Hotel Awa in Chile’s picturesque Zona Sur is a bold visual punchline of glittering glass and stone – no surprise, then, that its accomplished owner is an ambitious architect and designer. The Wallpaper-worthy eye-candy continues inside, courtesy of Mapuche fabrics and looms, local materials such as flagstone, volcanic rock and wood from the endogenous guaitecas cypress tree, plus artworks by Matilde Perez. (The stunning views of Llanquihue Lake and Osorno Volcano will also vie for your attention.) Unwind by the pool, get pampered in the spa and try Chilean cuisine in the restaurant – but don’t forget to set forth for adventures in the local, off-the-radar national parks; they’re right on your doorstep, after all.
Get this when you book through us:
A one-way transfer from or to Puerto Montt airport and either sparkling wine or a selection of cheese and local produce
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £345.22 ($450).
Pick from B&B rates, or half- or full-board. All rates include Continental and buffet breakfast: muesli, pastries and just-baked bread, plus items cooked to order, including omelettes starring free-range eggs from Awa’s farm.
Thoughtfully, Hotel Awa provides hair straighteners and sun hats.
At the hotel
Gorgeous gardens; spa; gym; adventure activities and private excursions; on-loan bikes; laundry service, WiFi, on-site parking. In rooms: bluetooth speaker, Jacuzzi, TV, WiFi, shaving mirror, air conditioning, minibar, free bottled water, decorative fireplace.
Our favourite rooms
Opt for second- or third-floor sleeping quarters for the best volcano views.
The pool is one of the hotel’s architectural magic tricks: it appears to float outside, with a glass wall overlooking the lake.
Awa’s dazzling spa has a 25-metre-long 28ºC pool, another 38ºC pool with stunning views of the volcano, a steam room, a sauna, a treatment room (we’d opt for the royal jelly facial or a revitalising massage) and a small gym, where Pilates and yoga sessions take place. Breathe in the scent of wood and sweet citrus while you relax and unwind.
Bring boots and threads fit for outdoors adventures.
Rates also include spa access, WiFi and use of the kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and bikes. The first floor can be accessed by a ramp; the other levels can be reached by the lift.
Accepted, but the hotel is really designed for adults.
Very: the hotel’s organic farm provides its produce and eggs; earth-kind LED light bulbs and bath products are used; glass and aluminum are recycled; Awa has a water-treatment plant; compost is made from the organic waste of the kitchen. Local materials star in the hotel’s construction.
The usual rules apply: outside on the terrace when the sun shines; inside by the fire, if and when it doesn’t.
Awa was designed to be an extension of the owners’ home – they want you to feel at home, so wear whatever you’re comfy in. (We’d opt for a Wallpaper-editor meets Chilean-explorer look: Perspex specs, textured wools, linens and leather accents.)
The restaurant’s daily-changing menu sings little love songs to the region and its delicious produce, meat and seafood. Try the scallops, the Chilean lamb and the moreish empanadas. As much as possible is sourced from the hotel’s organic garden; the expert sommelier works closely with the kitchen to wine-match the delicious dishes.
Just keep your eyes peeled for the floating Chilean boat in the lobby and you’ll find the bar, whose riffing-on-the-region cocktails star home-made spirits and liqueurs. Cool off with a mojito or mint julep; that robust Chilean wine isn’t to be sniffed at, either…
Breakfast is available between 8am and 10am; lunch is served from noon until 3pm; dinner from 8pm until 10pm.
Hotel Awa occupies a peaceful perch beside tranquil Lake Llanquihue, in Chile's scenic Zona Sur. On the hotel’s doorstep are a range of breathtaking, lesser-known Chilean national parks; this is your ticket to explore them.
Fly into Puerto Montt’s El Tepual airport, an hour away (Smith24 can sort your flights). Hotel transfers cost US$80 one way, for up to four people.
The city of Puerto Varas is a half-hour drive from the hotel; there’s plenty of on-site parking space for guests.
Worth getting out of bed for
Start by exploring the national parks of Chile's picturesque Los Lagos region (Lake District). Then, back at your boutique basecamp, make the most of the organic farm by trying farm-to-table activities such as harvesting, followed by a cookery class. Take to the lake by kayak or stand-up paddleboard, which are free to borrow. You could also hop on bikes and dip into the 90-mile circuit that covers Lake Llanquihue. Go swimming or sign up for pampering treatments at the spa. This adventurous hotel can also arrange seaplane flights, fly fishing, hiking trips, bird-watching, cultural expeditions and rafting. Petrohue Waterfalls and the road up to Osorno Volcano are half an hour away. Alternatively, explore the pretty city of Puerto Varas, which has traditional German-style architecture, reflecting its 19th-century immigrant roots, and the red-and-white, three-towered Sacred Heart of Jesus Church.
Feast on succulent seafood and fish at Casavaldés on Santa Rosa in Puerto Rosa. Try the toothsome southern hake barbells – washed down with plenty of icy white wine. Thanks to its location and watery views, tables get booked up fast; secure yours early to avoid disappointment. Swap fishy business for meaty magic at La Marca, also at Santa Rosa, which specialises in hefty, juicy steak. Kick proceedings off with delicious empanadas. Mesa Tropera has a prime Puerto Varas waterside setting for its flavoursome risottos, pasta dishes, ceviches and pizzas. The cocktails are worth trying too – you’ll need something to toast those views, after all.
Mrs Smith is sunbathing in a plunge swimsuit with a duo of jetties at her feet and a lavish speedboat just behind her. A paparazzi of sunlight bounces across the lake, and she has a snowcapped volcano as her backdrop. Welcome to the set of the new film franchise streamed direct from my fantasies: 008. Yes, the next Bond will be a woman, and yes, I’ve decided, it will be my girlfriend.
It is true we have only been here an hour. It’s true things have escalated quickly. But there’s something about Awa that has made me feel a little giddy. That’s the beauty of hotels. Like love, there is something out there for everyone. Some like silk, some like Starck, some like a submarine on site. Me? I like this. I like every single thing about this.
The site of architect-owner Mauricio Fuentes’s summer house, Awa sits on the best spot of the black-sand-beached Lake Llanquihue. (Bring sunglasses: I have never in my life seen water that sparkled more). The hotel itself is a graceful Jenga block of glass and steel, wood and concrete. Inside, the sun toasts the floorboards through the glass, leaving the air warm with the smell of alerce, a kind of magical Andean cypress. There is a sea of art books on low wide tables, there’s a fisherman’s boat suspended above the bar (which doubles up as informal earthquake detection). A swimming pool defies gravity to cantilever out towards the lake. Balletic waiters use copper cocktail cups to swoop up dragonflies that zoom in through open windows. It’s brutalism with a heart of gold, and from the first sip of my pisco sour, I’m smitten.
Second base on a hotel date is when you are taken to your room. Sometimes this can be an odd moment – not unlike opening a present in front of the person who gave it to you. What if it's underground? What if it has no windows? What if you have to say through gritted teeth, ‘I love it, thank you, exactly what I wanted’.
The key does its magic swipe, we step inside. A different feeling fills us: How to look appropriate and sane and like this isn’t our first ever time in a hotel, when we step into the room and it’s one of the greatest things we’ve ever seen.
This – investors, producers, ladies and gentlemen of the Oscar jury – was when we realized we’d stepped into a spy film. Honestly? It required little imagination. Our room is clearly Bond’s volcano hideaway – sky-wide windows, tan leather woven chairs, a wood stove framed in jet-black igneous rock. A four-person jacuzzi, a crisp white bed big enough for all manner of MI6 duties, a TV hidden in a trunk that Q would be proud of. A view you could look at until you died. We walk around slightly stunned.
British people may see the words ‘Lake District' and think ‘Yorkshire’. The reality is, this is the British lake district’s wild and caddish cousin – you can vaguely see the family resemblance, but he’s never at any of the reunions because he’s off mountaineering in Bhutan. The Chilean Lake District is pasture meets pyrotechnics – on the one hand, friesian cows, meadows and a slew of quaint German cake shops; on the other, black sand volcanoes, towering eucalyptus trees, prehistoric leaves and delightfully lethal-looking waterfalls.
I don’t know if I have mentioned this, but there is a volcano. There is a volcano and it has snow on it. Go there. It is one of the principal dramatic climaxes of our film. ‘TIMELAPSE,’ Mrs Smith keeps shouting at me as she drives, ‘TIMELAPSE!’. I lean forward with my arms out as if I were about to dive and hold my phone on the dashboard. She is right – it's the only way to capture the Viennetta-like curves in the road.
I should mention that Mrs Smith has only just got her driving license, and I, her sole companion and navigator, cannot, do not, and will never know the difference between left and right. The film teeters on the brink of Carry On Up The Volcano, but when we get to the top, it becomes sheer Wes Anderson. It’s a dreamscape. It’s a moonscape. It’s entirely bizarre, and entirely makes sense. We ride a series of vertiginous 1970s ski lifts to the top, plot our evacuation route were the volcano to blow, and cup our hands to drink water straight from a glacier.
The day is miraculously clear. There’s something about the circle of mountains around us that make it look like the sky has been ripped. I am a terrible photographer, and even I am still jealous of the photos I took.
How do you top that? Well, you follow the baby-got-back curves of the lakeshore to return to your dream hotel, and you jump in the water at sunset of course. I will be honest: the water is not warm. But it’s the kind of clean, clear cold that makes you cry out. You skin gets tight as a drum, your nipples beg for forgiveness, and you feel like an absolute badass.
You also feel a little bit virtuous. Just the right dose of wellness threads through Awa – celery-laced water at reception, kombucha at breakfast – but just like the Scandi-chic option of plunging into the icy lake, it’s a pickleback chaser to the main event: delicious, unadulterated hedonism.
Cue: dinner. Purple Chiloé potatoes fried golden, served with salsa verde. Cutaway to towers of pancakes dusted with snow like the volcano. Cutaway to Mrs Smith in the hot tub crowned by a heat haze. Cutaway to the poems and chocolates that arrive on our pillow. Cutaway to the ultimate Sean Connery move: a fire lit in your room while you’re having dinner. An actual fire. Lit in your room. Which you can…yes. You’ll have to buy the director’s cut to see that part.
The villain, it turned out, was having to leave. Not quite the petrol-doused car chase, but by the end we’d shifted genre: something slower, softer and without too much of a plot; something which could easily open at Sundance.