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Guest Review - Patagonia Eco Camp Family Adventure

Patagonia Family Travel Review-Eco-Camp

Guest review by Mandy Haakenson who traveled with us in 2020 to Torres Del Paine, Chile. 

Have you ever envisioned something for so long, wished for it so hard, that when it's happening you feel as though you are walking through a dream? This was the case for our custom family trip to Patagonia with Wildland Adventures where we hiked through Torres del Paine National Park with our kids. I had visualized it many times - traipsing over rolling hills with crooked, granite mountains looming in the distance, spotting wildlife, and seeping in the knowledge that only wild places provide. I believe that the world is the ultimate classroom and that travel offers the best lessons and character-building opportunities for kids; this is why we've been traveling with them since their infancy. To make the most of our time in Patagonia, I knew they needed to be old enough to hike; therefore, we waited. Finally, at eleven and thirteen years old, they were ready. 

Getting to Torres del Paine National Park
Although we are experienced travelers, the logistics of getting to Patagonia can be complicated, so we were grateful to have Wildland Adventures helping us. A 5-hour drive from Punta Arenas was broken up with a great lunch stop in Puerto Natales. Our small group had individual itineraries - we chatted during lunch to those who would be hiking the "W" and others who would be moving on to Argentina after one night at Eco Camp. We were on a "safari" itinerary, with Eco Camp as the multi-day base for various guided excursions around the national park. We couldn't wait to get started! 

Once we entered the park, we had sweeping vistas on all sides - mountains in the distance, partially covered by dramatic clouds, and before we even reached Eco Camp, we saw rheas, soaring condors and lots guanacos.
Dome life and sustainability
Our time in Torres del Paine was just as much about staying at Eco Camp as it was about the excursions. We were excited about staying in a dome surrounded by wildlife and gorgeous views. Our family dome had an upper loft for the kids, which they loved. The community domes were always warm and inviting, and the kids loved to cozy-up there with a board game or book. We all enjoyed a family yoga class in the yoga dome (my daughter went twice!) and I even treated myself to a massage, after a long hike, in the cutest little spa dome.

We also didn't have to go far to see wildlife. There was a family of foxes living at the camp and one particularly friendly fox was hanging around as a frequent visitor. We were all incredibly impressed with the sustainability practices at Eco Camp, we learned that using a hairdryer is equal to 75% of the energy at Eco Camp. Since hearing this, one of my daughters has refused to use a hairdryer ever since! 
The Excursions
Each evening, the guides briefed us on the next-day excursions. They ranged from easy to difficult and we were able to ask questions to make sure we were selecting the best for our family. On our first full-day, Dad and kids went to the Blue Lagoon while I did the challenging, but incredibly rewarding, trek to the base of the iconic granite towers. That hike was a dream-come-true for me, however, I was a little jealous of the beautiful scenery and incredible picnic that the rest of the family enjoyed. 

The following day, we all went to Glacier Grey, which was spectacular even on a rainy day. Despite its name, the glacier is a striking blue, and ironically, even bluer under grey skies. But the highlight of the day was spotting a female puma while driving back to camp. The driver stopped, turned off the engine, and we watched this majestic animal walk along the steppe, climb up a hill and perch herself at the top...looking for guanaco, no doubt. We had heard the puma population has been increasing each year, but we didn't expect to be lucky enough to see one.

On our final day, we joined our guide Pablo on the flora and fauna trail. Armed with a pocket field guide, binoculars, and a magnifying glass, we were ready to learn about the plants and animals of Patagonia, as well as the native people who lived in the region hundreds of years ago. Although we didn't see another puma, we saw an adorable grey fox and of course, an abundance of guanaco, and guanaco bones! So, there were pumas nearby! 

The Food

Mealtime is often a highlight for kids on vacation. From the provided snacks and packed lunches for excursions to the 3-course meals each evening, the food at Eco Camp was exceptional. The kids weren't the only ones who had to make sure they were careful to save room for dessert! Some of the ingredients and presentations were so unique and everything was healthy and delicious. 

Family Time

Life today moves at a swift pace. Family travel allows everyone to be together without the constant pressures and crammed schedules, but it's so much more than that. The squeals of excitement at spotting wildlife, the muffled yawns of an early-morning yoga class, the new flavors on our pallets, the wind on our faces and sweat on our brows - all of these moments are etched as memories that will last a lifetime for our family. 

Written by Wildland alumni Mandy Haakenson.

If you have any questions about our family trips to Patagonia or want to plan your custom trip please don't hesitate to reach out. As Mandy said, even experienced travelers can use some help with the logistics planning their dream adventure.

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