Argentina: Patagonia: Where to Stay: Luxury: Patagonia's Eolo Lodge
Patagonia's Eolo Lodge
Given the hectic lives travelers lead these days, often the primary requirements for a vacation include somewhere easily reachable by a direct flight. Patagonia’s Eolo does not fall into that category, but it’s worth the effort required to arrive.
The seventeen-room lodge sits on the side of a remote mountain, an hour outside the tiny Patagonian town of El Calafate (a three-hour flight south of Buenos Aires). When you land, 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 Tutor 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 heated 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. Not surprisingly, the traditional cordero (slow-cooked lamb), cut-with-a-fork tender, was a favorite, but I also loved a salad made from trout smoked in-house so much that I ordered it twice. 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.
WiFi is available throughout the lodge, and guests also can use two computers to keep in touch with family and friends at home. But for the most part, the accommodating staff at Eolo does whatever necessary to help travelers forget their day-to-day lives and focus entirely on enjoying their time in Patagonia. Excursions include ice trekking, horseback riding and outings to isolated estancias as well as hiking and mountain biking on Eolo’s expansive property.
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 this while watching the sun fade beyond the Andes, and I guarantee you’ll be planning your next trip by the time you get home.
Who Should Go: The lodge feels intimate enough for couples but not too romantic for friends or groups traveling together. When I stayed, the guests were divided between couples traveling both on their own and with other couples and a few pairs of friends. All seemed at home.
Who Shouldn’t Go: Guests who want all their activities at the lodge (a la Explora Salto Chico) might be frustrated that most excursions require a car transfer. Also, families are welcome, but those with young children might not feel fully at ease in the subdued, adult atmosphere. In addition, there are no televisions in the rooms to keep young ones distracted.
Room to Get: Book one of the two corner suites for the best views. One looks east toward the lake and the plains while the other has views of Chile’s Torres del Paine.
Rates from $225 per person, per night. Prices include all meals and snacks as well as airport transfers.
Read an overview of Patagonia.
Read about a special last-minute offer at Explora Salto Chico for 50% off rates during Spring Break.
Read an insider report on Patagonia.— Henley Vazquez 03/17/2009