Patagonia

Patagonia has always been very high on my bucket list.  For those who don’t know a ton about the region, or Chile for that matter, Patagonia is all the way at the very tip of South America and is split across Chile and Argentina.  If you want to go to the Chilean side, it is about a three and a half hour flight from Santiago.  The region is absolutely stunning.  Everywhere you turn, there is a beautiful view.  When I was told Patagonia could experience all four seasons in one day, and I didn’t quite get it…until I went.  You always need a rain coat/wind breaker because you never know when a shower is going to come, followed quickly by some sunshine.  So, you guessed it, there are tons of rainbows! There is also so incredible hiking.  If you are outdoorsy, Patagonia is your place.  People ask me why did I choose Chile over Argentina.  While I haven’t been to the Argentinean Side of Patagonia, and I do hear it’s beautiful, I heard that the Chilean side was even better.  This place has now become one the coolest places I have ever seen.

The Activities

HIKING TO THE BASE OF THE TOWERS- TORRES DEL PAINE

Hiking to the Base of the Towers in Torres Del Paine National Park is not something most people can say they’ve done.  If you have, congratulations, you know how cool it is.  If you haven’t, you should.  The hike begins at the entrance to the park (disclaimer, if you do not have a tour guide to bring you here, you will wait on an extremely long line of backpackers trying to gain entrance to the park.  If you go with a guide, they hook it up so you skip the line which saves a ton of time.  If you are going the backpacking route, I suggest getting there very early).  In total, not including the few short breaks we took, it took my group (me, my husband, my tour guide and one other couple) 7.5 hours of hiking.  When you are hiking to the base, it’s some flat, some downhill, and most uphill.  Towards the very end you are literally climbing over huge rocks trekking to the top.  You need walking sticks for sure! This is the hardest hike I have ever done.  I am not a hiker, so maybe for some people, they will think it is a breeze (like my guide!) but for the average 28 year old (who played lacrosse in college and ran the most recent NYC marathon), it was hard!  The route that takes you to the top is also the route that you return down the mountain on so the scenery is the same.  There are some great views but nothing compares to when you arrive at the towers.  The other crazy thing that I’ve noted, is Patagonia’s weather is extremely unpredictable and is constantly changing.  For the first three hours of the hike, our guide thought that we would arrive at the towers and not be able to see them because he thought it would be too cloudy.  It was only when we finally starting getting close that he thought we had a real chance.  Can you imagine doing a hike like that and not being able to see what you were hiking towards?! That would be rough! Luckily for me and my group, we arrive at the base of the towers and were in complete awe.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  Our hotel had given us lunch to bring with us so we stopped, had some lunch and enjoyed.  Once you turn around, it’s more flat and downhill than before but it’s still challenging because you have to watch every step you take.  After the hike, the Singular (our hotel and guide) set up a lovely snack station with hot chocolate (that hit the spot!), beer, juice, snacks etc.  It was a nice touch.  Even with the challenges of the hike, I would do this hike all over again to see that view, totally worth it!

GLACIER HIKING

This section of my excursion is part of The Singular’s most popular package excursion days.  The Singular Hotel is directly on the water and has two smaller boats that fit maybe 16-20 people.  Because the boats are smaller, they can go much faster than other tour boats that fit 100+ people.  The great thing about this is that the boat arrives first at what looks like just a forest off of the water.  You take about a 30-45 minute (easy!) hike before arriving at a beautiful glacier.  You may also see some wildlife like Eagles and other types of birds.  This is a great site and then you turn around to head back for the boat.  You have this place all to yourself and my group left before any of the other tour boats even arrived.  If you can’t be the first ones to get here, the path is narrow and you will probably get stuck behind a ton of people hiking.  The only way to do this tour is with the Singular!  Next, you boat along the water and look for sea lions.  We were lucky to spot a huge family of them with one alpha male who was incredible to see (and hear, Check out my Instagram for the video)!  Finally, we were then brought to a horse ranch.  Read more below.

HORSEBACK RIDING- ESTANCIA LA PENINSULA 

This ranch is absolutely lovely.  We were a bit cold from being on the boat and walked into an incredibly warm home with their dining room floor to ceiling windows overlooking the farm and water.  The people working at the farm were roasting a spring lamb for us for lunch as well as other delicious sides.  We ate a great lunch and then learned a little more about the farm.  The excursion wrapped up with each person getting a horse and taking a ride.  I took one horseback riding lesson before going, which was my first time being on a horse, but I felt very comfortable there.  We walked casually to the top of a vista to take some pictures before returning downhill.  On the way back, we all ran with our horses through the fields and it was invigorating and freeing.  What a day! I would definitely visit this ranch again!

CAVE EXPLORATION

This is another small hike done outside of the National Park within Patagonia, close to Puerto Natales.  The hike is very short and easy with a nice and possible windy view.  Your guide brings you to a cave that you can walk through which is cool.  I did this excursion as a half day tour as I arrived in Patagonia from Santiago that afternoon and there were not many options.  If you have other options this one is not necessary.  It was however a nice way to get my feet wet into the region.  It was really cool that when hiking, you could see that it was raining just a few feet away from you in different areas but not where you were standing.  Apparently this is common, so fun!

The Food

What I found when researching places to stay was that most are all inclusive in terms of lodging, food, alcohol and excursions.  This means that if you go with this type of option, you are at the mercy of the hotel’s food.  In the case of The Singular, that was fine by me! All of the food was completely delicious. 

Fresh Crab

Crab galore, it may not look like this is a lot of crab, but it is! Tons a huge pieces of delicious crab, tasting super fresh is a great start to any meal.

Fruit & Cocktails

Feeling a little hungry but don’t want to spoil your appetite for dinner? The Singular has just the thing! Delicious cheese and fruit plates hit the spot and every cocktail is delicious! They also have a great variety of teas, coffees and hot chocolates if you want to go light on the alcohol.

 

 

Spring Lamb

Delicious lamb lunch prepared at Estancia La Peninsula that could not have been better!

 

 

Yerba Mate

Popular in Patagonia and other parts of South America.  Yerba Mate looks like a dried tea that you add water to drink it but it’s must more bitter and contains high level of antioxidants.  It’s a bit of an acquired taste but definitely worth a try and a great start to your day!

 

 

The Lodging

THE SINGULAR, PATAGONIA

The Singular Patagonia is a fantastic hotel.  It is located in the town of Puerto Natales which is really the only ‘larger’ town in Chilean Patagonia.  It is located about two hours from the main airport, Puerto Arenas and two hours from the entrance of Torres Del Paine.  There are also sometimes flights directly into Puerto Natales if you can find them.  If you can, it’s a lot more convenient, if you can’t, it’s not the end of the world (even though you are literally at the end of the world, get it!?) Anyway, this location has its ups and downs.  It is nice to be closer to the airport and a town, but to be honest, I was underwhelmed with the town.  It is however nice to get a feel for all of Patagonia.  If you stay directly in the National Park, you will miss out on what Patagonia has to offer outside of the Park.  Now, don’t let my opinion sway you, I think there are HUGE advantages to being in the park or very close by.    When picking a place to stay in Patagonia, you will find that there are the very affordable, back packer options, or the very expensive, luxury all inclusive hotels.  There really is not much in between which I found quite unfortunate.  The top three hotels I considered when booking were The Singular, Awasi & Explora (the luxury all inclusive and expensive option).  While I truly loved the Singular and all it had to offer, I think if I do go back, I would try one of the other hotels.  Some of the great things that the Singular offers is the hotel itself is beautiful.  It was an old meat factory, turned abandoned, turned restored into this luxury hotel.  The dining area is potentially the coziest place I’ve ever been.  When you return home from a long day of your excursion, you walk into this warm and large dining area, with a fire burning, huge leather couches, lush pillows, the works.  I can still remember the smell.  It was an incredible feeling.  The atmosphere is completely laid back because most people are coming or going from some sort of outdoor activity.  The food does not disappoint, everything is delicious.  One negative thing- the menu never changes and while I can appreciate that that’s really hard to do in a place so remote, I wish there was something like a nightly special to mix it up just a bit, especially if you are there for a long time.  Besides the food, the rooms are spacious, the beds are comfy, the spa and pool is amazing, there really is nothing not to love.  The excursions that this hotel offers are quite good.  The one thing I will say is that a lot of them are geared towards maybe an older generation who is not as active.  As a young and active person, I wish there were a few more options for me but I was very happy with everything I did do.  Anyway, I have said a lot, but this hotel really was great and I loved every minute of it.

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© Pamela Loria Pennisi