Javier Lopez Interview
GUIDE Q&A: Javier Lopez
We ask the owner and founder of iconic EcoCamp Patagonia to reveal Chile's hidden gems, what a day at adventure camp looks like, and more
By: WHITNEY JAMES
Describe a typical day at EcoCamp Patagonia.
In the morning, our guests can catch the amazing reflection of the sun on the famous towers of Torres del Paine National Park…if they wake up early enough, that is! Then they gather in our restaurant dome to enjoy a delicious buffet breakfast to suit all tastes. Guests then embark upon one of the two activities they chose on the previous day. One excursion is more demanding than the other, meaning that there is an option to fit all physical conditions. All options are designed to discover the very best Torres del Paine has to offer, from an unforgettable boat trip to the Grey Glacier to hiking one of the numerous trails through the mountains. The guests who choose a trekking program experience an incredible journey through Torres del Paine, roaming across miles of mountains and pampas, and all the while getting up close and personal with Patagonian wildlife.
"There is a whole cocktail of programs available for travelers staying at EcoCamp Patagonia, but one thing’s for sure: whether you opt for the soft or active choice, it will always be one that you never forget."
Few people decide to stay at EcoCamp during the day, but sometimes guests enjoy some downtime in their dome enjoying the spectacular view of the famous towers. After the guests return from their chosen excursions, it’s time to gather for a tasty cocktail or two and dinner in the community dome, where guests can relax to the sound of live music next to a crackling fire. It doesn’t get any better than hanging out in this cozy environment with new friends from all over the world.
What is tracking pumas like? Do guests often get to see these animals up close?
A puma-tracking trip is always an utterly unique experience. In Torres del Paine, you have to have a guide if you want to be sure of seeing the puma. That’s why we work with guides who have years of experience in the park and who know exactly how to think like a puma in order to get close without disturbing these beautiful creatures. Puma trips generally last six days. The teams consist of two expert guides and photographers. One of the guides remains with the guests, while the other goes off tracking the puma, looking out for signs such as the behavior of the guanacos—the puma’s main prey. The tracker works with binoculars and talks a lot to locals, seeking information about the puma’s location.
"A walkie-talkie allows the group to be instantaneously contacted if and when someone catches a glimpse of the elusive puma."
Tell us a bit about the architectural design behind EcoCamp Patagonia, and your goals behind the project.
There were many aspects taken into consideration when designing the EcoCamp. Often times, architecture seems to be the occasion for human ego not to pass unnoticed. Our motto was just the opposite: to build the least amount possible, to expose guests to nature as much as possible, to make the whole complex as minimally visible as possible while creating a luxurious and comfortable lodge that was still genuinely sustainable.
The unique geodesic shape of the buildings was inspired by the ancient Kaweskar natives whose refugees were geodesic huts made out of branches, furs, and skins. What this indigenous design intuitively considered was a wind-resistant structure that would also minimize heat loss. From the cozy and warm interior of a dome, you can feel the rain falling over the tent, and listen to the peaceful wind. For the common areas, the main idea was to keep people close to each other and facilitate their mutual contact. After a couple of days here, you become so inspired and energetic that you just feel like sharing.
"EcoCamp was the first geodesic dome hotel in the whole world when it was constructed in 2000. We have seen this model replicated in many other locations within Chile, and the rest of the world, since then."
The Adventure Travel Trade Association is holding their Adventure Summit in Chile next year. How do you see this impacting Chilean adventure travel?
We are very happy to welcome our friends from ATTA in Chile! We were the first Chilean member to join, and we admire the great job Shannon and Chris have done in all these years. The quality of the content of ATTA conferences is so good that all the locals who will attend for first time will feel the value of every minute they spend at the conference.
I consider ATTA to be the most important gathering place of all relevant actors within the Adventure Travel Industry. My hope would be that some environmental issues could be addressed in the Chilean Conference, so that local authorities will gain awareness on how crucial the conservation of Chile's natural asset is to ensure this country remains as a world-class adventure destination.
We’ve all heard of Torres del Paine. But what are the hidden gems that tourists should make sure to see or experience while in Chile?
Trekking through Torres del Paine National Park is an absolute must-do, as there is always something new and exciting to discover at the foot of the famous mountains. However, far and beyond the much-famed Torres del Paine, Chile is overflowing with hidden gems.
As the country is so long, the landscapes differ greatly between the north and the south. Traveling to the Atacama to explore the Valley of the Moon is a fantastic journey, offering an otherworldly landscape of stone and sand carved out over the millennia by wind and floods, and awash with unbelievable colors when the sun goes down. Heading out from the north to the south will allow you to see conical, snowcapped volcanoes such as Villarrica—these make great bases for skiing! Why not uncover the ancient legends of southern Chile on the Chiloé Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has everything required to surprise and enchant visitors. Colorful houses on stilts, ancient wooden churches, and the wildness of nature surrounds. But if you want to escape the continent all together, and discover some faraway hidden gems, you should not forget Easter Island (or Rapa Nui), home to mysterious ancestral statues that have fascinated the human imagination for centuries. A once-in-a-lifetime journey, for sure!
To book your stay at EcoCamp Patagonia,
check out our Chile itinerary or give us a call at 1.888.870.0903.
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Javier Lopez Interview
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