While exploring the Peaks, Lakes and Glaciers of Patagonia, the highlight for many Nat Hab travelers is an eye-opening stay at an ecolodge dedicated to sustainability. Located in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, EcoCamp Patagonia offers breathtaking views of towering mountains and the surrounding pampas, granting guests an exclusive, luxurious immersion in the wilderness. Read on to learn more about this “green” lodging, whose environmentally responsible operations have earned it many accolades and awards, including being named by Travel + Leisure as one of the Best Hotels in the World and celebrated by Time magazine as one of the World’s 100 Greatest Places.
EcoCamp Patagonia is recognized worldwide as an industry leader in eco-friendly policies and practices. The lodge is a carbon-neutral company and harnesses green energy through solar and hydropower. A greenhouse grows fresh produce and herbs, while food waste is turned into compost for the gardens. The hotel’s unique geodesic domes, perched below the granite spires of Torres del Paine, are built with renewable materials and tightly insulated for warmth. The distinctive domes are designed to leave no trace—they are elevated on platforms that preserve the delicate landscape and allow for wildlife to roam freely underneath. Individual suites have skylights, which bring in natural light and heat. Rather than using diesel, deadwood is collected from the national park and used in stoves. EcoCamp’s “green ethos” is represented in every detail, down to the state-of-the-art composting toilet.
EcoCamp recognizes the importance of supporting community development in conjunction with furthering conservation efforts. The ecolodge employs and trains local staff, providing a source of income to community members. Along with hiring locally, buying local products helps Patagonian producers while reducing the hotel’s carbon footprint. Food is sourced from nearby farms, from eggs, meat and cheese to vegetables, fruits and grains. Seafood, such as king crab and salmon, is 100% locally-caught and procured from fishermen in the area. Handicrafts purchased from artisan markets adorn the domes. Baqueanos, Patagonian cowboys, lead guided tours for guests staying at the property, and horses are hired from neighboring ranch owners. EcoCamp is also partnered with organizations such as Torres del Paine Legacy Fund, which is dedicated to conserving the national park, promoting community initiatives and empowering indigenous people.
EcoCamp “aims to educate guests about Patagonia’s original inhabitants, nomadic tribes such as the Kaweskars and Yaghans, as well as the baqueano culture and the history of sheep farming in the region.” Starting in the 1870s, skilled horsemen from southern Chile headed deep into the Patagonian wilderness, acting as guides for early European explorers. They had an intimate knowledge of the terrain, tamed wild horses and herded sheep and cattle. These trailblazers, known as baqueanos, continue to guide travelers today on horseback tours offered by the ecolodge so that guests can learn more about their historical origins and lifestyle.
The design of the domes is inspired by the dwellings of the Kaweskars, an indigenous people whose transient homes left little impact on the natural landscape. Photographs, native painting styles, handcrafted furniture and Andean patterns in room decor pay tribute to the Kaweskars, who came to Patagonia by canoe in the 15th century. Traditional foodways are maintained through the kitchen’s preparation of Chilean dishes that utilize heirloom, culturally-significant ingredients, such as purple potatoes, quinoa and a sweet, dark syrup made from the fruit of chañar trees.