The Heavens Beneath Your Feet … in Chile

Image Phillip Forman

wOw’s Gypsy brings us her favorite places in the world to see, sleep, eat, drink and canoodle.

My doctor says it’s in my DNA – my need to wander, to move on. So I have seen a lot – the cheapest and the most expensive – although I have followed my intuition, not my bank account. It is WOW I am looking for. Cherry blossoms bursting through the snow at the Olympics was a wow for me and didn’t cost a thing. I have a list and am going to share it with any of you who loves a wow.

No. 1 Wow

My No. 1 Wow in the world is Explora in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park – it is like nowhere else. Writers like Paul Theroux have tried to describe it and just … can’t. There is nothing, nothing at all like it – a heart-stopping wilderness twice as large as California filled with a birth-of-the-world beauty you won’t see anywhere else. Spiritual granite mountain peaks that swoop you up in your mind. Wildly glowing blue ice seems to creep toward you to draw you in. I’ve seen a lot of glaciers – but none like these. Perito Moreno glacier is many, many miles long and 70 meters high and shoots you with some kind of mythical wonder that leaves you feeling the universe sent that glacier just for you, to make you understand the world better. To die not having seen Patagonia could be a mistake, maybe a sin, maybe a reason you will have to return.

The Perito Merino glacier/Image: CC/Flickr

The place to stay, the gorgeous rustic refuge is Explora at Salto Chico. It’s a brilliant – and in its way luxurious – solution at the end of the day to the many boating and climbing and remote ranch expeditions that you can experience. Everything there is just as it should be to remind you that you are a human. There is, for example, a boat that takes you, oh so close, to that wall of ice that is literally as vast as Buenos Aires. It is hard to leave that wall, the magnetism is so strong. The great thing is that the Explora hotel is designed to restore you to yourself. And you feel it is waiting for you to come home.

One of our wOw writers, Paula Forman, was just recently at Explora with her husband, Philip, who took these beautiful pictures for us as she wrote her impressions: “I would rate Patagonia as the most dramatic, most exciting place I’ve seen. Nothing compares to the drama of the Chilean Andes – which I preferred to Argentina’s Patagonia area because it was less traveled.

“I thought the Explora hotel was spectacular; it is nestled unobtrusively in Torres del Paine National Park. It is low and follows the contour of the land – and the view is to die for! The rooms are simple with considerate details but the public space is especially well designed. The view dominates. And the staff distinguishes Explora from everyplace else. Twenty of the cutest, smartest kids in their late 20s I have ever laid eyes on – all university grads, bilingual at minimum, who are well trained in geology, glaciology, biology and first aid. Most have been at Explora for more than two years. I was told there is psychological screening in addition to several interviews. They really set the tone for the place. For us it was the journey of a lifetime.”

Thank you, Paula and Philip. Patagonia shook all my old and tired feelings of wonder and I am glad you feel the same. –Gypsy.

There are a lot of exciting websites for Patagonia – Chile. And there are many, many ways to go there and to stay there.

Nearby: The rainbow desert Atacama! Red volcanos, salt flats, lagoons and ravines like a 3-D movie. While you are in Explora, Chile, move on and see this desert. The first humans arrived more than 10,000 years ago. Look into Explora Hotel de Larache in the San Pedro de Atacama oasis. You may never be the same.

Atacama/Image: CC/Flickr

Some Wows are very small but they pierce your heart. Some are tremendous and change you. The Patagonia region and Explora hotels in Chile are tremendous and may very well change you. –Gypsy

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