It doesn’t matter who you ask or what you read, the sentiment about Explora properties is unanimous. With luxury lodges in some of the most sensational locations across South America, it was the original and is still among the best.
Typically nestled within landscapes that you thought existed only in the pages of National Geographic, Explora properties give visitors a luxury adventure that is so personalized, so meticulous, and so exclusive, it will make you wonder: How did I get here?!
Your flight to an Explora property will give you a taste of what’s ahead. For instance, if your maiden trip is to the portfolio’s Patagonia property, do this: Book a daytime flight from Santiago to Punta Arenas. Choose a window seat on the left side of the plane (and well ahead of the wing); and make sure your camera or smartphone has a good charge. You’ll thank us for this tip.
Then just try to make the drive from Punta Arenas (which is about as close as you can get to Antarctica without actually leaving South America) to Chile’s famed Torres del Paine National Park without repeatedly pinching yourself. Part of the mythic Patagonia region, Torres del Paine is manna for the adventure set with its soaring Andean peaks and massive aquamarine lakes. It’s also spectacular for those who simply seek visual stimulation.
Most of us are somewhere on the middle of that spectrum, and although Explora Patagonia does cater to thrill seekers, it’s perhaps best suited to pleasure seekers. That’s particularly true of those who find extreme pleasure in exquisite food, sensational local and international wine, contemporary and sustainable architecture, and concierge-level local guides who lead the most otherworldly treks on the planet.
The all-inclusive hotel and spa is nestled on the banks of Lake Pehoé and overlooks majestic, snow-covered peaks that were the logo inspiration for the outdoor gear company Patagonia. Rugged luxury best describes the vibe here. You’ll quickly recover from what seem like smallish personal quarters. The angels are in the details at Explora: most rooms feature grand views of the awe-inspiring Paine Massif, and each is appointed with exquisite linens, sumptuous amenities, and other unique goodies.
There are no TVs, and the property claims that Wi-Fi is available only in public spaces. Here’s a tip: the closer you are to the front desk, the more likely you are to have a robust connection. No matter: you won’t want to spend a lot of time in your room.
One of the first orders of business is planning your first excursion. While there are a handful of advanced hikes and other activities, most guests opt for guided treks along the famous W circuit or a few hours of horseback riding. The experts at Explora take care of everything, from assessing your skill level to providing tips on what to order for your picnic lunch, which, by the way, you may find yourself enjoying while taking in a massive glacier or while hanging with local gauchos.
Visitors usually cap their afternoon excursion with an hour or two at the pristine spa, which is perched near a dramatic waterfall and features a lap pool, hot tubs, and limited spa treatments.
Deftly catering to any and all diet restrictions, including vegan, Explora offers eating and drinking (all-inclusive) that is an adventure unto itself. As you’d expect, Chilean wine of every variety is free-flowing (and
some break-the-bank bottles are available for those who want to go all in). The menus, which change daily, are made with local ingredients ranging from exotic game and fish to native produce.
By the end of dinner, most guests are exhausted. But for those with hearty constitutions, an energetic lounge serves up craft cocktails to the strains of smooth grooves.
One of the best things about Explora is the emphasis it places on providing a consistently exceptional experience across extremely different landscapes. And, while the slog between its locales may seem daunting, it’s worth going all in on two (or even three) destinations if time allows. Our advice? Go west!
EXPLORA RAPA NUI
These days, people go to Easter Island for one reason, and one reason only: to experience firsthand the magical Moais, the giant stone statues that they knew only from textbooks and documentaries.
To be sure, Easter Island is far afield. Located halfway between mainland Chile and Tahiti, no other place on Earth has more distance between itself and another place. This remoteness is appealing to many, but, for others, a healthy dose of luxury takes the edge off of isolation.
You guessed it: Explora did it again with what is undeniably the most exclusive property on the 63-square-mile island. As with all other Explora properties, the modernist — almost futuristic — structure blends into the environment, which, in this case, is a prairie-like swath of grassland overlooking the vast Pacific. We’ll get back to the property in a minute.
Easter Island is special. In addition to the 1,000 or so Moai statues, the island’s language, music, and numerous traditions are kept alive by its vibrant inhabitants. But neither the island nor the people who dwell here have had it easy. Prior to the past 40 years, the people and land were under a constant state of tumult. Sadly, uncertainty is once again emerging, but this time it’s in the form of climate change, which is threatening the island’s many treasures. Read: make haste and visit now.
Like Explora Patagonia, emphasis is placed on ensuring guests get a solid lay of the land, and that’s made easy here because the majority of guides and staff are native Rapa Nui — a total bonus for those who revel in a completely authentic experience.
Unlike Patagonia, the climate here is much more predictable, and, depending on your length of stay, you are guaranteed excursions or treks to the island’s most important features. With a handful of exceptions (such as the site of the traditional Birdman competition where, when safe, is a spectacular dive location), all excursions feature some exposure to the Moais. The Rano Raraku quarry, the final resting place of hundreds of the statues, is the most spectacular of all sites.
Back to the property. Like its sisters, Rapa Nui is the apex of local luxury, even if at first glance the accommodations appear spartan. A closer look reveals that this is by far the only true 5-star, within, um, thousands of miles. The architecture befits the locale — rock and concrete are appropriately offset by handsome, natural wood finishes and dreamy linens. The aesthetic carries through the entire property, which is anchored by a massive lodge that serves as a meeting, eating, and web-surfing hub. Note: don’t even think of getting a rogue Wi-Fi connection here.
As can be expected, the food is spectacular, especially the local, freshly caught fish. Ceviches are abundant. Not surprisingly, meals are languid affairs enjoying expansive views of fields, roaming horses, and crashing waves.
Depending on when you visit, the hotel also hosts off-site picnics, exotic fish bakes, and cultural performances. Inquire ahead of time to ensure you are able to take it all in.
Yes, Rapa Nui is decidedly laid back, and the amenities support the ambience. A delightfully calm pool and outdoor bar area can suck up an entire day if you want. And, after three or four days of gazing at statues, you may just want to make like the Moais and just chill.