When we booked El Pilar for our last three nights of two weeks in southern Patagonia, we hoped it would be a trip highlight, and it absolutely was. There are so many good things to say about this place. If you can get a room here, do! Unless you hate the outdoors (in which case, Patagonia is no place for you) or require opulent splendor (for you, there are plenty of luxury ranches), you will most likely be delighted.
Guillermo and Cristina manage El Pilar: these are people who you wish would become your personal friends, kind and welcoming, down-to-earth, knowledgeable, interesting, and eminently likable. They were incredibly sweet to our 20-month-old son, even when it was clear that his strongest desire was to get his hands on the books and antique-type objects scattered charmingly around the common areas at El Pilar and rip them to shreds. They were also kind and generous to the hordes of hikers (not guests at the hostería) who harass them on a daily basis, trying to get in to use the bathroom or refill water bottles even though they have just left their lodging in town. It takes skill to manage this situation politely without alienating or annoying the guests who are trying to enjoy the tranquility and location of the property, and I was deeply impressed by their patience in this respect.
El Pilar's location at the edge of the national park and at one of the trailheads for the unmissable Laguna de Los Tres trek is superb. The access road, though unpaved, is well-graded and only takes about 25 minutes from town; transportation is easy to arrange through the staff or from town as everyone is familiar with El Pilar. The hostería is on a beautiful river (the Río Blanco), boasts stunning mountain views even when the skies are cloudy, and is surrounded by pretty wild lupine flowers and scrubby trees. We were glad to have our own transportation (rental car), but once we discovered how perfect El Pilar was, we didn't have much desire to get back to El Chaltén. Three days there gave us the opportunity to hike Los Tres and also the easier Piedra de los Frailes walk to a nearby refugio—a nice, flat option to give your legs a rest between Laguna Torre and Laguna de los Tres. The weather while we were there was cold, windy, and often cloudy, but this didn't detract from the treks or the overall experience.
Rooms here are comfortable and reasonably spacious. We did have some trouble blocking the light in the evening so that our son could sleep (it wasn't truly dark until around 11 p.m. in late December), but this was really not a major problem.
Meals served here are hearty and satisfying. Unlike some similar properties in Patagonia, El Pilar is accommodating about timing dinner: they offer it from 7 - 9 rather than starting at 8 or 9 as do many Argentine establishments. Also uncharacteristically for the region, they have a vegetarian option every night. We really enjoyed both dinners we ate here, and felt that the price was low for the quality of the food and service. Breakfast is also great.
This is one of the best and most memorable places I've stayed—not just in Patagonia, but anywhere in the world. Of course, it costs a bit more than the hostel-type options in town, but for what it offers, El Pilar is a steal, and is much more reasonably priced than many of the rural options in the region. I wish I could go back, and if I ever make a trip to Patagonia again, this will be the first place I book.
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- Also Known As:
- Hosteria El Pilar Hotel El Chalten
- Hosteria El Pilar Chalten