlights. They are smack in the South Central of the park, equidistant to highlights on both the west and east, and are the only luxury Torres del Paine hotel that is located within National Park boundaries. It is also the only lodge to have its own horses and stable, with by far the best and most comprehensive equestrian offerings.
Explora is ideal for those who want a top-shelf Torres del Paine vacation that emphasizes location/convenience and excursion depth as much as it does the facilities and lodging component. Great for couples and groups averaging over 50 years of age, as well as very serious hikers and equestrians.
Pros: Best diversity of hikes and park excursions, most flexibility of excursion choice of the small group lodges, best access to Grey Glacier and French Valley due to private catamaran, best horseback rides.
Cons: Older facilities so rooms are fairly straightforward, fixed date entries during holiday/peak season can complicate those with rigid dates.
- Cordillera Paine room category is a must (click the link to see one of the most beautiful Torres del Paine views – from my room a couple of a trips ago, with a camera phone no less!)
- For serious hikers choosing Explora, consider their Valle Frances and Grey Glacier excursions which utilize the private catamaran to reach stunning trails less accessible by other lodges.
- Explora has taken over operations of the conservation focused Parque Patagonia Lodge (created by the Tompkins Foundation) which is in another stunning and incredibly remote Patagonia location. If combining both lodges with a minimum of 4N each, a charter flight option at a reasonable cost connects the two seamlessly every Monday. Consider this combo for an in-depth Patagonia experience in both iconic TDP and off-the-beaten path Parque Patagonia.
- Unexpectedly Explora in Cordillera Paine room will be less costly than Tierra in Superior for the 23/24 high and mid-season pricing after always being a fair bit higher historically, so their value proposition for 23/24 is the highest it has been in years.
- For shoulder and low season travel discounts available when combining with Explora Easter Island, Atacama and Sacred Valley Peru.
Tierra Patagonia features architecture and design befitting of its sweeping views that will have your mouth agape. It has a feel that’s at the same time laid back and lively, the vibe more social and international often times then its other 5-star Patagonia lodge counterparts. After a couple seasons of finding their footing, the food consistently gets high marks and has a wider range then Explora. The room quality, decor, design and overall facilities are much newer and appeal to design-forward travelers with a flare for a modern aesthetic.
Tierra has excellent guides and although not the most exhaustive excursion list out there, they cover all the bases and then some. Their location on the eastern edge of the park is central enough so that you can enjoy Torres del Paine’s highlights, and also do some off-the-beaten path hikes nearby the park and in the Sierra Baguales, a lesser-known area home to impressive geology and abundant fossils.
The great location and views, a wide range of excursion choices, and some of the park’s newest facilities make Tierra Patagonia lodge a great choice. Their pool and spa are by far the best in Patagonia.
Tierra Patagonia is often the ideal lodge for honeymoons, discerning couples open to small group excursions, and those willing to sacrifice a small bit of additional excursion drive time overall for more striking and modern facilities.
Under new ownership and management for the 23/24 season, for the first time ever Tierra will now be as or more expensive than Explora and close to Awasi, and they have indicated there will be significant infrastructure improvement. The excursion list as of Jan 23 is being overhauled and it remains unclear how it will change for the 23/24 season.
Pros: Design-forward facilities are gorgeous, spa and pool area are great, laid back atmosphere while retaining attention to detail. Only top TDP lodge to feature biking. Incredible sweeping views with more wildlife sightings from the lodge.
Cons: Not as abundant excursion choices as Explora.
- Property features 3 ‘standard’ rooms which have a nice price reduction from the ‘superiors’. These standard rooms are nearly the same only with bathtub in room, which can actually be a plus as you’ll never have a bath with these views and it’s romantic for honeymooners, making this a steal (word’s getting out though so these need to be booked far out and best to have some date flexibility).
Patagonia Camp offers a close-to-nature ‘glamping’ style setup in luxury yurts replete with cozy down comforters, central heating, en suite bathrooms, and all the comforts of a hotel room. Deluxe jacuzzi yurts even come with a jacuzzi hot tub on your private terrace overlooking the lake and mountains. The food is amazing, service great, and this close-to-nature small property also offers significant savings relative to Tierra/Explora/Awasi, a winning combination that elevates Patagonia Camp far above anything else at its price point, and an option to consider regardless of budget for those who may have once loved a great camping trip, but are looking for a super comfortable yet close-to-nature, unique lodging experience and adventure in Patagonia.
Patagonia Camp is rustic luxury done right. With just 20 yurts spread throughout an expansive shoreline and peninsula, it offers intimacy as well as a social atmosphere and experience. The food is on par with the more expensive lodges which is to say quite delicious, there is just a bit less choice (generally between two appetizers, mains, and desserts whereas the other often offer between 3 and 4 choices depending on the course; they accommodate dietary restrictions quite well). The included wine list is also quite solid (all from Matetic Vineyard which has ownership overlap).
It is the only lodge to include options to kayak, done right from the lodge on turquoise Lago Toro. They offer the options to do self-guided spinner fishing (or fly fishing equipment rental as well as guided fly fishing options at additional cost). There are also more nice shorter hiking trails near the property, a plus for those who like more independence, or additional solo hike after guided adventures in the park.
Patagonia Camp is ideal for those looking for a really close-to-nature while luxurious and intimate lodging experience at a relatively more accessible price point. Also those looking for more of a multi-activity excursion offering. Often a great choice for younger couples and families. Family yurts accommodating up to 4 enhance the value comparison to other lodges for family trips in Torres del Paine.
Pros: Phenomenal value, wide range of activities among excursion choices, unique lodging experience simultaneously close-to-nature and luxe.
Cons: With just 20 yurts (and not private guides like Awasi) some excursions will not always be available as there is some balancing required amongst the guests in terms of what’s offered on a given day. Despite not having the guide to guest ratio of the others, they do a very good job balancing and we regularly receive exceptional feedback. No spa/pool facilities.
- Similar to Tierra and Awasi, located in a private reserve outside of park boundaries, which can make for a bit more drive time overall than Explora, especially for excursions on the east side of the park.
- Price differential for deluxe jacuzzi yurt, which in addition to jacuzzi on terrace offers better views and more ideal locations closer to lake, is not huge. Generally worth booking this category if available.
- Due to value proposition and small size, Patagonia Camp can book out similarly far out to Awasi.
- Wednesdays and Sundays feature a fun cocktail hour with amazing shaved lamb and meats in traditional gaucho pit style slow cooking in a quincho with delicious sopaipillas, and maté tasting.
Awasi differentiates itself by offering totally private excursions to their guests, whereas at Explora Salto Chico and Tierra Patagonia you will often be with small groups, generally with less than 12. Completed in November 2013, Awasi Patagonia is the highest level of luxury in Torres del Paine lodges especially when it comes to the lodging and food component. Outside of the park but near, the location affords dramatic and expansive views and access. Awasi Patagonia is the only lodge that offers a fully private experience with each villa having its own guide, driver, and 4×4 vehicle.
A Relais y Chateaux property, guided by the acclaimed Chef Mariano Salaberry, the culinary experience at Awasi is unrivaled, taking a nuanced approach to Chilean and international dishes using regional ingredients that finds a way to be equally as delicious as creative.
Similar to the guest to guide ratio, the hotel staff to guest ratio far surpasses the other lodges and results in impeccable service. Awasi is the most intimate, featuring just 14 villas perched throughout the property all with expansive zoomed out views of Sarmiento Lake and the tops of the Towers peaks. Blending a modern aesthetic with local woods, the villas are a massive 860 sq feet with their own living room, fire place, jacuzzi tub, and traditional outdoor wood-fired Chilean hot tub (be sure to request your guide call ahead to have them fire it up while you’re on excursion as they take hours to heat).
Awasi’s location is a bit farther east than Tierra and will add a bit of drive time for many of the most famous hikes in the park. However this remoteness often equates to more wildlife activity and abundant unknown hiking options where you will see nobody. It’s not uncommon to see wild herds of hundreds of guanacos and solitary gauchos on horseback, and this is prime Puma habitat. They have incredible access to Sierra Baguales, a mystical and extremely wild valley on the Argentine border chock full of fossils, wildlife and dramatic landscapes. Their guides are as personable as they are professional, and although Awasi overall sees less hardcore hikers than the others, they are fully equipped to offer more demanding hikes both iconic and unknown.
Awasi is ideal for those with ample budget seeking the highest level of luxury, and those who prefer to have a fully private guide allowing for a completely flexible and custom Torres del Paine experience. Additionally it’s ideal for culinary-centric travelers, as well as people with a keen interest in photography as the private guide component allows for excursion timetables that best accommodate lighting needs.
Pros: Unrivaled service and staff to guest ratio, private excursions, most refined and delicious food (the only lodge in Patagonia that’s Relais & Châteaux), massive villas with private wood burning hot tub outside. Great for those who prefer intimate settings and solitude.
Cons: Availability often challenging as far as a year out which can complicate a seamless trip flow marrying with other regions and in-demand properties on other trip legs. For those looking for a more casual feel and sociable setting, Awasi may feel a bit formal and less approachable. Location outside of eastern park boundary farther then Tierra makes access to the Grey Glacier and highlights of the west of the park quite a hike, significantly more costly (transfers in/out likely to cause unforeseen costs), additional cost for Grey Glacier boat ride. Smaller size means no spa (massages possible to be ordered in) or swimming pool. Benefits of private guide and vehicle not as impactful with groups of significant size.
- Book early!
- Strong price breaks for October and March shoulder season make Awasi surprisingly competitive to Explora and Tierra in these seasons.
- Villas 5, 7, 9, 10, 11 are closest to common spaces and preferable for the less active, while villas 1-4 and master suite 12 & 13 require are more secluded (golf cart service to main lodge available as well).
ESTANCIA CERRO GUIDO
Photos by Claudio Magallanes
Estancia Cerro Guido is a historic traditional estancia property that the family has recently updated and opened as an adventure inclusive style lodge. It is the biggest working estancia in Chilean Patagonia (still in operation today with more than 20,000 heads of sheep). For those looking for an exceptional lodging experience that is authentically Patagonian, this lodge should be strongly considered. The excursion offering is fairly robust, and includes plenty of riding options and culture in addition to hiking and scenic overland. This is the original estancia home of the family whose land holding both Awasi and Tierra are located on, and it has a great expansive view that includes both the Towers and the Paine Massif mountains. It is operated by the team at Patagonia Camp, and can make an awesome lodging style combination with the camp (don’t recommend combo’s unless you have at least 5 nights, preferably 6 or more). The food is exquisite and unpretentious.
As it is a new offering working to gain notoriety, one of the most notable aspects is that Cerro Guido is a top-shelf property that feels uniquely Patagonian with a competitive offering in terms of adventures and excursions and for the 23/24 season is a relatively incredible value and price. I expect rates to steadily and strongly increase in the coming years. Ideal for those who love authenticity and value for a high-quality adventure experience.
Pros: Incredible value proposition, deeply Patagonian and historically important. Small country property just refurbished so in tip-top condition and having a warm, familial feel.
Cons: 2022/23 season is really the first season they’re focusing on a truly inclusive adventure experience format and catering to a high-level of worldwide clientele. The management team is tops, but there will inevitably be a kink or two.
Insider tips: Unlike other lodges where combining two impedes the experience with the loss of a day of excursions and a lot of additional transport and cost, Cerro Guido combines easily and makes for a diverse experience with Patagonia Camp.
Bottom line is all of these lodges and hotels are amazing. I hope this helps some out there wrestling with choosing the perfect Patagonia luxury lodge for their perfect Patagonia adventure vacation.
It has always been our goal to take the stress out of travel planning, and that rings true now more than ever. If you’re interested in crafting a custom trip to Patagonia, reach out to a Knowmad Trip Specialist at 612-315-2894 or fill out the short form below to begin planning today!
Que Disfruten La Aventura, Jordan
Jordan is a Co-Founder of Knowmad Adventures, a company dedicated to creating unique, private and custom trips in South America. He was recently honored as a Condé Nast Experience Maker for Patagonia, and has won Travel + Leisure’s prestigious Top Travel Specialist for Patagonia, Chile, Argentina, Peru, and Ecuador/Galapagos three consecutive years. “Travel brings me incredible experiences and challenges, highlighting the world’s natural beauty while connecting me with inspiring people. I am convinced that travel makes us better people, and better people make a better planet.” Read Jordan’s biography and more about the Knowmad team.
Note: This post was originally posted on October 17th, 2013 and was adjusted to include the most up-to-date information on January 10th, 2023