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Trip Report South To Torres del Paine National Park

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The Drake Passage: the body of water extending from Cape Horn to the Antarctic Peninsula. “Satellite surveillance images consistently depict cyclonic lows of hurricane strength travel through the Drake Passage on the average of once every three weeks.”

Decision: Attempt venturing no further south than Cape Horn (Mare Austrials indicates a 70% boarding rate for the actual Cape….good enough for us).

Patagonia is generally defined as that large land mass lying between 37° to 51° S (777,000 sq km), primarily in southern Argentina, south of the Rio Colorado and East of the Andes, but also includes extreme Southeast Chile and Tierra del Fuego.

Mariano Cash, an Argentinean guide youtube iceberg kayak jump

After three weeks of extended driving, flying, cruising, and trekking in Patagonia, we wanted a “treat” before heading back to the US.

Wishing to depart Patagonia on a “high note” we decided to spend our last four night in the Explora - Hotel Salto Chico in Torres del Paine National Park. There are several less expensive alternatives for lodge accommodations in this park but nothing is comparable in location and service standards.

After extensively researching Torres del Paine, including numerous books and both on-line postings as well as email exchanges with prior visitors to the region, we selected Explora.

Explora is expensive….let me emphasize EXPENSIVE! Some on-line postings complained about the costs (maybe tents would have been a better choice for them). We thought the costs for their all inclusive services (lodging, meals, unlimited bar service, surface transportation, guides, and almost unlimited in park activities) were more than reasonable. It is rare to find a cocoon of lavish comforts in such a potentially harsh and remote destination complicated by frequently changing climatic conditions.

Management at Explora places an emphasis on “service” for the guests. We were fortunate to have the Sub-Administrator, Rosario Villagra, overseeing the staff and property during our visit (apparently, the General Manager was in Santiago). Rosario proved to be an experienced hospitality professional and certainly understands and executes the versatility in the supervision required to deal with the needs of visitors from all over the world. We were particularly impressed with the “rising stars” on her hospitality team, one of whom, Angela Jacqueline Gonzales Vargas, appeared to be available 24 hours a day to assist in the dining room, lounge, common and meeting areas and deal with individual personal needs of guests. Angela was fantastic!

We found the cuisine exceptional! Considering the remoteness of Explora, we were constantly impressed with the freshness of the food items presented and the variety of choice (we are serious vegetarians and we just as pleased as the carnivores in our group).

One tip we picked up here from an on-line posting was the (extra cost) option to use NanduAir for travel between Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas, Chile….this 45 minute flight saved us four or five bone jarring hours of riding on mostly unpaved roads (we thought the fare was a bargain for the service and our hind quarters needed the rest from those pounding roads).

Other postings on this property have praised (1) the architecture….we agree, (2) the location and views….we agree, (3) the variety and degree of difficulty or ease of treks and other available outings….we agree, and (4) the quality, flexibility and sincere efforts of the guides to accommodate participants….we whole heartedly agree!

Should you visit....determine if "Nacho," one of the senior guides, is available. Although small in statue, he is monumental in his matchless knowledge of the park. To have him guide you is both unique and extremely rewarding.....ask him to share the photographs of FLYING Torres del Paine style on windy days!

When you visit Explora - Hotel Salto Chico and if you don’t have that “once-in-a-lifetime” experience, don’t blame the staff, property or weather (we had wind gusts in excess of 45 mph, snow in the morning, light rain showers in the afternoon and bright sunshine and blue skies the remainder of the time....and that was all in one day)!