Chile Travel Guide
While North America prepares for Memorial Day (the official yet unofficial kickoff of summer), South America is all but finished with its pool season. But that doesn't mean we can't look south for some inspiration. After all, Chile boasts the world's largest pool -- so big, you can sail on it.
At 3/5 of a mile long, The Crystal Lagoon at San Alfonso del Mar Resort in Chile is the length of 20 Olympic-size pools and holds 66 million gallons of seawater over an area of about 20 acres. Not impressed? How about the fact that the pool reaches depths of 115 feet! That's like, incredible, right? Hang on to your sunglasses.
The mega-pool is estimated to have cost about $1 billion to build. A filtration system draws water directly from the sea -- there just ain't a hose big enough to fill this sucker with fresh water. Because of its sheer size, the cost of upkeep is about $2 million a year according to the Daily Mail.
Living in a big city, we’re used to so much light pollution that sometimes, we yearn for some proper darkness and a star-filled sky overhead. One place that appears to fit the bill perfectly, although unfortunately not exactly around the corner, is the Elqui Domos Hotel in Chile.
Built specifically by its owners to experience the night skies of the Elqui Valley, some 600 km (373 miles) northwest of Santiago, the hotel has two types of accommodation: domes and observatories. While each is different, both are designed with an eye towards the sky, with as little as possible to distract you from the twinkling lights above.
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Now that we've already shown you inside one of the Loft Rooms at The Aubrey, it's time to venture back downstairs to the guest lounges and out onto the patio for the restaurant, bar and pool. For having only 15 guest rooms, the amount of amenities may be surprising, but then the English-Australian owner has managed to make The Aubrey feel more like an expansive private home than a hotel with requisite extras.
For example, the complimentary afternoon tea time is not formal; table service is eliminated in favor of imparting the feeling that you're just grabbing a cup and some sweets from your own pantry and heading out to sun on the pool terrace. It's a quiet place, almost like a retreat, save for the fact that stepping outside and into the Barrio Bellavista ratchets your pulse back up to party level (in a good way).
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Santiago, Chile is just awesome. We would like to say it's the "up and coming" South American capital to hit, though to say that would be to have Santiaguinos argue that they've up and been there; it's just the US is late to figuring this out. And they'd be right, with one exception: the hotel scene. The vast majority of hotels in Santiago are bland 2-star tourist class or large-and-in-charge chain hotels in the least zesty neighborhoods. There's one major exception: The Aubrey.
Claiming the title of "Santiago's first boutique hotel," The Aubrey sits pretty with the double appeal of having an excellent location in the lively quarter of Barrio Bellavista and occupying a stunning piece of the city's architectural history. Even better: there's only 15 rooms, they begin at $240 per night, WiFi is fast and free, the breakfast spread is included as is afternoon tea, and the hotel boasts a pool, alfresco terrace, restaurant and evening bar/lounge.
September 1. For most people, it'll be just another Saturday. For Chile's Chiloé Archipelago however, it's the day their newest (and most luxe) hotel debuts: the Refugia Lodge.
At only 12 rooms with all-inclusive rates starting at $530 per night, per person, Refugia will be for the traveler who knows exactly what they're looking for, namely a remote location steeped in cultural heritage with the combination of as much spa-ing, dining and wining as you'd care to do when not out one of the excursions (also complimentary).
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Confession time. Yes, we stayed at a Marriott in a city with many nice, independent hotels and historical B&Bs, but, as always when a major chain hotel is involved, there are extenuating circumstances. In our case in Santiago, Chile, we were down to the end of our trip budget, exhausted from an ordeal in Argentina and in need of a single night somewhere to crash before our long-haul flight straight back up to NYC.
Thus, we hit Priceline. Putting in a bid for $100, nothing hit. Priceline asked us to raise our limit to $120 and there'd definitely be a result, so we did. That result was the Marriott Santiago.
We like to keep it fun but informative here at HotelChatter so our newest series, What is This? is devoted to odd-looking items in hotel rooms that upon first glance look as if they serve only a decorative purpose. But everything happens for a reason, right? And we're here to tell you what these things really do.
The lobby of The Ritz-Carlton Santiago smells so good. So so good. It smells lovely enough that we had to ask the hotel staff what exactly was this spicy, musky scent that we would have rubbed all over ourselves, were it a lotion or perfume. Though they didn't quite know, they did show us where exactly it was coming from.
A bulge in the lobby curtain hid a small black box machine, subtly pumping out the scent into the space. It's a diffuser, and easily overlooked unless, like us, you're super nerdy about hotels and design details.
So now you know.
It had been a long two weeks of travel in Chile and Argentina when we finally hauled our luggage into a room at the Marriott Santiago. That was two weeks of worrying about WiFi, worrying about losing our plug adapters, and worrying that hotel rooms wouldn't have enough convenient outlets for charging all our gadgets. And then we saw this plug strip built into the side of the desk at the Marriott, and there was a big sigh of relief.
Most of the time, for us, Marriotts are too cookie-cutter, too conservative and, well, too American. Finding a small touch like this, however, helps us forgive Priceline for returning with a Marriott as the result of our "Name Your Own Price" search. This may sound super weird, but like how it's nice to slip back into your bed at home, sometimes it's also just really cozy to plug your gadgets into they outlet for which they were made, sans fear of sparks (and yes, we got a small electrical shock from a hotel outlet earlier in our trip, so we're now extra vigilant).
Bonus: the in-room coffee maker at the Marriott is also a US, 110-volt plug. Still, if you want to charge multiple devices at once, be sure to have those round, 2-prong Euro adapters on hand for Chilean outlets.
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We're going to be totally straight with you regarding our peek at the Hotel NOI Vitacura in Santiago, Chile. We were just spending a super sunny, hot day walking around the tony neighborhood of Vitacura and, suddenly, a modern building caused us to do a doubletake.
"I wonder if that's the new NOI hotel?"
Turns out it was, and we ventured inside to do some snooping. A quick turn in the Portofino Book Lounge (very nice) and we had to see more. Up in Room 310, a standard with flatscreen TV, freestanding soaking tub and free WiFI, we found a spacious layout thatthank godonly adhered to the hotel's Italian theme with the most subtle details. Hence the striped bedspread, leather-covered desk drawers and old school valet stand.
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We'll take you inside a standard room (which starts from $300 per night) and all around the deck and other spaces tomorrow bright and early, but to refresh, here's the clues to clue you in on this property:
· It's got the best hotel roof deck in the city, though some would beg to differ. [Answer: The W Santiago would beg to differ]
· A newcomer to the metropolis, the hotel is still quiet and relatively only for those "in the know."
· The design of the hotel is energy-efficient, andyay#151;the WiFi is complimentary.
· The neighborhood is known as one of the top 15 residential areas in the world, and while it lacks high-rises, there's no lack of luxury boutiques. [Answer: Vitacura neighborhood]
· The roof deck's tables slide open to become mini firepits on cooler evenings.
Let's face it; Marriott Hotels aren't exactly known for being unique, local-focused places to stay. Instead, guests take comfort in their uniformity, which can often make the large chain seem quite...bland.
But when you're not a business traveler rushing from meeting to meeting, then you've got a few moments to spare to observe the details that help give hotels like Marriott a sense of place without being too intrusive.
We found one such example of this at the Marriott Hotel in Santiago, Chile today. While checking in and waiting as our room key was coded, we turned around and noticed a stunning design in the floor at reception. A sort of compass rose, the inlaid wood points out the directions, noted by the famous geographical attributes of Chile. There is Pacifico (The Pacific Ocean) to the west, Patagonia to the south, Andes on the east and Atacama (the desert) to the north.
It's 7pm, do you know where you're heading for a pre-dinner cocktail in Santiago, Chile? For those who know, 7pm is the hour at which the roof deck and bar area of the W Hotel Santiago opens to the public. The pool closes, the sunbathing guests go put on more than just their swimming trunks and bikinis, and the golden dusk light pours over the Andes.
We stopped by to drink a Pisco W (and drink in the views) only a few days ago, and can totally recommend it. Heading up above several stories for an alfresco cocktail is relatively uncommon in Santiago, so we take roofdeck views where we can. The drink was waterya $10 (5,000 Chilean pesos) mix of Pisco Control C, fresh basil and cucumberbut with no cover charge or drink minimum up top, we're more than cool with it.
And the view? Get ready...