Press & News
Living Large At The End Of The World: The Singular Patagonia, Chile
The Singular Patagonia wasn’t the first luxury-adventure lodge to bring adrenaline-fueled days and indulgent evenings to the rugged, nearly uninhabited wilds of southern Chile. But it is the most, well, singular: It occupies a onetime sheep-processing factory, looks like a barn at first approach, and requires guests to traverse intact machine rooms and tannery facilities on their way to their rooms or to dinner.
There are other nice places to sleep in this corner of the world, said the bubbly young woman who showed me to my room. “But here the history is important. The building, the region, and Patagonia all have such a big history.” The Frigorifico Puerto Bories cold storage plant opened in 1915; its British owners were the first to bring sheep production (meat, wool, skins, and tallow) to Chile and basically built the nearby town of Puerto Natales. At its height, the plant processed more than 250,000 sheep a year and employed more than 400 people.
The great grandsons of one of the sheep operation’s founders acquired the then-derelict factory in 1998 with plans to maintain it as a museum (the Chilean government had declared it a national historic monument in 1996—which made the reinvention challenging). But plans tend to change, and with investment from a partner in Santiago (himself a descendant of an original shareholder) and creative input from architects and designers in Chile, the humble buildings were impressively reborn as the Singular Patagonia in late 2011. Most of the factory works retain a museum-like feel, with elevated walkways to minimize foot traffic between the furnaces and engines, but the employee mercantile was redone as a glamorous restaurant and bar, and the vast cold-storage space was completely reimagined into bedrooms.
In an age where prison hotels and bank hotels are old news, sleeping in a meat locker still feels like a novelty.
But make no mistake: It’s a very pleasurable novelty. The 57 guest rooms and suites are entirely new construction, with panoramic glass walls, appealing reproduction furnishings, big bathrooms, and some 500 square feet to stretch out in. The temperature is comfortable, the water is hot, the beds are plush, and the speedy Wi-Fi seems to defy laws of physics. (Did I mention the hotel is in the middle of nowhere?) When I visited (as a guest of the hotel) at the tail end of the season in late April, I was dismayed that the long far-southern-hemisphere nights didn’t give me more daylight hours to enjoy my room.
Not that those daylight hours were poorly spent. Guests on the hotel’s all-inclusive plan (from $660, double; also includes abundant food and drink, spa access, and airport transfers) get their pick of several excursions each day, from a van tour of the highlights of nearby Torres del Paine national park, to a challenging full-day trek to the base of the Torres (towering, jagged mountain peaks) that give the park its name, to a boat trip to massive glaciers (completely with warm-up whiskey on board). Spectacular kayaking, horseback riding, bird-watching, and biking are on offer as well, all with terrific, high-energy bilingual guides.
Post-adventure, all sorts of pleasures await: watching the sun set from the spa’s sauna-with-a-view, sipping calafate sours (Patagonia’s tart-berry take on the pisco sour—legend holds that if you try a calafate berry you’re destined to return) by the open fireplace in the bar, and savoring some of the best food I’ve had in South America—I’m still dreaming of the rich, silky chilled avocado soup with apples and radishes.
The austere exterior can be deceiving: The Singular is one of the most singularly indulgent hotels anywhere, all the more so for being under the moody clouds and brilliant slanted sunshine at the end of the world.
The Singular reopens for South American spring September 23. Getting there: LAN offers daily flights to Punta Arenas via Santiago. The flight is about three hours (on a comfortable, new plane) and flies four times a day in low season and eight in high. The Singular is 2 hours 30 minutes from the airport; transfers are included for guests staying on the full-board package for three days or longer and available to other guests for a fee.
MAY 3, 2013