Latin America

Chile is Hip All Over

written by | Posted on February 1st, 2010

lake district Perhaps the greatest beneficiary of Chile’s upscale infrastructure expansion is the Lake District in general and the lakeside town of Puerto Varas specifically. TravelMart Latin America was held here last September, giving more than 500 travel industry buyers and sellers a chance to get to know a region of snowcapped volcanoes, sparkling lakes, woodland meadows, flowering gardens and friendly towns and villages. What we also learned is there is no longer any reason to just cross through the Lake District coming or going to Bariloche in Argentina, and there is every reason for those who love the best of the great outdoors to stay awhile. And certainly, bring the kids along.

Located on Lake Llanquihue with grand views of the Osorno Volcano, Puerto Varas was settled by German immigrants, who left a treasury of handsome wooden homes—eight declared National Monuments. Craft markets and boutiques make shopping here rewarding, and Puerto Varas is a good base for lake trips, kayaking, canoeing, trekking and fishing excursions. The restaurant scene here is informal and delicious—two to note are Ibis and La Olla.

New to Puerto Varas are several very good hotels—not luxurious, but certainly upscale in comfort and services. In this editor’s humble opinion, the best in town now are Hotel de Los Volcanes, Hotel Cumbres Patagonia and the Gran Hotel Colonos del Sur. Common to all these properties is a comfortable and modern decor as befits good mountain lodging with urban flair, good lakefront locations and views, and an unbelievably welcoming and helpful staff. Rates for these hotels start at approximately $195 dbl.

But the class act in luxury in the area happens seven miles from Puerto Varas at the amazing little Quincho Country Home, managed by a Chilean and German team who have full command of the word hospitality in serving its eight guests. Surrounded by acres of lawns, gardens and woodlands, and with views of the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes, this exclusive country home is gorgeous. Guests have a choice of four rooms (all with grand panorama views), ranging from the grandest suite (living room, office area, bedroom with a second living room and bath), to a honeymoon suite with Andean mountain views from everywhere and a double jacuzzi in the bathroom. Named after local birds, all rooms have a TV, DVD/CD player, WiFi, and phone, while bathrooms are equipped with all the luxury amenities one would need. Local produce goes into the meals, which are homemade by the resident chef, and guests relax with wine and coffee around the living room fire. The customized activities list here is a master template for exploring all the best in the Lake District—from excursions to Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, Chiloe Island and Reloncavi Fjord, to getting more active with river rafting, sea kayaking, trekking, horseback riding and 9-hole golf. Rates start at $250 pp dbl; all-inclusive pp dbl rates with room, meals, activities, and airport transfers start at $765 for two nights, from $1,200 for three nights.

santiago Back in Santiago, there’s a brand-new entry. W Hotels has expanded its reach to the Chilean capital, debuting its first South America property this fall in the Los Condes district. W Hotels prides itself on opening properties “in the world’s most vibrant destinations,” so with the W Santiago the hotel group (in its own words), “fulfills its mission to deliver a holistic lifestyle experience with cutting-edge design; contemporary restaurant concepts (NoSo—a blend of French and Peruvian—and Terraza, a fusion of Asian and Peruvian); a glamorous nightlife experience (the Whiskey Blue, the W Lounge, Wine Bar, Tea Library and Red2 One rooftop), and signature spas (O2 Balance & Wellness Club, as well as a 21st floor pool).”

New York designer Tony Chi partnered with native Chilean designer Sergio Echeverria to create cutting-edge interiors that include 196 stylish guestrooms, embracing 20 suites: 16 Cool Corner Rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, three Wow Suites and the signature Extreme Wow Suite. All guestrooms feature W beds with goose-down duvets, flat-screen LCD TVs, WiFi, docking stations for MP3 players and a fully stocked Munchie Box. Without doubt, W introduces to Santiago, again in its own words, “an innovative, contemporary, lifestyle brand, which provides the ultimate in insider access to the world of Wow.” To this visitor’s eye—and after a brief stay close to opening day—the decor and atmosphere clatter if you will, jangling a bit like a carefully fashioned charm bracelet. However, W Santiago is fun and stylish—a different take on luxury in increasingly hip Chile. Double room rates from $279.