A stay in a Patagonian Estancia is a luxury experience that you simply cannot miss if you travel to Patagonia. On my trip to Chile and Argentina, I chose to indulge in this experience myself, staying at the Estancia Helsingfors, an incredible home in the middle of Glacier National Park.
Helsingfors is surrounded by a spectacular wooded landscape, near one of the most beautiful lakes in Southern Argentina, which looks over the Mount Fitz Roy and the Andes. To add to the majestic scenery, a restaurant serving delicious dishes made this the perfect place to spend a few days in Argentinean Patagonia.
1. A luxurious stay in the middle of Patagonia
2. Services offered at Estancia Helsingfors
3. Activities included in stay
3.1 Ride to the Blue Lagoon
3.1.1 A striking landscape
3.2 Walk to wind Peninsula
3.3 Other activities
4. The kitchen at Estancia Helsingfors
5. History of Estancia Helsingfors
6. How to get to Helsingfors
Patagonia is synonymous with landscapes out of the ordinary. You can travel hundreds of kilometers without bumping into anyone! However, you can also move from the pampas lowlands to forests and glaciers in minutes.
In the middle of all this, in an area lost between El Calafate and El Chalten, is Estancia Helsingfors. A luxurious stay finds one seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with a world of landscapes to discover and amazing cuisine to enjoy.
The Helsingfors is only open from November to April. The rest of the year the facilities remain closed to the public. This is common in these latitudes where winters are so harsh.
Ecology is one of the strengths of Estancia Helsingfors. They can point to how they naturally produce their own electricity through a hydraulic turbine, but they also have an organic garden, recycle all their waste, and perform work to protect the environment around them, aware that this will make this place stay a unique and wonderful place for many years.
Estancia Helsingfors offers a good variety of services to all its visitors. Notably they include a bar, fishing, horseback riding, a varied menu of Argentine wines, free WiFI in public areas, and laundry.
Please keep in mind the remoteness of the area, implying that there is no mobile phone signal. Satellite Internet works with certain limitations, and there are no TV’s in public areas or the rooms.
There are free transfers from El Calafate and from the Airport El Calafate on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays.
There are only nine rooms, two of which are triple, and seven that are doubles. All have private bathrooms, while several have Jacuzzis. The others have Scottish showers, and each has heating. In the bathrooms bathrobes and slippers are included.
The total number of guests at the inn is 20 just 20 people. Thus, service is highly personalized and unique, and is catered to make you feel at home. During the day there are countless activities to enjoy, but during the afternoon and evening guests often gather around the large fireplace and discuss their experiences of the day and plan their departures for the next day with their guides.
Activities included in stay
During your days at Estancia Helsingfors, you can perform a variety of planned activities. Outings, including hiking or horseback riding, take place during the day and are confirmed the night prior by the guide who will accompany you during the route. Unfortunately, the Patagonian climate, which is very unpredictable and changeable, can determine last minute cancellations for the excursions. Fortunately, the intense wind of these latitudes preserved decent weather during my stay!
During the three days I spent at Helsingfors, I was able to go for a horseback ride and a hike. The third day I decided to take a break and enjoy the facilities, regaining strength to continue my six week trip through Patagonia and the Carretera Austral.
Here were the activities I participated in:
This was one of the most beautiful experiences I made in Argentina. On horseback, I could get to the amazing Blue Lagoon from the foot of a glacier. The tour can be done on foot in about 5 hours while riding reduces it to 4 hours. However, it isn’t possible to reach the lagoon on horseback, so even riders will have to walk the last few kilometers.
The route is of medium difficulty and covers a total distance of 16 kilometers. We left the room at 10 AM. First, we delved deep into the Alfredo River Valley, followed by a slight climb up the slopes of Cerro Huemul. After a while, we reached the flat area from where the Cerro Fitz Roy can be seen in the distance. The hard part about this area is the fierce wind that blows almost permanently. It could be a challenge if one suffers from vertigo.
We continued without much of a slope surrounded by high mountains in search of the glacier of the Blue Lagoon. The last section, carried out on foot, includes the steepest drop. Upon reaching the top of a small hill, suddenly we saw a sheet of turquoise blue water, and above it the glacier that feeds into it just a short distance from where we stood. For an hour we walked along the shore taking pictures of the place and watching how the water color changed intensity based on how the sun’s rays hit it.
After eating a box lunch that included a sandwich and fruits provided by the lodge, we returned quietly, taking most of the afternoon to rest or enjoy other activities nearby.
Hike to the Peninsula Wind
This is an ideal hike to take on the day you arrive at Estancia Helsingfors, after a delicious meal at the restaurant. It is a walk of roughly 6 kilometers that leads to the first viewpoint at Arm Moyano. In total the walk takes about 3 hours.
Leaving the inn, we took a cattle path once used by early settlers in the area. The views along the whole way were fascinating. But where it really made my jaw drop was at the viewpoint of Peninsula wind or Punta del Viento, where you get a unique perspective on the Brazo Moyano deep into the mountains. On the other side we saw a great view of Lake Viedma with its glaciers and characteristic greyish waters.
During the walk we also got to see the ruins of Alfred Ranstrom’s home, the first settler in the area. We also had good views of all the Helsingfors facilities and the Sequoias, in which we could observe the great effects of the years of constant wind.
The place is called wind Peninsula and rightly so. The wind blows in an exaggerated way. They day I went is was hardly possible to stand, but not every day is the same.
Among the offerings to do during your stay at the Estancia Helsingfors you will find a ride to Mirador del Condor, and two trekking experiences. One to Laguna del Morro and another trekking or horseback ride to Estancia Los Hermanos. On their website you can find all the information about these activities.
The kitchen of Estancia Helsingfors
In Helsingfors it is clear that gastronomy is an important part of the trip. If you get the chance to come here, you’ll be treated well and be taken to see the wonders of your surroundings, but you’ll also be fed exquisitely.
During my stay in Estancia Helsingfors I got to taste several of the chef’s creations, each more delicious than the one before. There is no option to dine elsewhere, since the lodge is three hours from the nearest town, but this is no problem as the daily menus will suit anyone well. Also, if you have personal preferences, they can certainly prepare something to your liking.
As I said before, they have their own garden of vegetables, which ensures the freshness and quality of dishes.
History of Estancia Helsingfors
The area has been inhabited for nearly 100 years, since the early 20th century, when some Europeans decided to reach the remote areas of Southern Argentina and Chile. A Finn named Alfred Ranstrom sought a remote location at the foot of the Andes to live. He named the area Helsingfors after the Swedish capital of Helsinki. Together with his wife Marie Lisau and their children until the 1960’s, when an Argentinean family bought the entire property.
Since 1995 the Helsingfors has housed travelers from all around the world who are in search of beautiful landscapes and exclusive services in a dream location just steps from one of Argentina’s most beautiful lakes.
How to get to Helsingfors
La Estancia is located next to Lake Viedma, inside the Los Glaciares National Park. The nearest towns are El Calafate and El Chalten. Both are about 180 kilometers away and just over three hour’s drive by car.
The price of accommodations includes a transfer to the town, but some people may choose to rent a car or arrive with their own car. To get to the Estancia from El Calafate take route 11 to the airport. When you reach route 40, turn left towards El Chalten and after 70 kilometers you will arrive at the stop Leone, where you can rest and have a delicious breakfast or snack. If you arrive from the north you will also drive along the same route to reach the settlement.
From La Leona, take the provincial route 21 and after 75 kilometers you’ll arrive at the end of the route and the Estancia Helsingfors. Get directions here.
To read the original article, published in Spanish —-> Helsingfors, una estancia de lujo en la Patagonia argentina
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