Three days of airplanes, buses and hostels brought me from Colorado to the banks of Last Hope Sound in Patagonia, Chile, where I blinked sleepily into the icy wind and wondered why my hosts had sent me on a tour of an old meat packing plant on the way to the iconic Torres del Paine.
“And those are our rooms,” said our guide.
I turned, shocked, to see enormous glass windows lining a modern concrete structure that had been previously disguised by the rustic walls of the defunct, 100-year old Bories Cold-Storage Plant.
For the past hour several other journalists and I had toured what we thought was simply a museum. In that instant, we were mutually shocked to learn it was also a hotel.
Welcome to The Singular, one of Patagonia’s newest, swankiest resorts hidden amongst the historic remains of a once thriving meatpacking and refrigeration factory.
To understand the appeal of sleeping in a former abattoir one must first buck up on Patagonian history. Fortunately The Singular is chock full of it.
The site of the now sprawling hotel/restaurant/museum complex was opened as a meat and wool processing plant in 1915. Patagonia was, at that time, a largely agrarian region of sheep farmers.
At the height of operations, the Bories Cold-Storage Plant processed an average of 150,000 to 250,000 sheep each year and employing between 100 and 400 workers. The plant was open for seven decades.
Today the hotel revels in these rustic roots. The entryway showcases the semi-trailer sized boilers and steam generators that once powered the plant. Exposed brickwork and wood beams were left intact by architect Pedro Kovacic, who adhered to strict historical regulations in designing the now hotel.
The Singular’s signature restaurant is housed in a historic section of the campus and is furnished with rustic wood furnishings fitting of a high-end ski lodge. A fire burned under a large mantel as chef Laurent Pasqualetto prepared food for lunch. On the menu were local specialties such as king crab and, of course, lamb.
The Singular provides rustic luxury in the new, modern wing of the structure where hotel rooms overlook the strait. Fine furnishings pamper weary travelers back from expeditions while they continue to enjoy incredible views over the hotel dock.
Trekking to Mylodon caves, boating, condor watching and kayaking are just a few of the expeditions run out of the hotel, which is a little more than an hour from the iconic Torres del Paine. The region boasts myriad outdoor activities for adventure seekers from around the world.
Located near Puerto Natales, The Singular can be reached in a day after arrival by air in Punta Arenas, Chile.
Upon arrival, visitors will notice large glass doors beckoning entry into a rustic brick and wood structure. Windows open to both sweeping views of snowcapped mountains and icy water. Inside, sprawling old machinery sits so well preserved it looks as though it might fire up with the flip of a switch. It is easily accessed along level walkways complete with educational placards.
Herein lies the appeal of The Singular; the hotel mixes old with new so well that travelers have no choice but to learn, embrace and, very likely, learn to love the place they have come to visit. There is no sheltering from the region’s hardscrabble past and the realities of life in the rugged tip of South America.
Looking back over my shoulder at The Singular, I could see nothing of the swanky digs on the hillside below. Instead, I saw barns and factories. In my mind, I visualized thousands of sheep moving across the landscape and heard the Spanish shouts of shepherds moving the flocks toward their final days. And in the end, I understood Patagonia a little more.