The Singular

LOCATION: These days, visitors to Chilean Patagonia would say that The Singular is near Puerto Natales, but 100 years ago it would have been the other way round – this former sheep station was the reason the town was formed. The towering red-brick building sits just outside town, right on the shores of the romantically-named fjord Ultima Esperanza, or Last Hope Sound – so named in 1557 by Spanish sailor Juan Ladrillero, searching fruitlessly for the Straits of Magellan. (He found them eventually, and became the first to navigate them from west to east and back again).

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: A former sheep slaughterhouse and cold storage station, The Singular doesn’t sound glamorous. Don’t be fooled. This relative newcomer to the Patagonian luxury market is an idiosyncratic gem. The 1915 historic building has metamorphosed into a magnificent hotel, with the greater part of the original brick structure now a cavernous three-storey bar and restaurant area with stylish, oversize furnishings that give it a touch of the Alice-in-Wonderlands. There’s even a funicular railway to get you from the first lobby to the second lobby.

THE FACTS: Rooms – 54 standard and three suites – are in a new wing, an ultra-modern structure that echoes the original in materials but not form, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Sound. Décor is understated luxe, with soft grey textiles and antique furnishings set off by sleek black slate in the ultra-modern bathrooms. Underneath, on the lower ground floor, you’ll find the spa, with an indoor-outdoor pool with breathtaking views, sauna, steam room and all sorts of treatments (the last at extra cost).
The aforementioned restaurant and bar area is pretty spectacular – the first and only spot indoors to really make use of my iPhone’s panorama camera setting. It’s a mish-mash of antique and modern, with huge set pieces to match the scale of the space.
Much of the sheep station’s old machinery has been retained, so between the lobby and the new wing there’s a walk-through museum of Heath-Robinson style Victorian contraptions, and the old pier juts out into the Sound.

A GOOD BASE FOR: This is the perfect stop-off for a couple of nights to break the journey between Chilean Patagonia’s gateway airport at Punta Arenas and its highlight, the Torres Del Paine National Park. Excursions are excellent – our guide Francisco brought alive the mylodon, an extinct giant sloth dating back to the ice age, from a few bones in a cave, and with David Attenborough-like skill made me really, really interested in moss. Nearby stables Pingo Salvaje offer the complimentary (while staying full board) rides, where excellent quality horses will take you round beautiful Lake Sofia, escorted by friendly gaucho Sergio. Clients can take day excursions into Torres Del Paine, but if they’re moving on somewhere closer to the park they’re better concentrating on the experiences indigenous to this area – the mylodon, Laguna Sofia, tours of Puerto Natales town and boat trips to see the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers.

WOW: The food really is something to write home about – Patagonian delicacies from conger eel and king crab to fillets of the llama-like guanaco are transformed into delicate dishes that score top marks for flavour as well as quirkiness. Special mention must also go to Andrew the barman, who brings a touch of Yorkshire charm to Patagonia, always ready to share his knowledge of wine, and a fascinating anecdote or two about his experiences in Chile.

HOW MUCH: The Full Board plan will probably be most attractive for British visitors, with excursions, food, drinks and airport transfers included – rates start from US$620 per night, twinshare.

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