One of the most exciting journeys of my life began with an overnight flight to Santiago, where I hopped on another plane which would deliver me to one of the most spectacular destinations in the world - Patagonia. The journey takes time, but it’s worth every minute spent to get there. Upon arrival, I knew I was somewhere otherworldly. From my transfer van, I gazed out at the open plains along a two lane highway that ultimately led to a new hotel called The Singular. Its arrival in Patagonia opens up a new luxury option in a part of the world with only a handful of upscale choices available to the discerning traveler.
The Singular's waterfront scenery
Rooms with a view at The Singular
The Singular is situated just a few minutes away from the charming harbor town of Puerto Natales. The property used to be a sheep processing plant (of all things!), and a large part of the original operations have been painstakingly preserved, as the hotel was recently named a Chilean national monument. The modern architecture and chic decor of the newly added hotel section somehow blend with a factory of long ago to create one of the most unique hotels I’ve personally visited.
Dining area at The Singular
The full board plan most guests opt for is an excellent value, as all meals, drinks, airport transfers, and activities with bilingual guides are included. The activity choices are vast - it would be easy to spend a week here and not see it all! Torres del Paine National Park cannot be missed, and there are simply no words to describe its beauty. Trekking is a main activity there, as this is the best way to take in the spectacular landscape.
Torres del Paine National Park
Abundant wildlife at Torres del Paine National Park
Be prepared for wind!
Upon return, I opted to spend some time at The Singular’s fantastic spa. There are plenty of treatment choices, but my favorite part of the experience was lounging in front of the floor to ceiling wall of glass which overlooked the fjords. It was a stunning view, only made better by the black necked geese swimming right in front of me at the water’s edge. Guests can get even closer to them by taking a dip in the indoor/outdoor heated pool.
Indoor/outdoor pool at the The Singular's spa
My second day started at the hotel pier, where I boarded one of The Singular’s boats for a ride through the Patagonian Fjords and ultimately to the Serrano Glacier. Along the way, I saw waterfalls, sea lions, unreachable glaciers high in the mountains, and a landscape so dramatic that I couldn’t stop snapping pictures.
Getting ready to board with Brownell friends
I reluctantly left beautiful Patagonia and made my way back to Santiago for an overnight stay at the city’s hottest new hotel, the W. It is hip and happening, and I especially loved the outdoor bar/lounge/pool area on the 21st floor.
Outdoor lounge at the W Santiago
Santiago offers a wide array of activities for visitors, including bike rides through the city, a visit to the charming Dominican market, and day trips to scenic vineyards in the countryside. It’s a great stopping off point for travelers moving from one part of the country to another.
Bike ride in Santiago
Enjoying Santiago with my Brownell friends
My final destination was Vina VIK, a magnificent vineyard comprised of 11,000 acres of stunning beauty. It’s located two hours from Santiago in the Valley of Millahue, and I can’t say enough good things about my experience there. The vineyard is directly affiliated with VIK Retreats, which is well-known in South America for their successful properties in Uruguay (Estancia VIK and Playa VIK). The vision of Vina VIK is to create a “holistic” vineyard, one which is the greenest in the country. They are already producing an excellent 2009 red wine with many more premium vintages to come.
Beauty at Vina VIK
One of many fields at Vina VIK
I was fortunate enough to tour the production facility that is currently being constructed on property. To say it is impressive is an understatement. In line with VIK’s mission to be “one” with their surrounding environment, the entire facility is being built underground so that only the roof will be visible from the hilltop where the new Vinya VIK hotel is also under construction. This luxury, boutique hotel is slated to open in late 2012, and it will be the ultimate retreat for wine and nature lovers.
Construction is underway at Vina VIK
In addition to the stunning landscape, guests will be able to trek through the extensive grounds, horseback ride to remote locations, enjoy the spa, and of course learn all about VIK’s wine-making process. In the meantime, Vina VIK is hosting guests at their hilltop cabin where I stayed. It is charming and sophisticated all at the same time, and the staff was fabulous.
Dinner at the cabin
Exterior view of the cabin
Ready for a trail ride
I had the incredible good fortune of being there the night of harvest, so I awoke very early one morning to join workers in the field and pick grapes. It was a privilege to be a part of the activities, and the experience is one that I will never forget. I’m anxious to return when the hotel is complete and see this amazing property reach its pinnacle.
Harvest time at Vina VIK
An early morning in the fields