We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.
The latest reviews. The lowest prices. The perfect place to shop for hotels.

“Beautiful, but...”

Best prices for -
Check In mm/dd/yyyy Check Out mm/dd/yyyy
Prices are for 1 room, 2 adults
Show Prices
Compare best prices from top travel sites
and 6 more sites!
Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive
Certificate of Excellence
Preston
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
“Beautiful, but...”
Reviewed April 28, 2012

Yes, the hotel and surroundings are awesome like many other reviews mention, but a few things prevent this property from receiving 5 stars. The bathrooms are on the smallish side (2 adults at the same time getting ready too cramped). The bedrooms are also standard American motel room size. We were there for 4 nights and consistently every evening, the sign ups for the next day activities were not very organized. We were told we could just do it in the morning or see what was left (why some groups received preference, we could never figure out). Sometimes the places we wanted to go, we were told it was filled already (really, just because you approached other guests first and they took the available slots?) Also, the way different guides presented the same hikes varied greatly. (ie: some guides rated particular hikes as "very easy" and other said the same hike was "moderate to hard"). It would be wise to print out the hikes online and have it with you to be more informed (they don't provide this info at the hotel itself). Gino is an AWESOME guide and our favorite person at Explora. Also, when you check out, if you're going to El Calafate, you're faced with a 4-8 hour transfer. They space out the vans leaving the hotel in the morning, but in the end, you all wait in a middle of nowhere sheep pasture just beyond the border, for the last van to arrive so you can all go onward on a larger van. So make sure you're on the last van leaving Explora (instead of waiting 90 minutes or so in the pasture)!! Also, about 75% of the people on the transfer had a lunch packed--they said it was just handed to them by staff as they got on the vans. Be sure to ask, if no one hands you a lunch. Our family had no lunch to sustain us on the trip that stretched to an insane 8 hours to El Calafate. (btw, there were no delays at the border, just a driver who drove much slower than the posted limits and made countless stops at hotels, gas stations, etc) Almost everyone on the bus was very angry about missed connections/plans. You might want to consider doing a private transfer/car if you have some extra $$$.

  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
5 Thank dormarie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
exploraSA, CEO / Gerente General at Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive, responded to this review, May 27, 2012
Dear traveler,

Thank you very much for your feedback. Despite of your concerns, we are happy to read that you enjoyed the hotel and its surroundings, as well as the work of some of the explora guides.

You noted some concerns regarding the hotel and the sizes of some of the areas of the lodge. Please allow me to mention that the architecture and design of the lodge takes into consideration a number of variables that are all focused on the travelers being “forced” outside into the great outdoors and where the primary goal of the lodge is to serve a shelter in which all the elements of the experience (linens, bedding, beds, sofas, furniture, etc.) are of the highest quality

Situated on a 3-hectare (7.4-acre) site, the design borrows certain organic forms from the landscape itself, adapting to it with simple elegance. It was designed to create a dialogue with its environment, putting human beings in touch with the sublimity of their surroundings.
For travelers, the lodge provides the welcome surprise of comfort in a remote area; nonetheless, you are not isolated from nature, but placed “within” it (The traveler can simultaneously view both the interior of the lodge and the surrounding landscape).

In reference your concerns regarding transportation, we are extremely sorry to hear that your transfer to El Calafate was delayed. This was a new service operated by a third party (since explora cannot operate its own vehichles in Argentina) that we started in September 2011 and were forced to cancel it in December 2011 due to their inability to provide the quality and compliance standards that explora had expected. During a short 4-month period we tried with 3 different companies and afraid that our reputation would be tarnished after 4 complaints similar to yours, we decided to stop offering for new reservations this transportation service

explora activities are reviewed on a day to day basis and are dependent on a number of factors, but often on operational feasibility and weather conditions. We try to match our traveler's expectations with our excursions and ensure that during the 4 to 8 night stay each traveler experiences what he/she came to Patagonia to do. At full capacity with 98 travelers our guides still have to adhere to a basic organizational rule: an expeditions departs with a maximum of 8 travelers. If during your stay you were preclude to experience a particular activity, we kindly ask you to contact us directly and we will be more than happy to extend a special benefit for your next explora Patagonia trip.

We do take customer feedback very seriously and take action based on comments and suggestions. Again, thank you for your review, I hope to hear back from you and look forward to welcoming you again at explora.

With kindest regards,

Jesús Parrilla
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Write a Review

756 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
    646
    74
    19
    6
    11
See reviews for
117
402
48
25
Rating summary
  • Location
  • Sleep Quality
  • Rooms
  • Service
  • Value
  • Cleanliness
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (189)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Bridgetown, Barbados
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed April 28, 2012

Long trip to get to this part of the world to find a lodge inserted in the middle of nowhere. In the way in you question why choose to go to Torres del Paine, but them you a arrive at the Explora Hotel to realize that you are in heaven. The views from the main areas and room are out of this world with impressive views to the Paine Massif. We have 3 outstanding days weather wise and the clear and crips views were exceptional. The feeling at the lodge is very homey and the attention and service friendly, polity and extremely helpful. Food was very fresh, well-balanced and nutritious. The wines and beverages of great quality and plentiful. The activities are well-planned and executed and the guides and horsemen very knowledgeable, well-articulated and ever accommodating. Did not have the chance to visit the SPA, but had a massage in a cozy room in the interior of the main building with the background noise of the Salto Chico waterfall. The beds were impressively comfortable and the slept quality something I had never experienced before. The whole experience was unforgettable. Will have to return for more as 4 days was not simply enough. Worth every minute on the road to get there. Kudos to everyone at the Explora for making a memorable journey.

Room Tip: If you like horses, make sure you take every opportunity to ride. The horses are magnificent, the ri...
See more room tips
  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
2 Thank Deborah P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
exploraSA, CEO / Gerente General at Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive, responded to this review, May 27, 2012
Dear traveler,

Thank you very much for your very kind review. We are particularly grateful for mentioning our new Massage Room. Set in the main building next to the guest rooms, the massage room is designed for guests who would rather be treated in the main hotel than stroll to our spa, the Casa de Banos del Ona. When you come back to explora Patagonia we hope that you do walk to the newly renovated spa, which is located about 300 feet from the lodge. The Casa de Banos del Ona offers steam rooms, two saunas, a new Turkish bath, indoor Jacuzzi, and cold-bath for bracing finishes to any of the above. Just outside the spa deck offers four hydro-massage tubs with a relaxing perspective of Lake Pehoé.

Lastly, please remember that after visiting one explora lodge, you are entitled to the benefits of our CESA - Club Exploradores del Sur de América - a recognition program with benefits including rate discounts and room upgrades for repeat guests.

With kindest regards,

Jesús Parrilla
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
4 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed April 28, 2012

Explora's Hotel Salto Chico is not a hotel - it was a life changing experience for me and my wife! The hotel's architecture and interior design are only outdone by the majestic landscape. And every day a new activity connected us with a natural wonder (mountains, glaciers, lakes, wildlife) taking our breath away, literally and figuratively. The whole experience - hotel, staff, food and wine and activities - is an amazing value! My wife and I only wish Explora had a properties all over the world:)

  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Hoyzel-Moidysh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
exploraSA, CEO / Gerente General at Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive, responded to this review, May 29, 2012
Dear traveler,

Thank you so much for reviewing your explora experience.

Allow me to highlight the headline of your review “explora is not a hotel – it’s an experience!” In these few words you’ve captured the essence of our philosophy; the destination is the main draw and explora thrives to enhance the experience of any destination that we call home.

explora’s goal is an all encompassing experience, including healthy gourmet meals, very comfortable rooms and the best guides available, but all this only enhances the main experience and that is the destination itself.

And as for new explora lodges, we can’t promise “all over the world,” but feel that our three lodges in Atacama, Patagonia and Easter Island as well as the explora Travesias - are a pretty good start.

Please know that after visiting one explora lodge, you are entitled to the benefits of our CESA - Club Exploradores del Sur de América - a recognition program with benefits including rate discounts and room upgrades for repeat guests.

With kindest regards,

Jesús Parrilla
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London
Level Contributor
351 reviews
110 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 263 helpful votes
Reviewed April 24, 2012

It’s fundamentally a great hotel and experience and has many strengths; you can read all about them on their web site and in other guest feedback. Here are two in my view significant niggles:
1. Each evening when choosing my trek/s for the following day I was told “let’s see what is left”; clearly some guests have first pick of the tours they want to do and other guests are offered what is left over. When I arrived I was asked about my top priority, I advised it was to get some great photos – only upon leaving did I find out that there had been a photography tour; I got some great photos but the fact there was a tour and I wasn’t invited to join it is annoying.
2. I believe the hotel needs to be more honest in their descriptions of the views from the rooms. I chose (and paid for) a room with a view of the mountains – all I could see straight ahead in room 32 was a non-descript hill; only if I stood by the window could I see the magnificent mountains off to the right hand side. I believe the hotel must set appropriate expectations; had I not changed rooms this would have totally ruined my stay.
Finally; why don’t hotels which request customer feedback acknowledge the comments received and respond?

Room Tip: I enjoyed the experience and might consider staying again but only after I’d clarified in advance ex...
See more room tips
  • Stayed March 2012, traveled solo
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank SeriousTraveller01
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
exploraSA, CEO / Gerente General at Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive, responded to this review, April 30, 2012
Dear traveler,

Thank you for taking the time to write about your trip to Patagonia. We are thrilled to learn that you would strongly recommend explora to other travelers and that you would love to return to explora Patagonia.

In reference to the concerns that you have mentioned, please allow us to shed some light on the two specific matters that you've brought up.

explora activities are reviewed on a day to day basis and are dependent on a number of factors; primarily they depend on operational feasibility and weather conditions. For example, every so often we cannot operate our catamaran due to wind conditions thus prohibiting usfrom offering specific activities on that day. Without any way of knowing ahead of time, we've occasionally encountered the Las Chinas River as unsafe to cross with a vehicle or horse due to high levels of water. We could list a few other examples, but the underlying fact is that there is an element of uncertainty that occasionally forces us to be on alert and have alternative plans in place. For explora safety is non-negotiable and our team should have been able to communicate the possibility of a change of plans. If we failed to do so, we deeply apologize for failing to address your concerns at that moment. I want to assure you that we will address your comments with our team to ensure proper policy procedures are followed.

In addition to the above, there is an organizational aspect that we do emphasize during the hight ofthe season and when we are at maximum capacity. We try to match our traveler's expectations with our excursions and ensure that during the 4 to 8 night stay each traveler experiences whathe/she came to Patagonia to do. At full capacity with 98 travelers our guides still have to adhere to a basic organizational rule: an expeditions departs with a maximum of 8 travelers. If during your stay you were preclude to do a particular activity, we kindly ask you to contact us directly and we will be more than happy to extend a special benefit for your next explora Patagonia trip.

In reference to your comment about the rooms, both the Suite Exploradores and the Cordillera Paine Rooms have views of the Macizo del Paine and the Pehoé lake. The views of the Macizo del Paine and the Pehoé Lake have different angles depending on the set up of the room and where you are seated or standing in the room. We assure you that all those rooms have views of the Macizo del Paine and the Pehoé Lake. Nevertheless we will look into the room descriptions to verify each description.

We do take customer feedback very seriously and react on comments and suggestions. We would love to hear where you felt we have ignored feedback so that we tackle it immediately.

Again, thank you for your review, hope to hear back from you and look forward to welcoming you again at explora.

With kindest regards,

Jesús Parrilla
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Francisco, California
Level Contributor
136 reviews
112 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 603 helpful votes
Reviewed April 13, 2012

I've just completed an eight day / 7 night stay at the Explora Patagonia hotel, my one big vacation experience for this year. I have plenty of impressions which I want to share with you, but I'll split them out into various sections: the facility itself, the "explorations" (or tours), the overall experience (including who works here and who visits here) and my ultimate opinions. There's a LOT of information here, so if you're looking for detail, click the "More" button below.

In short, I absolutely recommend this place with a number of "be aware" & F.Y.I. items to keep in mind.

pros
* excellent service, at a higher level than what you'd typically find in Chile or South America
* excellent food, all fresh (even almost all of the produce, which must be really hard to get delivered here)
* prime location within the park, best way to see this park and not rough it (i.e. most visitors come into the park to backpack and camp, but here you can have a luxurious shower!)
* comfortable beds and high quality linens

cons
* demographics
* takes 2 days to get there from anywhere not in South America (an exhausting journey)
* standard rooms & bathroom size is really small, especially given what you are paying
* most of the dining room waitstaff don't speak more than a few words of English

===========

Like anyone who has done in-depth research into visiting Patagonia and the Torres Del Paine park, you've certainly heard of the fires that swept through the park in late December, 2011 & early January 2012 which kept Explora closed until mid February. I'm happy to report that the facility itself is in great condition, and even feels very modern and contemporary (supposedly the building itself is almost 20 years old… but it gave me the impression of a much more recent and modern interior design, even not taking into account the fresh furnishings and linens they had to bring in after the smoke damage from the fires).

The way the experience starts will be like this: after getting off the plane in Punta Arenas, you'll descend down into the baggage claim area and next to where the bags are rotating on the belt, you'll see an "Explora" cart with luggage tags on it. If you catch the person who accompanies the cart (she's probably running around trying to find you), a luggage tag with your name & room number will be attached to your bag and loaded into a luggage trailer off the back of an Explora van next to the terminal. Once everyone (and their bags) are on board, you're on the way. About half way through the 4 hour drive, you'll stop for snacks and a bathroom break. Our snack (or lunch?) stop at a pretty nice hotel property along the way was close to an hour, so the entire journey lasts about five hours. Once you hit the park boundary (about 45 minutes out from the hotel), the pavement turns into gravel and things become very bouncy. This seemed to be the typical (terrible) condition of the roads in the park. I was getting queasy & sea-sick near the end of the journey.

But then we arrived in the hotel. Ahhhhh, much better.

I did quite a bit of shopping around beforehand (the nearest competitor to Explora is, at least in terms of size and service, would be Tierra Patagonia), but somehow I was able to get an upgrade from the Cordillera Paine room that we had originally booked. We were instead put into the "Suite Exploridares" (room 27), which is at the very end of the top floor hall and appears to be about double the size of the regular rooms (the size of which reminded me of cruise ship cabin). The relatively few Salto Chico rooms have a beautiful view of the (very very wide) river that spills out from the Salto Chico waterfall, which you should be able to see raging off the right side of those windows. The vast majority of the rooms on offer are Cordillera Paine rooms and have a view of the Torres Del Paine mountains towering over the lake (which feed the Salto Chico falls) and the Explora boat dock in all those professional (and tourist) photos. The closer to the water you get, the more likely your open window is going to pick up the calming, soothing rumble of the Salto Chico waterfalls which the Explora is perched right next to.

As for the suite, it isn't a suite in the sense that there's separate rooms inside the room. For the most part it looks and feels like simply a double size room, with the same views and amenities of the Cordillera Paine rooms. The bathroom is a bit bigger, with two bathroom sinks. The big bonus with the suite may be a (much smaller) window that looks out and opens up over the Salto Chico falls themselves.

I did step into some of the open Cordillera Paine and Salto Chico rooms during the 4th day when a great number of guests had departed and new ones were coming in. All of the bathrooms have the "peek a boo" windows in the bathroom and there are room safes and hair dryers found in the cabinet where you can hang and stack your clothes. All of the bathtubs in all of the rooms come jacquzi-style jets for relaxing after a long walk, and all of the bathrooms have two little windows next to the tub that look out into the suite and ultimately to the view out your room's big window. And all of the windows (including the bathtub windows) have window shades. Once in a while (not frequently but often enough) you'll get a whiff of septic tank from the bathrooms, but opening the windows get rid of the odor pretty quickly.

In terms of the facility itself, besides the guest rooms and the bar and the dining room, there are a number of seating areas around the ground floor. Down the entrance hallway will be the main seating area and you'll find the wooden box of walking sticks. I saw plenty of people attempting to use their iPads in these seating areas. Internet (in the bar area and the reception area) is incredibly spotty… and when it works, it's frustratingly slow, frequently dropping the signal or timing connections out. For my own usage it tended to work somewhat okay for sending and receiving bursts of e-mail, but don't count on being able to keep in frequent touch with your office while you're in Patagonia.

The indoor pool and spa facilities are in a separate building on the other side of the hill where the Explora lodge sits (this is also the building where all the guides live in dormitories).

Maid service comes twice a day. Once in the morning and then in the evening, typically during dinner time, to do a turn-down. Laundry service is available, with prices ranging from reasonable ($1 USD per T-shirt or under-garments or pair of socks) to annoying ($9 for pants). If you get your laundry turned in before 9 a.m. you get the laundry back the same evening. When the laundry bag gets picked up after 9 a.m., it'll come back sometime the next morning or possibly even around lunchtime.

In terms of food and drink, you're going to be very well taken care of. There's three square, somewhat fancy meals per day (6:30 a.m. -> ; 12 noon - 2 p.m., 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.) plus a hoeres d'bores snack time around 4 p.m. There's an OPEN bar with all sorts of alcohol (brands I recognized, and ones I didn't) and they'll attempt to make anything (provided it's in their drink menu), wines, soft drinks, there's also some cervezas (or beers; the kind I saw was a local brand named Austral, which came in two styles -- a lager and a pale ale). There's also a cabinet next to the bar entrance where you can view and select severely marked up Chilean wines (in the range of about $150 - $200 USD per bottle). We had brought a few bottles of Chilean wine from a tour we did up near Santiago, but the wines they serve during dinner and at the bar are actually pretty diverse and pretty good to begin with. If you did bring along some wine in your suitcase, there's absolutely no corkage charges whatsoever for any wine you've brought along.

Lunch & dinner meals started with appetizer choices like (I've mostly sorted these into groups of three, which is how they're listed on the menu in your hands; missing items are ones that were duplicated in other menus that I recorded):

Asparagus soup
Caprese salad

Green Pea soup
Quinoa Risotto with squid & Cochayuyo
Vegetable Carpaccio

Lentil Soup
Mussels cooked in sock with fennel sauce
Phillo dough rolls with vegetables & goat cheese

Mushroom soup
Goat cheese & pepper terrine
Eggplant tartine with roasted tomato

Carrot Soup
Grilled shrimp & fava beans purée
Mushroom & vegetable timbal

Kale soup
Goat cheese & onion tart
Cold avocado soup

Pumpkin soup
Vegetable & mozzarella slices

Lunch selections included:

Conger fish with vegetable
Mushroom risotto

Fish & seafood brochette
Vegetable agnolotti
Vegetable stew

Dinner items included:

Tenderloin Beef with roasted tomato & polenta
Trout with green puree
Vegetable tajine

Lamb chops with tians
Austral hake with honey carrot
Vegetable chow mein

Waygu beef flank with chickpeas,
Tofu with roasted vegetables & pumpkin sauce
Fetuccine with pepper and mushroom
Polenta lasagna

Tenderloin beef & pearl barley risotto with mushroom
Ricotta & spinach ravioli
Tofu & vegetable with pumpkin sauce

Duck confit with broad beans
Shrimp risotto
Vegetable stew

Dessert choices included:

Custard apple sorbet
Chocolate pancake (crepes!)
Catalan cream
Chestnuts parfait

Red fruits sorbet
Chocolate & raspberry tart
Vanilla mille Feuille

Chocolate mousse
Vanilla ice cream
Lemon Tart
Caramel flan

Warm chocolate sponge cake with almond sauce
Mango sorbet
Peach tart
Manjar pancake

And all dessert menus included a choice of Fresh Fruit Salad

You'll always find at least one (and sometimes two) vegetarian options within each group of three appetizers and three entrees on each lunch & dinner menu. They also can do some custom things -- my wife didn't want to do pasta one evening (where they had offered a different pasta choice for lunch) and the lamb option wasn't calling to her, so the chef whipped up a huge albacore tuna steak with some vegetables on the side for her, which we were surprised and thankful for.

Breakfast also has a menu that can be ordered from, but you might not feel like ordering because the buffet spread (breads, fruits, eggs, steamed tomatoes and potatoes) is already very generous. I ordered omelets from the menu a couple mornings and my wife was able to get oatmeal (which isn't on the menu or out in the buffet area), but just ask for "porridge" and the kitchen whips it right up. Some of the fruits weren't the freshest things (especially the bananas they had out in fruit bowls, which were usually more brown then yellow), but you have to keep in mind that Explora has a truck full of fresh food delivered at least once a week (I believe it gets packed up in Santiago and then has to be driven through Argentina, as there's no direct within-Chile route between Santiago and Patagonia). Again, one really has to appreciate the logistics going on here to keep guests comfortable and happy.

You may see a slightly older lady walking around greeting and talking with the guests and generally keeping things on the ground floor running well. That would be Rosario. I overheard her tell a visiting travel wholesaler delegation that she was hired by Explora years ago with absolutely no experience in running a hotel, but from the patience, discrete-ness, and hospitality I saw from her, I would have assumed she had been trained by the Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons. I almost never saw a sour or unhappy face from her, and when I did have a couple concerns to pass along to her, she listened intently and said that she was glad I brought them to her attention. She genuinely seems to care that the Explora guests have a great time.

Behind the scenes, you might eventually perceive there's some coordination between housekeeping and the dining room (and even the tour guides) so they know when you're out of your room. and they try to only do the housekeeping service when they are reasonably certain you are away from your room. This coordination wasn't 100% foolproof though, as we missed a massage service because of a late running full day tour and the masseuse sat around waiting (we weren't charged for this, though). We did have some severe problems with the massage service, once we did end up doing it, which I'll describe later on.

Explora has both a stable of horses (about 23) and a house full of guides (about 20; a quarter of them are on a five day break at any one time). They don't refer to hikes or rides as "tours" but instead call them "explorations". These explorations range from half day hikes or horseback rides to full day hikes & rides, with various degrees of difficulty. Unfortunately, the facility (and probably the entire park itself) is absolutely *not* appropriate for anyone with any mobility problems whatsoever. There are steps and inclines and trip hazards everywhere. Even the "easy" half day hikes had a degree of difficulty with them, such as going up rocky paths to see prehistoric rock paintings (on the Aonikenk trail tour), or clambering over bushes and shrubs to get down to the spongy yet rocky calcium carbonate formations along the banks of Lake Sarmiento.

Weather was all over the map while we were here in the middle of March. The first two days the rain alternated between drizzle and heavy. The next day started off rainy but ended up being sunny and clear and perfect. The fourth day was again sunny and clear but the wind started up and the gusts kept up and kept up into the fifth day. The sixth day was mostly rain with bits of sun (usually when we were leaving whatever scenery we had been looking intently at). The seventh day was back to sun and high wind gusts. The eight day the high winds were subsiding, but we were on our way out & back to Santiago.

The tours are arranged the evening before. The way it works is that you sit down in the living room or bar area between 6 and 8 (appetizers and additional hoers d'bores are dispensed) and the guides (who by then have changed out of their hiking outfits and are wearing their best and/or cleanest clothes) are mingling with the guests and attempting to arrange and match possible tours to the guests. At least once every four days (I think usually the third day) a "Barbecue"-style lunch is offered, where most half day tours convene at the Quincho Barbecue location and grilled food is served up. The one time we went, the location where Explora usually does the Quincho location was somehow flooded so the half day tours all convened in the nearby tourist village of Serrano. The offerings there started with empanadas (corn & beef), and then the entrees ended up being grilled (or BBQ'd) beef, lamb & salmon and grilled (baked) potatoes with sides of pasta salad or green salad. Plenty of drinks (Pisco sours or Austral cervezas or sodas) to go around as well. We didn't do the second BBQ opportunity during the second part of our 8 day stay, since we also wanted to get a spa experience in before taking off the next day.

The explorations I did and liked:

The Lago Grey Peninsula one was my very first tour, a half day one that I thought was a great introduction to the Explora style of hiking. You walk along the far edge of the lake (the other edge, far away, is the Gray Glacier) and then a nice up & down (probably a couple hundred feet ascending & descending) on the peninsula to get great views. I did this particular tour with three guests in total, plus the guide and the driver who waits for you in the van. My impression is that explorations can range from just you (or you and your companion) all the way up to more than a dozen, but in these cases they'll either split the tour into two groups or assign two guides to be part of the same tour (perhaps the rule of thumb is no more than 8 people per guide).

My second tour was the Lake Sarmiento walk, which ambles down a hill to the banks of the lake, where there are some very intriguing rock formations.

We did two full day tours. For these, Explora provides a picnic lunch. You'll carry a small brown bag they give you at departure time (for both tours I did, both bags contained a selection of three sandwiches -- meat, fish and vegetarian), but the guides are carrying quite a bit more in their heavy backpacks. Hot soups in a thermos, hot water for tea or coffee, condiments for the sandwiches (like tomatoes, eggplant, mustard, etc.), dessert and sometimes even a bottle of wine or two.

The first full day tour I did was the Grey Glacier walk. This involved 4 - 5 hours of hiking. After being dropped off by the Explora boat, the first 3 hours involved a relatively gentle up-hill walk and lots of scenic picture taking spots. Then an hour of downhill descending along rocks (nothing really super dangerous, but the burned out landscape definitely kicked up the wind). The last hour or two was a leisurely boat ride next to the Grey Glacier and then a return back to the other end of the lake (where the Lago Grey Peninsula tour also starts and ends at).

The second full day tour I got to do was a completely brand new one (I was part of the first group of guests who got to do this "exploration"), something they named "Serrano Glacier". This involved putting on a dry suit and getting onto not one but two separate Zodiac (rubber inflatable) boats starting at the tourist village of Serrano. The reason for the two boats was that there's a waterfall about a quarter of the way into the river journey so you get out of the first zodiac, check out the waterfalls from a scenic overlook before continuing on beyond the waterfalls on the second boat. Once arriving at the Serrano Glacier, it's another KM walk each way to the actual glacier itself, which spills into a lagoon. It might sound a lot like the Gray Glacier tour yet it's completely, utterly different (Serrano Glacier spills dramatically down a steep mountain side into a lagoon, while the Gray Glacier is much wider and slopes much more gradually into a big lake). We're really glad to have gotten the chance to experience both.

We also indulged in exactly one horseback ride. This was only my second time riding in my life but the horses were incredibly well trained and very gentle with me (and hopefully I was with them). For our ride, it was myself & significant other, a guide and one of Explora's gouchos, and it consisted of trotting down a flat path with barely any ups and downs, and maybe three water crossings in very shallow water (the water never got above the horses knees). I never felt uncomfortable or uneasy about the ride, and the guide (who we had for a half day tour earlier that day and who had ignored everyone on that tour in favor of spending most of the walk chatting up a female staff member accompanying us) became much more attentive this time around and hung back to make sure my wife made it safely through each of those water crossings, which I was very happy to see. I wish I could have tried more horseback rides, and eventually more challenging ones (and I can imagine this is a primary reason I'd want to come back to visit Explora again sometime in the future)

Other tours we did included the Condor Lookout, which happens to have spectacular views of the Explora hotel from a high up hill. There's also some spectacular winds on some of the fire-scarred & barren hills to go with the walk. Thank goodness for walking sticks.

The different guides who work there all have different personalities and different styles of guiding and explaining things. Most of them are in their 20's while there were a couple who were in their 30's & 40's. I can't decide which guide I liked most: Flash, who was the oldest, is from the area and seemed to be the one I could relate to the most. I also great memories of Gino (who guided us on the Lake Sarmiento walk and then accompanied our group on the brand new Serrano Glacier tour while Flash was doing the guiding). We especially liked the two "freelance" guides (who only were brought in when Explora needed to offer some extra tours for the large guest count during our first four days), Elisabeth and Isabel, as these freelancers seemed more experienced than the other in-house guides (aside from Flash) and they also seemed the most at ease with the groups they were guiding.

Suggestions & thoughts for preparing for your "explorations":

You'll likely see the latest North Face and Patagonia & REI fashions here. Myself, I ended up way overpacking (like most travelers to a new & unknown region probably do). For March, I ended up *not* using 3 pairs of thin pants nor a thick winter coat that I had brought which had taken up a lot of precious real estate in my suitcase. I believe the best thing to do here is look carefully at the temperature range, assume the worst (i.e. coldest) but plan on wearing layers. For most walks I wore semi-thick cargo pants (keeps any prickly plant leaves or thorns from getting to my actual leg), a t-shirt, a fleece (I had packed both a thick and a thin one) and a very nice thin rain jacket which also helped to act as a windbreaker. I also had a new pair of hiking shoes that weren't easily soaked when walking through puddles. I'd also suggest sunglasses or simply eyeglasses in general as certain explorations (e.g. the Serrano Glacier one) involved being out in the rain and on the water, and with the wind blowing, it absolutely helped to protect my eyes & eyelids from getting pelted. Yes, a daypack is essential here also (myself, I used a roomy messenger bag), as you'll need somewhere to stash your (Explora supplied!) water bottle and temporarily doffed clothing layers while you're walking.

Bring moist towelettes (preferably individually wrapped, so you don't have to carry a bulky tub of the things in your day pack) because public restrooms in the park never have soap to wash your hands with.

Demographic here seems to average between the ages of early 50's & late 60's, with a number of exceptions on both sides of the bell curve (we're in our late 30's & early 40's, and we also saw at least one family with two small children, a dad traveling with his college age daughter on her spring break, etc.).

Yes, there really is plenty of fire damage to be seen (which reduced some portions of the park to moonscapes, other parts to landscape that looked like a colorful autumn season complete with red & brown leaves, only here the leaves and the trees themselves were burnt badly and possibly damaged to the point of not being able to survive the winter). But there were also plenty of lush & green parts of the park where we hiked. Part of the reason I was able to do the new Serrano Glacier tour is because Explora is starting up new exploration options to replace the ones obliterated by fire damage.

The only downright negative thing that happened to us during our stay was that the massage person who took care of my wife was brand new and didn't seem to have much experience in doing massage in hot & stuffy massage rooms. He ended up sweating on my wife's back and neck while he was kneading her, which ended up grossing her out completely and making this normally relaxing experience the complete opposite: not comfortable whatsoever. I did make some suggestions to Rosario about this and hopefully they'll give this massage guy a decent & powerful fan in that room to help keep him cool plus a headband to keep the sweat from falling off him so easily, but I was still quite annoyed we were charged full price for this botched massage event on the final bill.

For our visit, our first four days had 90 guests staying at the Explora. For the second set of four days, there were sixty guests. It's safe to assume that the more guests the Explora has, the more likely you are to get a freelance guide (since they have to bring in the freelance guides to supplement the staff guides in order to offer the tours that are offered). Despite the difference in guest population, it never seemed overwhelmingly busy nor was it ever uncomfortable to mingle with anyone out in the public spaces.

Hopefully this information helps you out. And if you did find useful information in my review, please let me know by clicking the "Helpful" link down below. Have a great stay!

Room Tip: all rooms have a picture-postcard-worthy view of something, so don't worry too much about where...
See more room tips
  • Stayed March 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
46 Thank MichaelInSF
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
exploraSA, CEO / Gerente General at Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive, responded to this review, May 27, 2012
Dear traveler;

Thank you so very much for your detailed review of your explora Patagonia experience.

Allow me to comment on a few key point that you’ve made in your review. I am most grateful for the description of the excursions that you’ve experienced with explora, in particular the 11 new ones, which - as you’ve pointed out correctly - we have designed after the wild fires in late 2011/early 2012. Many of the additions traverse the northern region of the park, where explora Patagonia holds a Quincho (BBQ area) and two estancias. The new explorations include half day treks:
Walk to Rivera Serrano– Trek along the banks of the Serrano River to splendid views of the Paine Massif, Toro Heights and the Serrano Prairie. (Easy)

Walk to Linda Lake– Cross gently sloping, grass-covered hills to reach an ascent to spectacular views of the Paine Massif, with birds, shrubs and forests of Antarctic beech (Nothofagus Antarctica). More bird species wait on descent past Laguna Negra. (Moderate)

And full day treks:

Walk to Laguna Stokes– Trails through vegetation and forests of Antarctic beech reach magnificent views of the Baguales peaks. Laguna Stokes lies ahead with panoramic views of the Punta La Proa, Punzón and Cerro Ohnet hills to the north of the Paine Massif, close to Lake Dickson. The return follows trail through forests of lenga and calafate and skirts the foothills of the Masle Peaks. (Moderate)

Walk to the Horns– Following a slow ascent over the densely vegetated foothills of Mount Almirante Nieto, the trial continues through forests of Antarctic beech to the edge of Lake Nordenskjöld. A rocky viewpoint opens onto the impressive color of the glacial lake, followed by a steep ascent to the entrance of the Bader valley. More climbing reaches breathtaking views of the Horns and the Sarmiento, Pehoé and Nordenskjöld Lakes as well as Ice Fields to the west. (Difficult)

This might not be for you right now, but with a little training, you might be able to do this excursion when you join explora again.

Horseback Ride to Toro Heights– Giddy-up the ascent of a steep sandy trail to an altitude of 350 meters while enjoying splendid views of Lake Toro, the Pampa Serrano, and the Grey and Sarmiento Rivers. After passing through forests of lenga, the ride continues toward Toro Heights and panoramic views of the Paine Massif, the Grey Glacier and the Baguales Peaks. There’s a very steep descent on return, with river crossings along the way. (Difficult)

There are half-a-dozen more, but it would take too much space to explain them all in this format.

You assumption that 8 travelers are the maximum per group and excursions is also correct. Each full group is guided by a designated explora guides. We do not use freelance guide unless there is an emergency and we have to do so. Every now and then, it happens that several of the guides may have to be out due to medical reasons (mostly injuries) and the last resort we seek them out. However, these are mostly former explora guides who understand our clientele and the explora ethos and travel philosophy.

Horseback riding is a significant draw for explora travelers and if you’ve developed an interest, I highly recommend that you take a closer look at the section of our web page dedicated to riding in Atacama and Patagonia.

Lastly, I am very sorry to hear about your wife’s massage experience and completely understand. Rosario informed us of the incident and measures were taken immediately by looking in the direction of ventilation and improved air flow.

Please know that after visiting one explora lodge, you are entitled to the benefits of our CESA - Club Exploradores del Sur de América - a recognition program with benefits including rate discounts and room upgrades for repeat guests.

Thank you again for your detailed feedback.

With kindest regards,

Jesús Parrilla
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Sydney
Level Contributor
29 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 41 helpful votes
Reviewed April 12, 2012

So glad this hotel has reopened after the fire so everyone can share in this amazing exerience.

Our Torres del Paine winter adventure started early morning when we were picked up from the Hotel Cabo del Hornos (nice hotel, nice staff) in Punta Arenas where we had spent a few hours having flown in from Buenos Aires via Santiago in the middle of the night. It was drizzling when Gonzalo arrived in an Explora van with two other guests - Ronit and Andre from Toronto - who had flown in from Explora Atacama (where we were planning to go next). We drove through snow covered fields surrounded by mountains far off in the horizon. Rain turned to snow. At times it was difficult to tell where the ground ended and the skyline began. It was beautiful. Took 3 hours to get to Puerto Natales, and the drive became even more spectacular from there as we entered the Torres del Paine National Park.

We didn't really notice the Hotel Salto Chico, until we arrived as we were so taken in by the magnificent views of the natural surroundings, not least the peaks by which the park is named. The hotel is situated next to a small waterfall the Salto Chico beside Lake Pehoe with a full uninterrupted vista of Paine Principal and the 3 cuernos directly across the lake. And peeking behind the cuernos are 2 of the torres del Paine peaks. The mountains were covered in snow with the peaks bare. The best part of it all was that the breathtaking scenery was always present from the public spaces in the hotel and from the wall to wall window in our room!

Carlos the manager then was waiting to greet us on arrival. We were introduced to Rosario as we signed in. We immediately warmed to her and she made every effort to make us feel special but totally at ease. It was the same with all the staff here, and it really made this truly luxurious and classy hotel into one that also felt really cozy and welcoming. Nothing was too much trouble. We decided to change our return flight whilst we were there and we would not have been able to do so without their persistence. Thanks to America who bent over backwards to help us get LAN Chile to make the change.

The hotel looked stylishly simple, the main part consisting of a long and low rectangular building with windows making horizontal stripes against the otherwise white walls. It blended well with and didn't feel imposing on the natural surroundings. The design ensured our experience of the park continued notwithstanding we were indoors. Our Cordileira Paine room was up two flights of steps up from the lobby of the hotel. It was a gorgeous room with cute square glass panels on the internal wall of the ensuite that allowed us to continue have the wonderful view of the Blue massif from the bathroom.

Over the 4 days we were there we managed some amazing treks with some really wonderful individuals as our guides - Alexandra and Jessica especially. We did the Grey Glacier trek together with Ronit and Andre and chose to do do the extension to Los Guardas lookout. We then took a boat on Lago Grey so we could get close to the massive glacier. Wow!

The most amazing trek was to the base of the torres del Paine with Jessica. It was actually closed for winter but Alexandra managed to convince them to let us do it. As it was the first trek to the base that season, the new guides were sent ahead of us. With just the 2 of us, Jessica took us through an amazing journey through the Ascensio River Valley and up to the lookout, mostly through snow covered ground, at times over knee-deep. Glad we decided on the walking sticks and the gaitors. The lake was frozen and we could see the trainee guides walking on it when we got up. Then Jessica pulls out a flask of hot soup! I will never forget this experience.

The food in the hotel was first class. We had a lovely 3 course lunch (with chrimoya and frambuesas juices) on our day of arrival, but mostly had our lunch whilst we were out trekking on the other days. There was canapes before dinner and whilst the guides discussed the options for activities the next day. Dinner was also superb.

There is also a spa and swimming pool there but the pool closed when we were there. We didn't get to the spa but Ronit and Andre did and they loved it and looked like they had been thoroughly spoilt.

This is definitely a place we will return to and an experience worth repeating!

  • Stayed September 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
7 Thank SengWing
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
california
Level Contributor
31 reviews
28 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
Reviewed March 13, 2012

Getting to Torres del Paine is not easy, nor is it a place one returns to again and again, so we decided to go with the best accommodation and experience that was offered. Explora Salto Chico lived up to our expectations beginning with our pick-up in Puerto Natales to our return to Punta Arenas after 4 days at the lodge. On arrival we were greeted by the gracious Rosario, and then our guide who told us we could include a trek that afternoon after a beautifully presented and delicious lunch.
Explora does a great job of combining the rugged hiking/trekking experience of the Park with the comforts of an elegant but understated lodge. The room amenities include fine toiletries, jacuzzi, down comforters on beds of just the right firmness, and breath-taking views. The refined cuisine includes variety and fresh ingredients, choices of lovely wines, all in a light-filled setting looking out on the lake and pinnacles. Cocktails of all varieties are available throughout the day.
Despite the fires that devastated many hiking areas, there were at least 8-10 choices per day for all levels of trekkers. Everyday we chose 2 half day tours so that we could return for a relaxing lunch and some free time before departing for the afternoon outing. Full day options provide enough challenges for the most athletic.
On our last day, we needed to depart before lunch so Explora provided lunch at a lovely hotel about half way to Punta Arenas. I felt this showed their attention to detail to make the outgoing journey so pleasant.
Although the price seems high initially, when we realized everything was included and things were so organized and done so smoothly, we felt it was well worth the splurge.

Room Tip: Book the Cordillera rooms for gorgeous view of the pinnacles.
See more room tips
  • Stayed March 2012, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
11 Thank tripcr8zy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
exploraSA, CEO / Gerente General at Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive, responded to this review, April 5, 2012
Dear traveler,

Thank you very much for your very kind review. We are particularly grateful for mentioning the state of the Torres del Paine Park after the January wildfires. Though the fire took a toll on the national natural wonder, explora’s Patagonian outpost was miraculously unscathed by flames. With the reopening of our lodge the explora Patagonia experience reaches new heights with 10 new treks – 5 half day, 5 full day – plus an all-new, 7-hour horseback ride. Many of the additions traverse the northern region of the park, where explora Patagonia holds a Quincho and two estancias (ranches).

During the 50+ days Hotel Salto Chico was closed, we worked assiduously to bring the lodge back to full operations and to expand our exploration offerings as never before. As returning and new travelers will discover to their delight, the entire endeavor was a success.

Lastly, please remember that after visiting one explora lodge, you are entitled to the benefits of our CESA - Club de Exploradores del Sur de América - a recognition program with benefits including rate discounts and room upgrades for repeat guests.

We look forward to welcoming you again at explora.

With kindest regards,

Jesús Parrilla
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Hotels you might also like...
Travelers also viewed these Torres del Paine National Park hotels
18.6 mi away
Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa
Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa
#2 of 12 in Torres del Paine National Park
5.0 of 5 bubbles 448 reviews
8.1 mi away
Rio Serrano Hotel
Rio Serrano Hotel
#5 of 12 in Torres del Paine National Park
4.0 of 5 bubbles 804 reviews
20.9 mi away
Awasi Patagonia - Relais & Chateaux
Awasi Patagonia - Relais & Chate...
#1 of 12 in Torres del Paine National Park
5.0 of 5 bubbles 224 reviews
Show Prices
Show Prices
Show Prices
11.1 mi away
Las Torres Patagonia
Las Torres Patagonia
#6 of 12 in Torres del Paine National Park
4.0 of 5 bubbles 1,150 reviews
5.4 mi away
Lago Grey Hosteria and Navegacion
Lago Grey Hosteria and Navegacio...
#7 of 12 in Torres del Paine National Park
3.5 of 5 bubbles 446 reviews
8.1 mi away
Hotel Lago Tyndall
Hotel Lago Tyndall
#11 of 12 in Torres del Paine National Park
3.5 of 5 bubbles 223 reviews
Show Prices
Show Prices
Show Prices

Been to Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive? Share your experiences!

Write a Review Add Photos & Videos

Additional Information about Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive

Property: Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive
Address: | Sector Salto Chico S/N, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Phone Number:
Location: Chile > Magallanes Region > Torres del Paine National Park
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#2 Family Hotel in Torres del Paine National Park
#3 Romantic Hotel in Torres del Paine National Park
#3 Luxury Hotel in Torres del Paine National Park
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$$
Hotel Class:4.5 star — Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive 4.5*
Number of rooms: 49
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Our lodge is located right in the heart of the extraordinary Torres del Paine National Park in southern Patagonia. The diverse and untouched landscapes of this area led UNESCO to declare it a biosphere reserve.Our Patagonia hotel lodge opened in 1993 on the banks of the Salto Chico waterfall. It affords an excellent view of the unique Paine Massif and two of the three impressive torres, or towers, which give the park its name.The lodge has 49 rooms and a variety of inviting spaces. Situated on a 3-hectare (7.4-Acre) site, the design borrows certain organic forms from the landscape itself, adapting to it with simple elegance. It was designed to create a dialogue with its environment, putting human beings in touch with the sublimity of their surroundings.For travellers, the lodge provides the welcome surprise of comfort in a remote area. Nonetheless, you are not isolated from nature, but rather placed "within" it. ... more   less 
Reservation Options:
TripAdvisor is proud to partner with Booking.com, Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotwire, Priceline, Agoda, Hotels.com and Cheap Tickets so you can book your Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive reservations with confidence. We help millions of travelers each month to find the perfect hotel for both vacation and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
Also Known As:
Explora Patagonia Hotel Salto Chico
Explora Patagonia Torres Del Paine
Explora Patagonia - All Inclusive Aisen Region/Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile

Is This Your TripAdvisor Listing?

Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.

Claim Your Listing