“What is the best Patagonia luxury lodge?” is a question that I get quite often while working with families, couples, and groups who want to plan their perfect Patagonia trip itinerary.
Perhaps a better question when trying to plan your perfect Chile and Argentina vacation is “what is the best Patagonia lodge for me?” After all, 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.
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 Tierra Patagonia, Awasi Patagonia, Explora Patagonia (also known as Explora Salto Chico), and Patagonia Camp. Long the standard bearer of hotels in Torres del Paine, Explora Salto Chico was the pioneer and in the last ten years it has been joined by Tierra, Awasi, and Patagonia Camp. These lodges consistently rank in the top 5 lodges in South America and top 50 lodges in the world, and that is not without reason. With these more recent additions, the question of ‘which is the best lodge in Patagonia’ has become hotly debated. Having experienced Tierra, Explora, Awasi, and Patagonia Camp multiple times, including recently, I will draw distinctions between them in the quest to help you answer how to choose the best Patagonia lodge for you.
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The Best Patagonia Luxury Lodge For You
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 than its other 5-star Patagonia lodge counterparts. After a couple seasons of finding their footing, the food consistently gets top 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. Their Tierra exclusive ‘cornices’ hike offers 360-degree views including almost all of the park and is near condor’s nests so you’re likely to see.
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.
Once very similar price points, Explora has continued to raise prices and extend the dates of high-season rates. Depending on the time of year Tierra can often offer a substantial savings over Explora Patagonia. This can especially be true for families with kids and young adults traveling during high season.
Tierra 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.
Pros: Design-forward facilities are gorgeous, spa and pool area are great, 10-15% less costly then Explora and more for family rates, and a laid back atmosphere while retaining attention to detail. Only top TDP lodge to feature both easy biking and mountain for more challenging biking options. Tierra offers included transfers to/from Calafate which can be a huge savings for routes combining Argentina and Chile by way of Patagonia (Explora offers on a fixed date table every fifth day during high season while at Awasi it always requires a supplementary transfer of over a thousand USD).
Cons: Not as abundant excursion choices as Explora, additional cost for Grey Glacier boat ride, incredible sweeping views from rooms but not quite as dramatic as Explora’s.
– 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 be a plus as you’ll never have a bath with these views again and it’s romantic for honeymooners, making this a steal.
– Best connections to Calafate so often the ideal top-end lodge choice for Argentina and Chile trip combinations.
– Best incentive programs for combining with stays in Atacama with savings of up to 15% as well as complimentary nights in Santiago and/or wine country.
Awasi Patagonia 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, always with less than 12. Completed in November 2013, Awasi Patagonia is an exciting addition to the high-end lodgings in Patagonia. Outside of the park but still nearby, 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 it’s own guide, driver, and 4×4 vehicle.
Awasi differentiates its approach and model by offering fully private excursions with dedicated guide and vehicle, but that’s not the only difference. Make no mistake, Awasi is unequivocally the most high-end Patagonia lodge experience possible. 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 guest-to-hotel-staff ratio far surpasses the other lodges and results in impeccable service. Awasi is the most intimate of the lodges, 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 to 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 then Tierra and will add a bit of drive time for many excursions. However this remoteness often equates 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. Their guides are as personable as they are professional, and although Awasi overall sees less hardcore hikers then 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 Relaix and Chateaux), massive villas with private wood-burning hot tub outside. Great for those who prefer intimate settings.
Cons: Availability is 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 legs of the trip. 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. Some will prefer a more sociable setting. Smaller size means no spa (massages possible to be ordered in) or swimming pool. Benefits of private guide and vehicle not as felt with groups of significant size.
– Book early!
– When evaluating overall budget/cost comparisons, beware Awasi stays will almost always include significant hidden transfer costs (between $250 and $1,250 per group) as they do not include transfers from Calafate, Argentina in their programs, and also not from Punta Arenas, which most likely will be the the airport used for at least the in or the out (Puerto Natales, which is two hours closer to the park, only has flights a few days a week between Nov 15 and Mar 15).
Explora PATAGONIA (Salto Chico)
Explora Patagonia (Salto Chico) 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 25 years old, the sleek lines of the hotel set with the Paine Massif as it’s backdrop still make for a jaw-dropping lodge that maintains a sense of simple elegance. Being tucked so closely to this multi-colored jagged peak and sandwiched between two lakes, all the rooms have incredible views; and while they may be far simpler than Awasi’s villas, the views from Explora’s rooms are more dramatic than anything I’ve ever experienced, anywhere, period. A bit lackluster commentary and scores regarding food in the 2017/18 season, they are bringing back their former Executive Chef Laurent Pasqualetto which I am optimistic will make for top-notch culinary execution in the coming seasons.
Explora also differentiates itself 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 their own horses and stable, with by far the best and most comprehensive equestrian offerings.
Explora is ideal for those who want a luxurious 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 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, and best horseback rides.
Cons: Older facilities so rooms are fairly straightforward, fixed date entries during high 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.
– For heartier travelers open to ‘off season’ travel, Explora is open more of the year then others and offers sharp pricing reductions during Patagonia’s winter (June – Aug). Honeymooners open to off season travel receive an even sweeter deal that’s almost too good to be true.
– For those combining with Easter Island where Explora is the only lodge to have a sister property, consider Explora as they also offer significant pricing incentives when combining lodges.
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. Some yurts even come with a large jacuzzi tub on your private terrace overlooking the lake and mountains. The food is amazing, service great, and with this close-to-nature small property, it also offers significant savings relative to Tierra/Explora/Awasi, making it a winning combination that elevates Patagonia Camp far above anything else at its price point. It’s also 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, and 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, although 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), but 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 do flat-water kayaking which is right at on Lago Toro where the lodge is located. 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), and Stand Up Paddle boarding is also in their included excursions. There are also more nice, shorter hiking trails near the property, a plus for those who like more independence.
Patagonia Camp is ideal for those looking for a really close-to-nature while luxurious and intimate lodging experience at a relatively more modest price point. Also those looking for more of a multi-activity excursion offering. Often a great choice for younger couples and families.
Pros: Phenomenal value, wide range of activities among excursion choices, close to nature, and unique lodging experience.
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. Less transfer in/out options. Calafate transfers not included.
– 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, and 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 (only 6).
– 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 sapaipillas, maté tastings, and local berry cocktails to local Andean flute music.
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!
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 Conde 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 June 20th, 2018.