The Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve in the Andes Mountains of Chile is one of Spot Cool Stuff’s favorite travel destinations in all of South America.
Hotel La Montaña Mágical
Let’s start with the Magic Mountain Hotel. It’s hard to decide whether staying here is like a CGI scene come to life from the movie Avatar or more like an elven abode a la The Lord of the Rings. Either way, a stay here is other-worldly.
On the outside, the hotel is made of rocks formed in the shape of a volcano. Except, instead of spewing lava (that would be dangerous), water pours out of the top. Over the years, moss, ferns and even flowers have taken root between the water-drenched rocks, such that whole sections of the hotel’s exterior are so covered in greenery that they blend into their forest background.
Getting into the Magic Mountain, you could go through the ground-floor lobby. But getting to the hotel in the first place — and to the remote Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve in general — can be an adventure in itself. So we’re going to assume that you wouldn’t stay here and be the play-it-safe type. You’ll just be entering the hotel by venturing across a suspended, and not entirely sturdy-feeling, “monkey bridge.”
Inside the hotel, stone and water give way to windows and wood. Seemingly everything — the walls, the floors, the furniture — is constructed from locally, sustainably sourced wood. Though it does not always seem like everything was constructed by a professional carpenter. In spots the floor are planks do not align and sawed-off branches stick out awkwardly. It all feels a bit rickety in a way Spot Cool Stuff sees as charming but some luxury-seekers find off-putting.
The same analysis can be made of La Montaña Mágical’s 13 rooms — they’re comfortable and atmospheric but not in danger of being mistaken for the digs at a Westin. Each has a comfy bed and en-suite bathrooms but are otherwise sparsely furnished.
Because of the hotel’s volcano-like shape, the rooms get smaller as you move up levels. On the bottom floor are the so-called suites†; these are roughly the size of your typical hotel room in the United States. On the top floors of the hotel, the rooms are so small that they can only accommodate a bunk bed. Consider splitting the difference and getting a room in the middle. Ask for one on the waterfall side and fall asleep to its sound at night.
Inside the hotel, there’s also a children’s playroom, small reading room, restaurant and a cozy bar (pictured at the very top of this post). A night in the Hotel La Montaña Mágical will set you back US$300 for two people with buffet breakfast.
† New Spot Cool Stuff pet peeve: Hotels designating a single large room as a “suite.” By definition, a suite must be “a connected series of rooms to be used together.”
Nothofagus Hotel & Spa
If the Hotel La Montaña Mágical is shaped like a volcano then the Nothofagus can also be described as a volcano — that’s upside-down. The building gets wider as it gets higher. The look of it is imposing (and top heavy) when seen from afar. But the effect from the inside is glorious. The entire middle of the hotel consists of an atrium with a tree growing up through an expanding view into the sky! (See pic, below.)
Generally speaking, the Nothofagus is a larger, more solidly-built and slightly more luxurious and expensive version of Hotel La Montaña Mágical. There are a lot more public hang-out areas, including lounges, a bar and a viewing platform. There’s also a pool and spa, usable by guests of the Magic Mountain too but much more accessible if you are staying in the Nothofagus.
As for the rooms, there are four categories to choose from. It’s worth upgrading to at least a “superior” as these have balconies. They cost $340/night for two people.
Choosing between the La Montaña Mágical and the Nothofagus is mostly a matter of personal preference and budget. Both put you right in the middle of the Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve. More on that in our post next month.
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