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Aguas Arriba

With only six bedrooms and the friendly owners living on site, a stay at Aguas Arriba is akin to visiting a friend’s lakeside cabin home.
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El Casco Art

This modern hotel is the area’s most stylish option, adorned with sculptures and artwork as part of a collection containing over 500 works.

Aerial View - Eolo, Patagonia, Argentina


When you land in Calafate, the dusty plains and jagged peaks that puncture the horizon look like something from another world –not an entirely hospitable one. Eolo, however, is as warm and welcoming as Patagonia is beautifully forlorn. Opened in 2004 and privately owned, the lodge is constructed in a traditional Patagonian style that looks like a utilitarian version of a Tudor manor, with sheet metal siding overlaid with wooden timbers. Built around a central courtyard, all of the rooms face outwards with views of the grandiose landscape and Andean mountains in the distance. Furnishings are simple and comfortable, with a smattering of antiques that blend with well-worn leather sofas and locally woven rugs to create an elegant, unfussy look ideal for a country home. Each of the spacious guest rooms are named after local fauna, and artistic black and white photos (taken by a German expat turned Patagonian wildlife photographer) adorn the walls. The lodge is so private that there are even windows in the large marble bathrooms, allowing bathers to enjoy the rain showers while gazing out at the mountains.

Although the guest rooms are lovely, you probably won’t spend a lot of time in them. A cozy library and spacious great room are popular places to take tea in the afternoon upon return from the day’s excursions. There is also a indoor pool and sauna, plus a deck that overlooks Lago Argentina and is wonderful on a warm day. All meals are served in the airy dining room, and the food is prepared exceptionally well. Because the lodge sits in a protected national reserve, almost all the ingredients ship from Buenos Aires; but they taste as fresh as if they came from an estancia down the road. For those less familiar with Argentine grapes, the helpful staff can guide newbies through their list of Cabernets, Malbecs and Pinot Noirs.

Excursions include ice trekking, horseback riding and outings to isolated estancias as well as hiking and mountain biking on Eolo’s expansive property. Keep in mind that the majority of activities are not on-property a la Chile’s Explora properties, so travelers must plan ahead to book guides and cars for excursions. Children above the age of fourteen are welcome, but the subdued and sophisticated atmosphere and physically strenuous excursions make both Eolo and Calafate in general a better fit for adults or older teens.

There’s a local legend that those who eat the berries from the Calafate bush will return to Patagonia. I think the same could also be said of the house blend tea and mini lemon tarts served each afternoon at Eolo. Kick off your boots and snack on these while watching the sun fade beyond the Andes, and I guarantee you’ll be planning your next trip by the time you get home.

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Mountains Hills at Estancia Cristina , Argentine Patagonia, Argentina

Estancia Cristina

Estancia Cristina has no address, no roads and to reach its location in the Los Glaciares National Park, guests must take a two-hour boat ride from a small port outside El Calafate. But for travelers who want to visit an untouched corner of Patagonia, Estancia Cristina is well worth the effort.

Englishman Joseph Masters founded Estancia Cristina in 1914 as a home for his family and a base for a lucrative sheep raising business. Named for Joseph’s young daughter, the ranch also hosted visiting explorers and scientists who used the Masters’ home as a base for investigating nearby glaciers. Supplies the family couldn’t make or raise themselves were shipped in via boat, as they are today. At the peak of its success, Joseph Masters and his workers tended 27,000 sheep along with herds of cows and horses on over 55,000 acres of land.

When the last living member of the family died, Estancia Cristina passed to the government, who transformed the ranch into an inn for travelers. The new management built twelve guest rooms that are divided among three small lodges next to the main building. The furnishings are simple but comfortable, and each room has uninterrupted views of the mountains plus a private bath with modern fixtures. Meals are served in a separate dining hall that overlooks the lake.

While some guests come only for the day, the ideal way to enjoy Cristina is by spending the night. This gives travelers a chance to choose from two of the activities offered plus spend an evening in a spectacularly remote corner of the world. Excursions include horseback riding, hiking or, for less active types, a 4×4 off-road trip through the mountains that ends overlooking the Upsala glacier and ice fields. I spent my one perfect afternoon there with the horses, fording a river, galloping through a valley and breaking for a picnic lunch by a pristine lake surrounded by the Andes. The only part I would have changed is to extend my stay overnight and spend the next day hiking to the Cañadón de los Fósiles, a canyon where deep rifts left in the rocks by the retreating glaciers reveal ancient fossils. Like everything else with Cristina, the journey would be tough but the destination worth every step.

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LLao LLao

Situated on a peninsula with easy access to activities and hiking trails, Llao Llao is the region's best option for active travelers and families.

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Bedroom at Nibepo Aike, Argentine Patagonia, Argentina - Courtesy Florian von der Fecht

Nibepo Aike

There are two upscale options for guests visiting El Calafate: the refined Eolo, a Relais & Chateaux property that offers simple elegance in a formal setting, and Nibepo Aike, a down-home, no-frills estancia. At the latter, days are spent learning the ropes of a working sheep and horse ranch, riding through the striking wilderness with gauchos and enjoying traditional asados (outdoor grills) in the evening. Occasionally, one of the gauchos plays a guitar and brooding folk songs usher in the night.

The 10-room Nibepo Aike, with a cozy hearth and an antique stove, is not for the typical luxury traveler. It would be misleading to say that anything about the experience here is luxurious, but a stay at the home-turned-hotel is rich in tradition and authenticity, and in a way, one of the most exclusive accommodations in the region. The property attracts a specific kind of traveler: one willing to forego certain comforts (the generator only runs about 10 hours per day and WiFi is spotty) for the experience of living like a gaucho in a far-flung and beautiful part of Patagonia. The rooms are almost monastic in their simplicity, with no air-conditioning (though hardly necessary in Patagonia) and minimal heating (there is a single wood-burning stove in the hallway).

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