Is a luxury yurt in Patagonia an oxymoron?
Blonde has never been adept at math but when SwoopPatagonia suggested the following equation; Patagonia+Camp+Yurt=Luxury she knew enough to think it looked highly suspicious. But she trusted Swoop Patagonia, figured that, worst case, she could at least write about how she hated the experience and said “Sounds great”.
You hardly need a Spoiler Alert for this but Blonde was wrong (again).
To make things even worse she had a personal epiphany while staying at Patagonia Camp. As someone who actively avoids personal epiphany style travel writers this is deeply embarrassing and will be revealed later in this post.
What is a luxury yurt in Patagonia like?
Merely being privileged enough to be able to get yourself to Patagonia Camp makes it an automatic luxury. But the yurts themselves are comfortable and well-appointed. Ours was a treehouse yurt (#2 ask for it) with fabulous views of Lake Toro. The luxury yurts have private terraces, central heating, parquet floors, excellent amenities, bathrobes, and, for you questioners, en suite bathrooms equivalent to at least 4 star hotels.
They are also in a sense “environmentally luxurious” as the design is well integrated into the landscape. The luxury yurts (there are only 18 of them) are built of Chilean Lenga wood in a Coigue tree forest.
The yurts been designed and built to preserve the native plants, shrubs and habitat of the birds that even this late-riser (grumpily) enjoyed hearing in the morning. And best of all they give you the sense that you’re an adventurous nature loving person while you’re actually inside in total comfort.
Another luxury is that at night there is total silence and you can look up from your bed and see the star-filled sky. (And then put on your eye mask unless you want to wake up at dawn.)
What do you do at a luxury yurt camp?
At Patagonia Camp your all-inclusive stay includes daily (optional) excursions. You can choose among various topics, lengths and degrees of difficulty. You decide the day ahead of time which excursion you will do so you can (theoretically) be properly prepared. Alternate Brunette and Blonde decided to do a hike that included seeing a condor nest, learning about various plants (including a Viagra-like little yellow flower) and seeing some previously unknown to us animals such as Guanacos and Rheas.
Our guide, Christopher, was everything you want in a guide. He was attractive and muscular.
Oh wait, we don’t want to objectify him! He spoke excellent English, was very knowledgable, had a good sense of humor and knew how to make us feel like we (and a couple of 70 year old British birders on the same excursion) were more athletically impressive than we are. We got a kick out of him especially when on the last 15 minutes or so of driving back to “camp” he played Elvis Presley songs and sang along with great enthusiasm!
What was some of the cool stuff you saw on your excursion?
We were able to look right down into a condor nest with condors actually nesting in it. It was a hike to get there and a lean over a ledge but worth it. We also learned that condors are scavengers but not predators. That means they eat fresh kills which they find with their keen eyesight that looks for eagles and small vultures whose sense of smell gets them to the crime scene first. Christopher seemed to think this makes condors classier than big vultures so we went along with that.
We all got a good laugh out of seeing a Rhea which is a very large flightless bird (homely cousin to ostriches). This is a bird that you will only see in this part of the world.
Our chucklefest was because male Rheas eschew traditional child bearing and raising. The males build nests then go around knocking up female Rheas who leave their eggs in the males’ nests and then go on their merry way. (This led Alternate Brunette to wonder what they do. Are they rhea actuaries, truck drivers or just on endless girls’ getaways?) One guy collects up to 50 eggs and he incubates them.
Then when they hatch he raises them. Our giggles were when we saw a large Rhea who had easily 20 small ones (still about 2 feet tall) running all around and he couldn’t get them to behave. One ran this way, one that way, two ignored him and we couldn’t believe the Rhea guys had never thought to develop Rhea day-care.
We also saw several Guanacos which look sort of like smallish llamas with alopecia but are actually members of the camel family. They eat some of those Viagra-like leaves so there are supposedly a lot of horny guanacos around but it didn’t present any problems (to us).
There were also all sorts of birds that thrilled Ken and Steph our companions for the day but left us mostly baffled.
And then there’s the scenery which is so beautiful it really requires photographs to tell its story.
We saw Lake Pehoe which is a brilliant blue of a shade not normally found in nature. Christopher explained why its unique PH makes it that color (sodium bicarbonate?).
If I want to go to Patagonia Camp’s luxury yurts what should I know?
As the saying goes “every silver lining has a cloud”. (Note: check that the saying is accurate before publishing.) We want you to have a solid understanding of the experience as it is truly wonderful but if you don’t know some of the logistics ahead of time you might be surprised in a not-so-good way.
It’s way out in the middle of nowhere, hence, it takes quite a while to get there no matter where you’re coming from. Their all-inclusive package (the only one to do because trust me there isn’t anywhere else to eat and their food is excellent) includes pickups and transfers from 4 different places.
We were picked up in Punta Arenas and it was a little over 4 hours drive. That included one bathroom and refueling stop at a really nice coffee shop where Blonde in 10 minutes managed to buy a shirt. Go Team Blonde! You are in a comfortable van with a good driver but it’s a schlepp.
And departures are early, ranging from 8:00 a.m. to get to airports to a little later if you’re going somewhere else by car as we were.
The downside of this is if you book 4 nights you get there for dinner the first night and leave early after the 4th night so only have 2 days for excursions. We would have liked 5 nights – 2 for excursions and one to just hang out. Book for a long enough stay to get the full experience.
What else should you know? There isn’t television or wi-fi in the rooms. TV would seem like an obscenity and there’s perfectly good internet in the lobby area which is a nice place to hang out anyway.
So what about that personal epiphany of yours?
To my amazement on the trek that day I realized that I may be a mountain person. I have always classified myself as strictly a water person and as not having much interest in mountains. I don’t ski and am not keen on being really cold. (Although it’s Spring in Patagonia now and not very cold.)
But at least in Patagonia the air was so clean, the views so spectacular and the nature so unspoiled that I got the kind of high I normally only get from rumors that George Clooney is getting divorced.
There, I said it.
FTC grudging disclosure: Patagonia Camp was nice enough to comp me for a two night stay. That’s why I stayed totally professional and did not comment at all on the fact that the guide Christopher is attractive (and muscular).