It is rather difficult to remain totally humble when one of the most famous Travel magazines worldwide (Travel + Leisure) chooses you as the Best Hotel in Chile (and in Patagonia). Even more difficult to do so when they elect you as one of the Best Hotels in the World (32nd) and the 2nd Best Resort in South America. But humility is something we strongly believe in.
Over 300,000 Travel + Leisure readers voted for the Best in the Tourism Industry and at EcoCamp, we were thrilled to learn people chose us. Instead of just celebrating, we decided to share the secrets that made the 1st geodesic hotel in the world (EcoCamp) distinguish itself among the best. Because we know this achievement can inspire others – and we love to inspire.
#1 | Pioneer Concept
When it comes to alternative hotels, “concept” is THE keyword. When EcoCamp was founded by engineers and outdoors aficionados Yerko Ivelic and Javier Lopez in 2001, the aim was to create the firstt fully sustainable hotel in Patagonia. Yet eco-friendliness was not powerful enough to make the hotel unique, and Yerko and Javier begun thinking about a concept that would bring sense to EcoCamp. They got inspired by the dwellings of the ancient Kaweskar tribes (indigenous people that once inhabited southern Patagonia), in which people used to gather at night after days hunting and fishing. They designed EcoCamp’s geodesic domes and EcoCamp was born. Travelers would connect with nature and each other and have an experience of a lifetime in the remoteness of Patagonia. Domes would be the perfect place to gather and get to know fellow travelers. The community domes were born, enhancing the concept of “getting together in harmony with nature” (with a low footprint).
#2 | Life-changing experience
Those who work at EcoCamp regularly see guests crying when it comes time to say “goodbye”. Getting emotional seems pretty natural when you experience something as incredible as new (important) friendships at the world’s end, with the astonishing silence of the mountains and hikes in some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. At EcoCamp, the staff – while providing high quality service – does everything to make travelers feel like at home (while very far away from home) and it is common to see new friendships between team members and travelers. This not-too-formal relationship makes EcoCamp a mind-blowing human and natural experience; thus attracting like-minded people who experience a very strong connection with the place. See to believe (or watch our short video “Deeper Than Nature” that underlines the life-changing experience of EcoCamp’s guests).
#3 | Location
Should we really elaborate on THAT awesome place? EcoCamp is located in the very heart of Torres del Paine National Park, considered by many as “the finest National Park in South America” and elected in 2013 as “The 8th Wonder of the World” by Virtualtourist.com readers (amongst 300 other destinations worldwide). From the domes, guests can see the iconic granite towers that gave their name to the park, and other mountains covered by glaciers and forests that make the scenery truly wild. It is not rare to spot pumas at EcoCamp. And if it was not enough, EcoCamp it located on the perfect spot to start the famous trekking routes (W Trek and Torres del Paine Circuit) without having to drive. Lace up your shoes; you’re near (if not in!) some of the beautiful landscapes on the planet!
#4 | Eco-Friendliness
Now more than ever, being eco-conscious should be an absolute priority for all companies, no matter the area or focus. EcoCamp quickly became an example of eco-consciousness amongst tourism providers around the world and not just for “rewards and beautiful words”. Here, sustainability is applied both for guests and staff members. 100% of the energy provided at EcoCamp is renewable (70% hydraulic, 30% solar) and the EcoCamp community uses composting toilets (or a Biofilter system that guarantees no water contamination). Waste is separated for recycling and natural resources (such as water and light) are optimized to reduce the hotel’s footprint. These are just a few examples of the hotel’s commitment (you can read more here) to lower its negative impact on the surroundings and inspire other ecotourism projects doing so. EcoCamp teaches, supports (conservation projects and the local community) and invites its guests living a more eco-friendly life; making the hotel much more than just a pleasant experience.
#5 | Stunning Tours
Most of the EcoCamp guests love hiking, yet many travelers came just to have a relaxing time in family, or to step back for a few days as a couple or a group of friends (if not solo travelers). The increasing complexity of the travelers’ needs made EcoCamp improve its tours while adding some incredible experiences. Amongst them, guests can track the Puma with a mountain lion specialist, observe the wild horses inhabiting a restricted area of the National Park, hike on off-the-beaten-path trails that are amongst the most beautiful in South America, fish in remote rivers with the feeling to be alone on Earth or go on a Multisport Adventure mixing kayak, horseback riding, mountain bike and hiking. All of that with no Wi-Fi so that you can truly experience the adventure. Who said there was nothing to do in the wilds of Patagonia?
#6 | Community
As we said before, the sense of community at EcoCamp is unlike any other hotel. Here guests spend days wandering in incredible landscapes with the same group of people and share a lot with the hotel’s team, starting with their guide(s). Guides are not only guiding: they share meals with the guests and at EcoCamp, they become the traveler’s’ best friends. In the community domes, guests share the same table and eventually get to celebrate in the Bar dome, making new friends amongst other guests. This concept of community has been brought by the indigenous who inspired EcoCamp’s domes, but instead of the campfire you’ll get delicious Chilean red wine. No worries; if you want privacy, EcoCamp can be very intimate too (ask the dozens of honeymooners who come every year if you don’t believe me).
#7 | Adventure Leaders
The founders of EcoCamp grew up with true passion for the outdoors, while kayaking, rafting or hiking almost every week. EcoCamp was born as a place for outdoors lovers and offering day hikes was not enough. EcoCamp indeed opted to makes its operations more complex while offering incredible trekking routes such as the 5 and 7-Day W Trek and the Torres del Paine 9-Day Circuit, the most epic trekking route in Southern Patagonia. All these operations being provided by EcoCamp, the company quickly became famous for its treks, but also for its other excursions and programs for all nature lovers. This is easy to understand if you take into account the founders are the ones who created Cascada Expediciones, the leading Adventure Travel company in Chile, providing adventure tours in Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia.
#8 | Guides
Believe it or not, guiding in Patagonia can be a tough job. The world’s end is indeed famous for its notorious winds and unpredictable weather which makes hiking sometimes difficult. Guides must be trained to deal with the quirks of nature; yet at EcoCamp guides apply much more than safety. EcoCamp’s guides may be defined this way (there is no order of importance here): sense of conservation, love for nature, passion for Torres del Paine National Park (and Patagonia in general), sense of well being, and eager to meet new people. This makes a guide much more than a guide; instead of just following and learning from a guide, guests spend a great time with a new friend, both at EcoCamp and on the trails. Pretty (and simply) cool, isn’t it?
#9 | Gastronomy
Being two hours away from the nearest town (Puerto Natales) does not mean you can’t offer great food with great products. Most of EcoCamp’s fruits and vegetables are grown in Pto. Natales where we support local farmers while carefully choosing organic products. EcoCamp works with a passionate team of cooks and the Chef de Cuisine – Claudio Fourcade – has true passion for Chilean cuisine and knows how to add some surprising colors and flavors to make dishes truly unique. A good meal is the icing on the cake after a long day hiking in Torres del Paine National Park.
#10 | Local
EcoCamp is a Chilean-owned business and most of its workers are proud Chileans who are more than happy to share their culture with the guests. EcoCamp knows that “local” is an important keyword in sustainability, and therefore works with as many locals as possible. EcoCamp loves music and you will hear the sweetest Chilean music while in the Community Domes, and even celebrate like a local on the National Days. In brief, if you want to learn about Chile and its secrets, EcoCamp is the place…
Want to know more? Visit www.ecocamp.travel