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Refugio El Nico(Los Penitentes)
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All reviewsthe ownergreat placerooms are cleanhot watermade us feelmy sonchillia great experienceaconcagua national parksteveclimbmendozateamridehospitalityplazalife
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Reviewed December 12, 2012 via mobile

I'll start by saying that I really wanted to like this hotel and have struggled with writing this review to ensure that I'm being objective.

I spent one night here while driving to the Aconcagua national park. The rooms are very outdated but were clean, so this in itself wouldn't lead to my rating. There were other positives too - the location is great, check in was very friendly, the communal areas were nice and our room was huge. This hotel has real potential.

However there were a few areas where the hotel really let itself down.

Firstly, dinner. The food was average (the garlic chicken wasn't an exaggeration and was served on a bed of raw onion). But the real issue came when we paid. The bill came to 127 Pesos. We gave 200 and while the waiter went to get change realised it had been added up incorrectly and should have been 177 Pesos. The waiter returned with our change but it was 10 Pesos short. We pointed out the undercharge and paid the extra, but did not pay a tip on top as we were already 10 Pesos down. Rather than thanking us for pointing out their mistake, the waiters were clearly annoyed we (in their view) hadn't tipped.

Overnight I couldn't sleep as the room was freezing cold. I tried to make the radiator work but couldn't and when I mentioned this at check out, I was told they have electric fires.... unfortunately this information came 12 hours too late.

My biggest frustration was in the morning, we had planned to watch sunrise from the national park but came downstairs at 6.30am to find that we were locked into the hotel with no staff around. I have never stayed in any hotel, guesthouse or even B&B that locks its guests in with no obvious way out. I am sure that there were fire exits in case of emergency but to have the main exit locked just does not feel right. I have agonised over whether we should have said our plans the evening before but just did not expect to be locked in. Even when we checked out at 7.30 we had to ask the cleaner to wake up the manager.

I would really like this hotel to be a success as the location is great, the area needs good quality accommodation and I love the romance behind the owner buying the place, but at the moment it feels like it is a play hotel not a serious business. Had I been charged half the amount, it might have felt like a better deal, but to pay the best part of 90USD for a cold night of broken sleep after an awkward exchange with the restaurant staff, only to find we were trapped in the hotel is not something I can recommend, however good the potential.

  • Stayed: November 2012
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3  Thank jojom999
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 10, 2012

She's not young but the amazing staff make you feel very warm and welcome.
Thank you Steven and Julia for the great hospitality. Look forward to stopping there again for the next journey to Aconcagua.

  • Stayed: December 2012
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Thank nadisha6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 11, 2012

This is a nice hotel if you want to visit the high Andes for a few nights. It's really the only decent place to stay in the area, as the only other accommodations are somewhat grubby trekker hostels. The rooms are big, have comfortable beds, good heat, and lots of hot water. There is a good restaurant in the hotel, and the place includes a hearty breakfast buffet. The new owners (as of November 2011) are really working hard to create a first class hotel experience in an otherwise remote area. Outside of ski season, most people up there are hard-core trekkers out to climb Mt Aconcagua, but the area is also great for day hikes and just roaming about among beautiful, snow-capped mountains. It can be very hot in the Summer, even at 10-11,000 ft, but Fall and Spring have good weather for hiking in the area.

It's very easy to take a day hike right from the hotel, either a fairly level walk along the abandoned railroad tracks across the river behind the hotel (there is a bridge) or a hike to a saddle between two peaks that one can see from the dining room (it's tougher than it looks). One can also take the ridiculously cheap local bus further up the road 9 km to Los Horcones, where one can do an easy day hike in Aconcagua Park and get a better sense of the mountain's size. Puente Del Inca is at km 7 from the hotel, just before Los Horcones, but one is no longer allowed across the famous rock bridge anymore (it's fenced off). There is only a trekker's hostel, a small restaurant, and lots of people selling handicrafts there. The owners can also help arrange transportation if the 2-3 buses/day going back and forth along the highway don't fit your schedule.

Many people do a day trip from Mendoza (3-4 hours driving one way) and thus spend only an hour or two in the actual high Andes, but it's worth coming up here for a few days and really getting to experience the area. Local buses run 2-3 times/day from Mendoza (about 4 hours) and will drop you off right at the hotel (just ask the driver to stop at Los Penitentes). It's a great way to experience hiking in the high Andes (you're surrounded by 14,000-18,000 ft peaks) and still have a comfortable bed and nice dinner in the evening.

Also, the owners are really friendly and helpful. Steve is really knowledgeable about the area and was great to talk to, his wife was also really wonderful. We want to come here again, it was well worth it.

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled as a couple
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Thank Elizabeth8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 16, 2012

Leaving Santiago by bus, the plan was to head to Mendoza and have a day or two in Los Penitentes at the Ayelen Hotel on the way. The scenery on the bus ride was pretty amazing, just kept getting better and better and unfortunately after a few hours we'd arrived.
Hadn't done a lot of research beforehand but Steve & Mecha (the owners) were very helpful and were able to answer all my questions and take my booking last minute.
When I arrived, I was met by Steve and from the start I knew it was going to be a good stay. The place had a really warm and welcoming feel and the view from my room was pretty special.
It felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by 4,000m snow capped peaks and the view of 6992m Mt. Acongagua was unbelievable. I ended up staying 5 days and did a buch of shorter treks - there are treks for all skill levels! You can go exploring all day, sit in a quiet corner reading a book and peering out the big glass windows to the peaks and by night enjoy awesome meals (the steak was huge!!), and glass of wine by the fire. I could not fault Steve's and Mecha's hospitality and sometimes felt like I was the only one there!!
The hotel is older but everything is big and spacious including the rooms and with all the renovation plans Steve and Mecha have planned, I can't wait to see the changes when I return. I might even make it to Mendoza!

  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled solo
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Thank stevomcmaster
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 25, 2012

The culmination of a two month cycle tour saw me riding past the Ayelen hotel in the direction of Santiago. I only went in for a bite to eat and ended up staying the night such was the fantastic hospitality. My ride had shown me a hierarchy of steaks, and this certainly topped the bill and I've no doubt the rest of the menu would have been great had I not overfilled myself on the complementary nuts!
The new owner, was more than happy to chat, and with such a great location and good direction I've no doubt the hotel will be a great base for summer and winter adventures alike.
The room was warm spacious and well appointed, exactly what I needed after a long trip.
Cheers

  • Stayed: April 2012, traveled solo
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Thank David J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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