For her second stop in Chile, Laura Burkitt stops at the andbeyond Vira Vira hotel in the Pucón Lakes region. Dominated by the Villarrica volcano, the landscape fascinates and provokes the thrill of wide open spaces.
Welcome to the great outdoors – just even greater. A day after arriving at andBeyond Vira Vira, this city girl has caught a rainbow trout from our raft blissfully drifting down the Liucura River. We celebrate with local craft beer and dried fruits from Pucón.
The andbeyond Vira Vira experience is authentic and wholesome, but all wrapped up in a beautiful artisan bow. Service is seamless and friendly. The guides have a WhatsApp group to communicate when guests are arriving back from their excursions so staff can be waiting with a cool towel. Someone slips into your room on your final evening to draw a fresh mint bath and chill a bottle of local sparkling wine.
Days are for exertion before completely surrendering to the luxury of the lodge. The 12 riverside villas have their own fireplaces and outdoor stone baths, whereas the six hotel suites boast views over the grounds. There are two hot tubs from which you can soak up the stars of the Southern Hemisphere.
As well as planting the hotel’s organic garden from seed, the owner’s artist wife, Claudia, decorated the hotel alongside various Chilean designers. This creative powerhouse is evident in the rich blend of bohemian décor. Rooms are clad in local wood, then layered with cozy textiles, colorful artifacts and contemporary design furniture alongside Claudia’s own paintings.
As an all-inclusive hotel, I imagined piles of desserts. But the healthy (slash utterly delicious) menus devised from the hotel’s 56 acres are entirely welcome. This really was some of the best food we had in Chile. The Uruguayan chef, Damian, spent time working on the London food scene (his family still live there) but his love for the fresh produce drew him back and this passion shows on the plate. Even the bread is adorned with edible flowers plucked from the garden. Of course, should you be craving a burger, you need only ask.
The hotel has their own quesaria where everything from Parmesan to Gruyere is whipped up and walked the 200m to the breakfast buffet. Using milk from next door’s farm, the organic cheese is specifically made for guest’s consumption not commercial sale. In fact, the factory was built before the lodge so the cheese could be matured in time for opening!
If you’re looking for a glass of Carménère to wash it down with, there’s over 1,000 Chilean wines to choose from. Not surprising given the exceptional quality of vineyards in the country. For a healthy twist, the barman whipped us up a Pisco Sour made from antioxidant rich Maqui berries.
The property is the first in Latin America for andbeyond, and since acquiring Vira Vira in September 2018, they have brought their ethos for delivering an ‘extraordinary guest experience’ to the not so well- trodden tourist path of Chile. Famed for their luxury safaris in Africa, the company flew over the head rangers to educate staff in guiding techniques they have honed for over 20 years.
I can assure that the excursions are excellent, from hiking the volcano to horseback riding with Rodolfo, the former trainer to the Spanish equestrian team. Romantics can take the on-site helicopter to remote hot springs.
You discuss with your private guide exactly what you’d like to do, and they have that knack of knowing what you need before you know it. Whether that’s hiking poles or pointing out the most Instagrammable spots. Their relationships with local residents mean you can access the national park through private property avoiding the crowds. Soon they shall offer full winter excursions including skiing and snowshoeing.
andBeyond have also introduced their sustainable ethos. Plastic bottles have been replaced with glass filled from their own water plant, and for $20 guests can purchase a young tree farmed from a local nursery which will be replanted to aid the local Mapuche community. The hotel gives you the coordinates of your sapling so you can check its progress on Google Earth. You’ll definitely want to return in person though.