Stayed at Helsingfors in December. This was the best part of our trip to Patagonia (surpassing even our trek on the Perito Moreno Glacier). Helsingfors offered the comforts of home in the beauty of the wilderness. We had a great time filled with outdoor activities, but we also knew that we were expecting an active vacation, not a resort by the lake. The location is very remote, about 3 hours from El Calafate, but the hotel offers free transportation on certain days and can arrange transportation on other days. Along the way to the hotel, there are numerous photo opportunities to capture the beauty of the vast landscape. Since the hotel is situated in the middle of a national park, right by a lake, you will feel like you are in small speck of civilization in the middle of the vast wilderness.
We had considered other high end hotels in the region such as Eolo, Estancia Cristina, and Los Notros as well. We picked Helsingfors because the hiking trails and scenery offered much more variety than the others, and also the reviews on the service level was high. It seemed that Eolo, while close to El Calafate and seemed to offer a very high level of service and amenities, but really did not offer much in terms of the scenery as its immediate surroundings seemed single dimensional. We thought that Estancia Cristina was just too remote as it required a long boat ride with repetitive scenery. Los Notros seemed beautiful in the middle of the Perito Moreno Glacier, but only offered glacier activities and the reviews on the service seemed subpar (later we found it that it was closed during the time that we would be there).
We also chose to do hiking activities with Helsingfors because the hikes were guided with experienced guides, and because we could return to the comforts of a hotel at the end of each day. The alternative would be to do hikes in El Chalten, for example, which would have been too much camping and wilderness.
The surroundings are amazing, and there are several hiking trails that start out from the hotel. All hiking activities were included. There is also an opportunity to ride horses, either on the hike or to a neighboring ranch. At the hotel, there were views of Lake Viedma, Mount Fitzroy (near El Chalten) in the distance, and views of the vast snow-capped mountain. One hike that we enjoyed very much was a hike to a Blue Lagoon which took 6 hours round trip. Along the way of the hike, we went through different ecological climates as the trees and shrubs were varied according to the air moisture in the immediate area. Because of the climate and the strong winds, there weren't very many insects at all (I didn't see any spiders, unlike in Buenos Aires where the weather is much more temperate). I was also told that there are no snakes in that area, so I felt very safe. The guide was so knowledgeable and knew so much about the plants and animals in the area. We saw animals such as condors and guanacos (similar to an antelope), but most of the time we just enjoyed the views.
Our room was very clean, but not too fancy, which was fine for us. The decor had the feel of a mountain or lakeside lodge. Because the location is so far south, the nights were cold, but the hotel provided space heaters for the rooms that are not in the main building, and therefore the room temperature was perfect.
The food was tasty, healthy, and filling enough, but not considered fine-dining gourmet, which was fine for us. It is amazing that they are able to serve a variety of food, given the remote location. They are very good about respecting your dietary restrictions. For breakfast, they have a good variety of fresh fruit, eggs, bread/pastries and cereal. For lunch, on the day of our full day hike, we were given the opportunity to make our own sandwiches with the variety of cold cuts, turkey, roast beef, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. I made 3 sandwiches because I have a big appetite. For dinner, they served a good 2 or 3 course meal depending on the meal. On the first day of arrival, they also served a charcuterie platter during cocktail hour.
All the staff the Helsingfors were so enthusiastic, genuine, and did a great job--everyone including the kitchen staff, the manager, hiking/horseback-riding guides, and the driver. They really make the stay a fun and pleasant one.
Because of the remote location, internet was unreliable. I was able to access email from my smartphone sometimes, but it was difficult to do much internet surfing. I think it was dependent on the number of other people on the internet at the same time, so I think it was better early in the morning, late night, or when others were busy with other activities.
We stayed at the hotel for 2 1/2 days, which was about the right amount time. This was probably one of the best vacations I've had. It was a perfect vacation for a couple, friends, or family with older children (there were several families there, with children who were at least in their mid-teens to early twenties).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- At the beginning of XX century an adventurous Finish man, called Alfred Ramström, adopted Patagonia South as his second hometown. He settled down at the base of the Andes mountains, on the South West side of Viedma's Lake, eith a spectacular view of Mount "Fitz Roy" ("Chalten" in Tehuelche dialect). Remembering his homeland, he named the ranch with the name of the capital of his country" at that time , "Helsingfors". ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Helsingfors Hosteria Hotel Los Glaciares National Park
- Helsingfors Hosteria Argentina/Patagonia