13 February 2019 by David Warne
Wexas Travel commercial director David Warne heads south to cast his expert eye over one of Chile's most popular luxury lodges – the spectacular Singular Patagonia.
Conveniently located just outside the town of Puerto Natales is the Singular Patagonia, sister property to what is a definite contender for Santiago’s best boutique hotel. And, this second Singular property really lives up to its name, being one of Chile’s most original luxury hotels and it is easy to see why since opening in 2011 quirky waterfront property has become something of an icon in its own right.
The hotel is built around a former cold storage and meat packing plant that had been declared a national heritage monument some years earlier. An imaginative redevelopment of the site saw one of the vast warehouses converted into the hotel's main public area, containing the restaurant, bar and lounge area and a new wing was added with 57 sea-facing rooms and suites. In between the two is a surprisingly interesting museum dedicated to the history of the plant, with walkways weaving through the 100-year old machinery - almost exclusively British-made - that powered the plant during its 70 years of operation.
As Puerto Natales is the main transit point for visits to the famous Torres del Paine National visitors to Patagonia's biggest attraction will almost inevitably pass though. The town has its own small airport which operates during the peak months of December to February but outside of this period, visitors to the national park have to travel via Patagonia’s main airport at Punta Arena, some four and a half hours to the south of the park. The location of the Singular hotel midway between the two makes it an ideal spot either for a short stay to break the journey, or it can be used as a base for exploring the national park and surrounding areas.
The hotel offers both bed and breakfast rates and a fully-inclusive package, which is ideal for longer stays. The inclusive rate offers breakfast, lunch and dinner in the excellent restaurant, all drinks and a wide range of daily excursions.
Bedrooms are elegant and well-equipped, with furniture that hints at a bygone era of exploration. Whilst stylish, the design is also rather understated, as if the architect didn't want to detract from the setting. Indeed huge floor to ceiling windows make up one entire wall of the room, offering panoramic views of the rather wonderfully named Last Hope Sound, the hotel's restored jetty and the snow-capped mountains beyond. Our room had a huge and supremely comfortable bed plus a spacious bathroom with large rain shower and separate bath.
In an effort to reduce the use of plastic bottles a refillable black water flask is provided in each room for use during excursions. Its traditional design adds to the sense of exploration and it is also yours to keep as a souvenir, a nice touch.
The hotel’s restaurant has the reputation of being one of the best in the country. The superb a la carte menu offers by some way the widest choice of dishes of any of Patagonia’s luxury hotels.
Amongst a long list of starters are included locally sourced scallops, octopus, salmon and guanaco (a wild relative of the llama endemic to the region). An even wider selection of main courses includes the restaurant’s superb grill menu, offering lamb, beef, southern hake and conger eel. A decent range of house wines is included, in particular an excellent Carmemere from Lapostolle and an organic sparkling blanc de blancs from Domaine Raab-Ramsay. A selection of premium wines and spirits are also available at extra cost.
The style of the bar area is an intriguing blend of industrial-chic and homely. Comfortable sofas and armchairs jostle for space with relics from the former plant, making this cavernous space surprisingly cosy. A well-stocks bar is also at your disposal on the inclusive tariff and we thoroughly enjoyed a nightly pre-dinner drink chatting to the enthusiastic and friendly bar staff.
Another big plus is that substantial all day-snacks are included in the inclusive programme – even when the restaurant is closed (which I found rather handy arriving, as we did, rather hungry in the middle of the afternoon).
Perhaps the most popular is the excursion to the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers in the Bernardo O’Higgins National Park. The hotel’s own boats sail from the jetty through the picturesque fjords to Port Toro from where a 45 minute walk takes guests to the viewpoint for the dramatic Serrano glacier. On the return trip the boat passes the equally impressive Balmaceda glacier. Sea lions and cormorants are usually found in abundance during the cruise.
The half-day version departs in the morning returning in time for a late lunch at the hotel but I would recommend the full-day option which continues to La Peninsula Ranch where a typical Patagonian BBQ style lunch is served. In the afternoon you can choose between horseback riding or trekking, or simply relaxing at the estancia before returning to the hotel.
There's also an excellent spa, with a number of treatment rooms, a relaxing area and a small glass-fronted swimming pool just a few feet from the water’s edge. The pool even extends outside and by ducking under the glass you can enjoy a relatively warm soak whilst enjoying the view in the fresh air.
Ultimately, most visitors to the region come to experience Patagonia's great outdoors. And whilst the Singular is located a couple of hours from the Torres del Paine national park it can certainly be used as a base for exploring the park and it offers its own unique attractions closer to the hotel. From my own experience, Patagonia warrants a longer stay than most visitors allow for and combining a stay at the rather refined Singular with one of the other excellent lodges - such as Awasi, Tierra or Explora - really gives visitors the best of both worlds.