Termas de Puyuhuapi
South of Puerto Puyuhuapi, sumptuous in style but more affordable than it looks, Termas de Puyuhuapi (Bahía Dorita s/n, tel. 067/325129) is a secluded spa that’s not literally an island, but since there’s no road and the only access is by launch across the Seno Ventisquero (Glacier Sound), it might as well be.
Both hotel guests and day visitors can enjoy naturally heated outdoor pools and hiking trails that veer through the forest understory of dense quila (solid bamboo) thickets, chilco (firecracker fuchsia), rhubarb-like nalcas with leaves the size of umbrellas, and colossal tree ferns.
Hotel guests only, though, have access to spa facilities, including a gym, heated indoor pool, and massage room, which, perched in a tower, enjoys 360-degree views of its scenic surroundings. When the weather lifts, the panorama is Queulat’s Andean front range; snow lingers even at summer’s end.
Spacious waterfront rooms, stocked with genteel touches like terrycloth robes and individual umbrellas, look onto the dock where the catamaran Patagonia Express starts its weekly run to Parque Nacional Laguna San Rafael, on the final day of package holidays that range from four days and three nights to six days and five nights. Activities like hiking, fly-fishing, and excursions along the Carretera Austral are additional.
While the hotel works mainly with packages, overnight accommodations are possible on a space-available basis, normally Thursday and Friday only. In peak season (Christmas–mid-March), rates start at US$100 s or d with buffet breakfast; the rest of the year, rates begin at US$90. Spa access costs US$12 per person more. Fixed-price lunches and dinners from the recently remodeled kitchen and dining room, which include salmon from their own hatchery, cost US$22, while deluxe buffet dinners cost US$26.
While it sounds exclusive, Puyuhuapi also lets the riffraff in for day-use of the outdoor pools and baths (US$20 pp for adults, US$10 pp for children) and of the spa (US$35 pp). The cafeteria at the pools, open only in daytime, has a cheaper but more limited menu than the restaurant.
Launches from its mainland information center on the Carretera Austral, 14 kilometers south of Puerto Puyuhuapi, are free for package guests; otherwise they cost US$5 per adult, US$4 per child, each way. Scheduled departures from the hotel are at 9:30 a.m., noon, 3 p.m., and 6:30 p.m., returning at 10 a.m. and 12:30, 3, and 7 p.m., but there are occasional unscheduled crossings as well.
Termas de Puyuhuapi’s main office is Patagonia Connection (Fidel Oteíza 1951, Oficina 1006, Providencia, Santiago, tel. 02/2256489).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition