Patagonia is the sort of place that lends itself to good stories – a story, for example, of a gentlewoman explorer and her battles against the elements and unforgiving landscape in a remote wilderness. Lady Florence Dixie was quite a trailblazer, heading off to South America with her husband and a couple of brothers (including the Marquess of Queensbury who gave his name to the rules of boxing) in the 19th Century, shooting big game, bringing back a jaguar for a pet and enough material to pen the travelogue Across Patagonia. She later sent a copy to Charles Darwin after disagreeing over the characteristics of a native mammal she had encountered.
Lady Florence’s travels to Torres Del Paine in the Atacama region captured the imagination of the Awasi Patagonia developers, who have set up a private reserve in the same spot that her travelling party camped at 140 years previously, below the striking three peaks previously only seen by indigenous nomads. Chilean architect Felipe Assadi has designed 12 villas strategically placed around a main house, all positioned for awe-inspiring views of the mountains, Lake Sarmiento and the surrounding forest which blunts the edge of the pampas winds. The cabin-style accommodation takes its cue from traditional shelters. and uses wood as the main material giving a back to nature vibe. Comfort levels are more hotel than campsite though – there’s plenty of space to stretch out, and each villa has a wood-burning stove and hot tub to keep things toasty.
Of the effort it took to reach this outstandingly beautiful place after days on horseback, Lady Florence aptly wrote that “the sight well repaid us for our trouble”. One can’t help speculating that in these modern times of aeroplanes and cars, she’d have been back more often. The area is certainly better catered for than it was in the 1880s. As well as the intimate Awasi, other larger-scale options nearby include Tierra Patagonia, on the banks of the same lake, and the Victorian meat-store conversion The Singular in Puerto Bories.