A Unique Stay at Torres del Paine’s EcoCamp
Torres del Paine National Park, located in the south of Chile, is incredibly beautiful and a highlight of any trip to Patagonia. There are plenty of options for lodging in and around the park, and many of them offer a distinct experience. On a recent trip I stayed at EcoCamp, a property composed of individual geodesic domes. EcoCamp was unlike anyplace I’ve stayed before – something between a rustic lodge and extremely upscale camping. Here is a brief run-down of the experience for those considering a visit:
Lodging: My Suite Dome was spacious and comfortable, with a private bathroom with shower. The domes are equipped with a wood stove that is lit each evening while guests are at dinner, making the place snug and cozy by bedtime. The domes are also equipped with tea and coffee, and a large thermos of hot water is provided upon request. The domes have electricity, though guests are requested not to charge anything larger than cell phones and cameras to avoid taxing the electrical system. All of the Suite Domes have a small private porch, and several of them offer views up to the Paine Towers from which the park derives its name.
Common areas: A wooden walkway connects the Suite Domes to the main lodge, which is a series of large, connected domes used for dining, briefings, yoga classes, and as a common space for relaxation. The lodge does not have a bar, but beer and wine are available for purchase and there is a lounge space with ample comfortable seating. The construction of the domes is impressive and amazingly efficient – they are easy to climate-control, hold up to the strong Patagonian wind, and feel open and spacious.
Dining: Dining at EcoCamp is communal, with groups eating together and socializing (although private tables are available for couples and groups who prefer to dine alone).
Breakfast consists of a buffet with hot and cold options, and is quite good. Lunch is an interesting experience: a table is laid out with a variety of meats, cheeses, vegetables, spreads, and breads for making sandwiches, plus fruit, candy, trail mix, and other snacks. After breakfast guests are invited to take as much of this bounty as they like and prepare a bagged lunch to take with them on that day’s excursion.
Dinner is where EcoCamp’s kitchen staff shine – the food was wonderful and the service attentive. Each morning a menu is posted with two or three options for a starter, main course, and dessert; guests give their choices before heading out for the day’s excursion, and the food is ready upon their return. Vegetarian options are always available. I truly enjoyed the food and found it to be a highlight of my time at EcoCamp.
Excursions: EcoCamp offers two excursion options each day, one more strenuous and one less strenuous, which visit the highlight areas of the park. EcoCamp’s guides are friendly and enthusiastic, and obviously love their work. All of them are fluent in English and extremely knowledgeable about the park. The guides also dine with the guests, and are happy to answer questions and share what they know. It should be noted that the less strenuous excursion options also involve a good amount of walking and may not be suitable for people with mobility issues: The trips are geared toward active, relatively fit individuals who are able to stand and walk comfortably for at least a few hours.
Summary: EcoCamp is a great option for active travelers looking for a unique stay in a rustic but very comfortable place. The communal meals are fun and a great way to meet fellow travelers, and the guides are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. Less active travelers and people with mobility issues may feel challenged by the lodge’s layout and limited by the excursion options. If you’re interested in learning more or curious whether EcoCamp is a good fit for you, please don’t hesitate to ask us!