Read Caption
A couple observes Grey Glacier in Chilean Patagonia. (Photograph by Marcelo Sanhueza, My Shot)
TravelTraveler Magazine

Extra Padding in Patagonia

For all the beauty of the Patagonian landscape — russet pampas, granite spires, and sky blue glaciers abutting the Andes across the southern tip of South America — the wind-whipped region is famously inhospitable to travelers.

View Images
Torres del Paine National Park from Lago Pehoe. (Photo by Paul Dawson, My Shot)

Campsites have long been the main option in these parts, a challenging prospect as freezing rain and gale-force gusts threaten much of the year.

Now less hardy Patagonian dreamers can rest easy at local operator Vertice Patagonia‘s new series of affordable eco-lodges linking the region’s popular attractions.

In Torres del Paine National Park, which fully reopens this season after wildfires ravaged the Chilean forest last year, ranch-style Refugio Grey is the latest lodging upgrade.

View Images
A couple observes Grey Glacier. (Photo by Marcelo Sanhueza, My Shot)

Near 103-square-mile Grey Glacier, the refuge features warm beds (from $76), a kitchen serving Malbec wine and hearty meals like Argentine steak, and an expansive front porch with views of jagged, snow-tipped peaks.

“As trekking season gets underway in November, you might spot guanacos, condors, and possibly even pumas, and seven types of orchids are in bloom,” says Heidi Heinzerlina, a former Torres hiking guide. “The park is just a three-hour flight from Antarctica, but its spring flowers can seem downright tropical.”

This piece, written by Andrea Minarcek, appeared in the November 2012 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazineFind it on newsstands now or buy the whole issue for your iPad.