You might have heard of the andBeyond hotels from their venues in South Africa. Now the first hotel of this group has opened in South America, called the Vira Vira Lodge, and it is definitely worth the trip to Chile.
Why we are so sure about this? The hotel is located at one of the most beautiful spots in Chile, close to a small town called Pucón which is located in the foothills of the Andes right next to the Huerquehue National Park. It is absolutely stunning and the hotel offers pure luxury with the finest tour guides and I definitely enjoyed every moment of my stay there.
Here a small background. Vira Vira Lodge is owned by a Swiss guy and has been taken over by the the famous andBeyond group eight months ago. The group is well known for their luxury hotels in Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania and many more. Now they are in full process to making the Vira Vira hotel to one of the hotspots in Chile and they are really doing a good job.
Vira Vira Lodge has six suites, 12 private villas and a private hacienda with five beautiful rooms which used to be the owners house. We rented the hacienda with my whole family staying there, it was a blast. The hacienda has its own living room, kitchen, dining room, yoga spot, terrace and garden with a view on the Liucura River. The house is great to rent as a family or a group of friends. It is like your own personal hotel. You can have all your meals there in your private dining room or you can join the rest of the guests in the main restaurant. We mostly enjoyed breakfast in the hacienda and the rest of the meals in the main restaurant of the hotel.
The food was absolutely amazing! All breakfast lovers would go crazy – just like me. Everything is home baked: the medialunas (the Argentine croissants), the bread and all pastries. The fruits tasted like proper fruits and came from the local town. Also the cheese was very delicious. The hotel has its own cheese factory – since the owner is Swiss – where they produce homemade cheese. You can even go and visit the small factory as an activity and they will explain you the whole process.
Lunch was always served as a three course meal and dinner as a four course meal. However, if you didn’t like a dish on the menu or you felt like eating something else that was absolutely no problem. I personally don’t eat so much fish, so the Hotel prepared homemade pasta with different sauces. Absolutely delicious! This may sound odd, but one of my favorite dishes was the salad: freshly picked from their garden – I felt like a happy, healthy rabbit eating it.
Since the andBeyond hotels are famous for their great excursions and activities in their African hotels, they had to manage to keep up with this standards in the Vira Vira Lodge in Chile – and they definitely did. Every evening our personal guides would come to our house and introduce us to different activities. I’m pretty sure we tried all of them. You could do two to three activities a day and since my family is very adventurous, we tried all of them. First we went kayaking down the Liucura River with absolute beautiful scenery. After an hour of cruising down the river the Hotel had a small picnic prepared for us, serving fresh fruits and tea.
Another very nice activity was a beautiful walk to the waterfalls which takes up to three hours. On all the excursions you have at least two guides with you explaining you everything and comforting you with any need. Another calming and fun activity was fly fishing. I am not really a fishing type of person, but being surrounded by beautiful nature was totally worth it. Coming back to the hotel you could enjoy a sundowner in a very unique hot tub.
As a horse lover myself, I was most excited about the horse-back riding tour. We were all a bit skeptical about how it might be, since most riding excursions can be a bit boring while the horses seem half-dead. Luckily, not the case at Vira Vira Lodge. This one was a once in a life time experience! First of all, Rodolfo the Gaucho, our tour guide, was a real personality – not only because of his look, but also because of his spirit. The riding tour took us up the Andes of Chile, with paths through dense forests, small paths along cliffs ending on the top of a mountain with the most stunning view over a valley. I could have done this all day long.
For those of you who want to learn more about the culture of the native Mapuche, you can actually go and encounter them yourself. And no this is not a tourist trap! You can visit the house of on old Mapuche lady who will tell you everything about their history, their culture and believe. The Mapuche pray to the Volcanoes and the woman told us that this year the Villarrica will erupt again. So let’s see if she was right.
THE HELICOPTER TOUR
My personal highlight: the helicopter tour! I recommend everyone to do it. Even though it costs extra, it is so worth it! Five people fit in the helicopter, including the pilot. The helicopter flies over the famous Huerquehue National Park where you can see the stunning Araucaria Forest with trees, that are older than 2.000 years. The nature is absolutely out of this world. The different landscapes from desert, to forest to lakes makes your mind go wild. The helicopter makes its first stop at a hot springs in the middle of the National Park, where you can go swimming in water between 6 and 46 degrees with little waterfalls in between. The hot springs garden looks like somewhere in Japan and afterwards you feel like a new born baby.
After an hour of relaxation one continues with the helicopter over the Huerquehue Nation Park towards the active volcano Villarrica. The views are breathtaking. First, the helicopter goes in a certain position so you can see three volcanoes in a row and then he goes directly over Villarrica which erupted the last time in 2015. One can see the smoke uprising and when you look very close you can spot lava. This was a highlight for me which I will never forget!
I have never been to Chile. So this was an absolute amazing first impression of the landscape, the people and their traditional culture. For everyone who is planning a trip to Chile, try to visit the Vira Vira Lodge and be pampered by them.
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Photos and video by Helena Schoeller and Vira Vira Lodge