There is ecotourism, and then there is luxury ecotourism. Awasi belongs to the latter, creating the most exclusive expeditions to dive into breathtaking experiences with nature in Chile and Argentina.
By: Michelle Morales / Gastronomy and lifestyle specialist. @mikkisan1
I knew about Awasi through a beautiful book I found in my hotel room on one of my trips. It was the first edition of the Relais & Chateaux Travel Book, and Awasi's lodge in Patagonia was on the front cover. The image was so powerful I felt I had to go there soon. I did some research and found that the lodge in the photo was closed due to the winter season in Patagonia. However, I had already learned a lot about Awasi and did not want to go anywhere else; I decided to book at Awasi Iguazú, another one of their lodges -they have three in total- in the Atlantic Forest, near the Iguazú Falls. ¡It was on my bucket list anyway!
Right on the curb outside the airport was Catu, my Awasi private guide, waiting for me in an almost brand-new Ford pickup
A couple of weeks later, I was heading to my destination. I took a flight into Sao Paulo and then a connection to Foz de Iguazú, a Brazilian town on the border with Argentina. I arrived at around 6:30 p.m., and right on the curb outside the airport was Catu, my Awasi private guide, waiting for me in an almost brand-new Ford pickup, something very uncommon in Argentina these days. She helped me with my bags, and once we got in the car, she handed me an aluminum bottle of water with my name on it. She said I could leave whatever I wanted in the car because no one else would use it for the next three days. Basically, it was our personal vehicle to get us everywhere. She also mentioned that once I checked in at the hotel, she would come to see me to discuss the agenda she had put together for me. That said, we drove across the border, entered Argentinian territory, and arrived at Awasi approximately 30 minutes later.
As promised, she came later to see me at the lodge and showed me her plans. I was satisfied; everything made sense, and I wondered why this place felt tailor-made for me. I remembered that after booking my stay, the reservations team sent me a survey asking about my personal preferences, hobbies, interests, and other relevant matters, which they shared with Catu so she could design the trip of my dreams. She succeeded.
Awasi´s exceptional hospitality
After meeting with Catu, I enjoyed a great dinner at the main lodge. The menu, which they change daily, is inspired by the regional cuisines of the three countries that collide on the border: Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. They use only local products, such as fish from the Iguazú River, vegetables, fruits, and game from the nearby forest. I must say that I had the most unique and unknown food during my stay, and through it, I learned a lot about the culture and history of the place. Everything is served using the most beautiful tableware, and the dining area is decorated very stylishly. You breathe and see exquisite taste in every corner of the lodge.
You breathe and see exquisite taste in every corner of the lodge.
That evening, I decided to walk back to my villa (there are only fourteen of them to ensure privacy and a quiet stay for their guests). On my way, I realized I was in the middle of the jungle. There were massive trees and vast nature surrounding us, and all you could hear was the sounds and songs of the wildlife that inhabits the Guaraní Community protected reserve where Awasi is located. Once in my villa, I felt at home; the decoration was warm and cozy yet very classy and sophisticated. I had a private jacuzzi on the deck, a comfortable living room with a coffee, tea, and mini-bar station, and a huge bathroom with an indulging tub and bath salts to help myself. I knew it would be hard to leave my room the following day.
Day # 1 – Expedition to Iguazú Falls
Catu came to pick me up early in the morning to enjoy what I consider the best experience the lodge offers. Thanks to an exclusive agreement with the Iguazú National Park, Awasi staff and guests can enter the park 30 minutes before official opening hours. This allows a private visit to “Garganta del Diablo,” the most spectacular site to enjoy the majestic waterfalls. We spent the morning doing an 8-kilometer trail along the falls while observing fantastic wildlife. In the afternoon, she had set up a bike ride in a protected area of the park, only accessible to forest rangers and Awasi staff and guests. By the end of that day, I had fully understood that this experience was all about exclusivity, privacy, and customized service at every touch point of the journey with them.
This allows a private visit to “Garganta del Diablo,” the most spectacular site to enjoy the majestic waterfalls.
Day # 2 - Expedition to Yacu-í
The following day, we went to the Yacu-í Reserve, owned by Awasi, one of the region’s best-preserved jungle areas, where I enjoyed a typical Argentinean BBQ by the river and a relaxing kayak expedition. Down the river, my guide, a candidate for National Park Ranger, showed me many bird species and taught me about other National Parks in Argentina.
Back at the lodge, Agustina, Director of Guest Services, told me about their afternoon academic activities, mostly chats by local people, designed for guests who want to entertain themselves and learn a bit more about the territory. I signed up for a conference on yerba mate, a native herb that is infused and drunk instead of coffee or tea. After that I enjoyed a lovely dinner and tasting of natural and organic Argentinean wines, carefully selected by their Chief Sommelier, Santiago Aladro.
Day # 3 - Expedition to Urugua-í
I must confess I had trouble leaving my bed that morning. However, Catu was picking me up at 8 a.m. for our last expedition to the Urugua-í Lake, and I needed to be on time. We drove for about 50 minutes to a vast 800-hectare man-made lake that resulted from the construction of a dam on the river by the same name. Then, we navigated for another hour to a floating deck owned by Awasi, right in front of Isla Palacio, a piece of land of about 200 hectares that was left unflooded and that is banned for visitors to protect the wildlife and the Atlantic Forest ecosystem that remains after the construction of the dam. ¡The site is just spectacular! We had breakfast on the deck, surrounded by the tips of 40-meter centennial trees still visible above water. Later, we did some stand-up paddle boarding by the island. Back at the lodge, I decided to spend the rest of my day in the cozy comfort of my villa, enjoying the amenities and the warmth of the jacuzzi.
¡The site is just glorious! We had breakfast on the deck, surrounded by the tips of 40-meter centennial trees still visible above water.
My return flight was that evening. Catu took me to the airport in Foz de Iguazú, and our farewell was warm and friendly. So, it was with the rest of the staff who called me by my nickname and made me feel like I was traveling with friends. Although I visited Awasi Iguazú alone, I never felt lonely or bored. Happiness and amusement were my constant feelings while there. My next stop will undoubtedly be Awasi Patagonia (https://awasipatagonia.com/about/).