Calle Klenner 349, Puerto Varas, Chile
Situated in Puerto Varas, between northern Patagonia and the Lake District, Hotel Patagonico (formerly Melia Patagonia) is the only legitimate five–star hotel to be found for hours in many directions.
Southern Chile is the place to go for natural scenery. And not many towns anywhere in the world are more scenically–blessed than Puerto Varas, located on the shores of Llanquihue Lake, a large–sized lake which is crowned by an amazing Andean mountain chain dominated by two stunning volcanoes, Osorno Volcano and Calbuco Volcano.
Opened in March 2007, the Hotel Patagonico is housed at one of this tranquil town's most storied sites. Some 70 years ago, it was the address for the Grand Hotel Puerto Varas. Built across the street from the railroad station, that hotel was one of Chile's most important vacation destinations and a favorite for the country's elite. But six years ago, the hotel and casino closed down. A group of Santiago businessmen soon bought it, expanded and modernized the facilities.
From the outside, the complex of plain white buildings seems merely ordinary. Inside, however, the Hotel Patagonico has a cozy, tasteful décor dominated throughout by earth–toned colors, furniture made from native woods, horse and lamb skins, and a soft, wood floating–floor. Dramatic, beautiful verses from the poetry of Chile's long, rich line of poets, such as Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, are pleasantly spattered on wall after wall of the hotel. In each guest room, another nice detail, the words "te amo aqui," which in English means "I love you here," is written in an unassuming spot on one of the walls.
This is a hotel to sit back and relax at after a day of fly fishing on one of the many nearby rivers, hiking through temperate rainforest, biking around the lake, rafting the Petrohue River or just shopping for local handicrafts along the waterfront of Puerto Montt, a largish city just 30 minutes drive time from Puerto Varas. The south of Chile is often rainy, windy, and at night, chilly. Inside Hotel Patagonico, the temperature is always warm. The hotel's Bar Kutral in particular has an immense wood burning stove at its center. Guests and locals mix together in this town hangout, which features a first rate "happy hour" till 8:30 p.m. with live jazz, Brazilian and other music styles every night. The big lobby is a delight with comfortable sofas, some tucked away in private corners (you can even curtain off some of these areas for extra privacy), and books about Patagonia are lying about. Just off the lobby, you don't want to neglect the hotel terrace overlooking the lake and a budding garden.
The Hotel Patagonico has a lot more going for it, though service is spotty—common with hotels like this that are popular with tour groups and don't have much competition. With its 91 rooms and suites, you might get lost walking down the winding hallways, but the place gets smaller if you stay more than a night. Then the staff somehow is more likely to remember your name and surprises you with little details such as putting your very own Wi-Fi router in your room to improve the wireless Internet connection or delivering an immaculate roast beef and creole mashed potatoes at 1 a.m.
The rooms, standard, superior (with lake view) and suites, are ample, have the same earthy–tone décor, and feel fresh. But while the temperate pool, jacuzzi and sauna in the basement of the hotel are a welcome site, and the equipment in the little gym are top notch, the ambience of the hotel spa lacks the space and friendliness one encounters in the rest of the hotel. (Plus late arrivals may find the staff more worried about closing time than guest pleasures.) The hotel's two young restaurants have an exciting menu, from Chilean fare to Mediterranean cuisine, but you don't want to miss out on the restaurants around town, some of which offer seafood dishes you won't soon forget.
The Hotel Patagonico is unlike any other hotel in the region, though the small Quincho Country Home outside of town offers more intimate attention, and it is more than a step above the rest of its local competition. It's a warm, relaxing place to unwind and an excellent choice for your Patagonian adventures.
Web Address: Hotel Patagonico
Total Number of Rooms: 91
Published Rates: $155 to $350
Review by Jimmy Langman, photos courtesy of Hotel Patagonico