Patagonia has long been a fantastic “once in a lifetime” destination for those who enjoy nature, the great outdoors and hiking, as well as fishing, bird watching and horseback riding. It’s rare for a major new national park to open anywhere, but when a new one debuts here, joining Chile’s legendary Torres del Paine National Park, it’s a really big deal. When you add the fact that the new park has a new lodge operated by the world’s leading all-inclusive adventure specialist, it becomes one of the biggest travel events of recent years – but has been oddly overlooked. by the tourist media.
That’s a really big deal, and even bigger right now, as the lodge just opened this month, positioning it perfectly for the eventual return of post-omicron travel. 2022 has already seen record bookings in the active travel industry, one of the hottest segments of all travel. During the pandemic, almost all forms of outdoor recreation increased as people took to hiking, biking, running and just about anything outdoors, with one study recent report indicating that over 60% of those who started new active activities during COVID-19 intend to keep doing them. To sweeten the matter, Chile has one of the highest vaccination rates, significantly better than the United States (86% fully vaccinated and nearly triple the recall rate of the United States), it is very easy to access it from this country, it is a wonderful tourist destination, and it is definitely worth spending a weekend in Santiago, one of the great cities of hidden gems in the world. Traveling to South America is also jet lag free, even on long flights, due to the same time zones.
For three decades, award-winning Chilean company Explora pioneered and perfected the operation of all-inclusive adventure lodges. The Explora model is a boutique and very ecological but quite comfortable lodge, run by local guides who are experts in the region and its outdoor activities. Unlike most outdoor destinations in the world, at Explora properties, guides are full time employees and few are contracted out. The company even breeds its own horses, and each lodge offers a long list of full-day and half-day activities, including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and more. These include a wide range of difficulty levels and are all included in the nightly rates, so you can sign up for whatever you want to do each day. The food and wine, also included, is excellent, with an emphasis on the best of Chile and Argentina. Explora’s most famous and iconic lodge is Torres del Paine Park in Patagonia, and the company operates in many South American destinations on the ‘bucket list’, including the Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru ( Machu Picchu), the beautiful Atacama Desert (the driest place on earth) and remote Easter Island.
The new lodge is in the New Patagonia National Park, co-created by the Chilean government and environmental philanthropist Kris Tompkins, who began buying and protecting land here in 2004. She is the widow of Douglas Tomkins, founder from acclaimed outdoor gear and clothing company The North Face and the more fashionable brand Esprit. The Tomkins have had a long love affair with Patagonia and their recent work has helped add several new national parks to the Chilean landscape. But this is most notable for foreign visitors because of the on-site turnkey accommodations and activities. The area had been severely and destructively overgrazed, and Tompkins first bought a ranch of over 200,000 acres, then spent years “rewilding” it, removing hundreds of miles of fencing and farm structures. . In 2017, its foundation, Tompkins Conservation, partnered with government, which combined the property with two adjacent reserves to create the new national park, totaling over 700,000 acres. It is centered around the valley of the Chacabuco River where the grasslands reach the foot of the Andes, the second highest mountain range on the planet, offering a unique mix of plains, wetlands and mountains, with fed streams. by glaciers and a network of lagoons and large lakes. The abundant wildlife includes many varieties of birds, as well as the endangered guanaco, huemul deer, puma (cougar), and massive Andean condors.
The Explora Lodge is the only accommodation in the park outside of the campgrounds and has just eight rooms and two suites. The menu was designed by Pablo Jesús Rivero, owner of “Don Julio”, the best restaurant in Latin America according to the 50 best restaurants in the world 2020. Rates include nearly three dozen day or day hikes. half-day guided by experts, bike tours, – sporting adventures, including canoeing, scenic van tours and high mountain climbs. Explora also offers programs that combine tours of multiple properties and has two other destinations in Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and El Chalten in Argentina.