Perched on a hilltop in a place so naturally splendid it was voted the eighth wonder of the world, dwarfed by the sheer size and majesty of Torres del Paine National Park’s eponymous granite spires in the background, the mushroom-headed domes of EcoCamp Patagonia huddle close to the ground against the cold. Wind ripples at the ivy-green tarp covers, dappled by sunlight and passing clouds. Staff in cozy sweaters and fleeces bustle around, delivering fresh sheets, blankets, and fluffed pillows. Inside the Community Domes, chairs and couches sit poised, covered in warm blankets and pillows, with crackling fires from the wood stoves heating the spacious rooms adorned in warm colors and charming decorations. In the still air outside, birds chirp in the leafless trees and shrubs. Guanacos graze on dry grass. Water trickles down mountainsides.
The park is slowly waking up from a long, cold winter, and so is EcoCamp.
Suddenly, the crunch and squish of car tires over mud and gravel breaks the silence. Car doors slam. The door to the quaint and welcoming Reception Dome is opened and closed. The first guests have arrived.
The 15th season of EcoCamp Patagonia has officially begun.
EcoCamp’s first guests of the 2016/2017 season are driven from nearby Puerto Natales to the EcoCamp in Torres del Paine, a driving time of about an hour and a half, but with lovely views along the way. From a distance, the green domes can be seen peeking out from the trees on the hilltop. But the showstopper is the view behind EcoCamp: two of the spires of the famous Torres jutting up from a gap between Mount Almirante Nieto and Nido de Condor. After driving through a landscape of gently sloping hills, the awe inspired by the closeness to the Towers is indescribable.
Guests are first shown to the Reception Dome, which is open from 7am to 11pm. While picking up their keys, guests can also browse the snazzy new EcoCamp store, where shirts, reusable water bottles, postcards, and more items are available for purchase.
After checking in, the guests are given the year’s first “Ecotour” of EcoCamp’s unique and world-renowned facilities. During the tour, guests learn about the myriad ways EcoCamp sustainably operates, such as its use of hydraulic and solar energy, its composting toilets, and the careful attention to detail paid to proper recycling and trash disposal. All the domes sprawled around the hilltop are connected via a network of charming wooden walkways. Guests become acquainted with their dome, and are shown where to find the Community Domes and the Yoga Dome, as well as a short “Interpretive Trail” near the Yoga Dome that meanders across a small gully to the next hillside. On this short walk, guests can rest on benches and at park tables to enjoy the views, soak up the sun, read a book, and relish the moment.
As evening settles in, the guests of the season head to the heart of EcoCamp: the Community Domes. The Community or Core Domes are four of the largest domes on site, connected via passageways and looking out onto a rustic patio covered in outside furniture and featuring a great view of the surrounding landscape. There are two main dining rooms, sandwiched on either end by the Bar Dome, a fantastic place to enjoy a drink while chatting with your fellow travelers, and a smaller dome with couches and chairs to relax in and read.
At EcoCamp, dining is a family affair: guests sit together in the Dining Domes, sharing tables so everyone can swap stories and get to know each other.
Rustic woodball lanterns and candles gently lit the space, which is nicely heated by a woodstove fire and natural light from the large windows.
As it’s the start of the season, EcoCamp’s head chef is experimenting with new flavors and recipes, such as a tasty octopus starter, or a gently grilled hake fish with mashed sweet potatoes.
Guests choose their dinner options in the morning during breakfast, giving them something to look forward to after a long day of venturing around the park. Pair it all with some of Chile’s best wines and a night sky full of stars, and a memorable first evening was had by all! After a briefing about the next day’s activities, it’s off to bed for a good night’s sleep.
In the morning, it's time for the first yoga class of the season! The Yoga Dome is one of the most magical parts of EcoCamp. Accessible by a sloping path lined with stones and logs, the Yoga Dome sits on a spacious wooden platform at the edge of the hill, with a panoramic view of the rolling hills and snow-capped mountains off in the distance. Water trickles through wooden logs and troughs on the edge of the platform, inflecting the air with the gentle sound of running water. Inside, the yoga dome is filled with light, a large wooden floor, and plenty of yoga equipment.
The first morning of yoga proves to be a real treat, with Mother Nature rewarding the early risers with a spectacular sunrise. The lucky yoga participants enjoy stretches and poses while the rising sun – viewable through the yoga dome’s large front window – paints the clouds a kaleidoscopic gradient of reds, oranges, and pinks. Behind the dome, the Torres are bathed in color.
After a scrumptious breakfast spread and preparing a to-go box lunch of sandwiches, fruits, and snacks, the guests are off for the first excursions of the season! The first day’s activities include a boat trip to the incredible Grey Glacier, or a hike on the Lazo Weber trail to see wildlife, native plants, and an unbeatable view of the immense Paine Massif.
And at the end of a great first day, everyone returns to EcoCamp for drinks and dinner. Best of all, after a day exploring together, the bonds have started to form. The first guests are becoming part of the EcoCamp family.
Cheers to an amazing 2016/2017 season! We hope to see YOU at EcoCamp soon to share in the experience!