The Secret Ranchito

Near Futaleufu, Patagonia, Chile

Reviewed by Liz Williams
The ultimate hideaway cottage tucked away high up in the Andes - a haven for fly fishermen and escapists (sleeps 2-4)
If you read the Heidi books and dreamt of experiencing such a life yourself, then this small wooden cottage, set in a meadow high up in the Patagonian Andes, is the answer. Miles from anywhere, and accessible only by foot, water, horse or helicopter, the Secret Ranchito (or CondorNest Ranch) fulfills every escapist’s dream. Your luggage and is brought in by oxcart, horses and saddles are provided for your entire stay and a 4-wheel drive waits for you on the other side of the swing foot bridge, 15 minutes away. A cook hikes in for each meal or, if you prefer, you can wander the along to the owners Eco Camp (20 minutes away).

The simple life includes outdoor toilets, a shower (with hot water) built into a tree trunk, an organic garden, acres of trails, the most incredible views and not another soul in sight. And if you prefer a bit more activity, hiking, riding, biking, rafting and kayaking are all possible. Best of all, world class fly-fishing can be found on your doorstep - the crystalline waters of the nearby Futaleufu and Azul rivers are home to abundant populations of wild brown and rainbow trout.

Highs

  • The absolute, uninterrupted peace and spectacular setting
  • The feeling of being so removed from the rest of civilisation
  • A mountain retreat in every sense, with just you and nature all around
  • Showering in pure, heated spring water inside a tree, as a sweeping Andean valley stretches away below
  • Fabulous horse-riding, led by Chilean cowboys

Lows

  • Some might find the remoteness too much; this little retreat is all about being on your own in the middle of nowhere, so party animals beware
  • If you can’t stand a large dose of your own (or your partner’s) company for too long, this probably isn’t the place for you
  • The hefty price tag - though this does include transfers, a cook, horses, a raft, a 4-wheel drive and an English-speaking guide

Best time to go

The property is open from Dec to mid-April. Mid-December to mid-March is when the weather is at its best for riding, hiking and biking and the waters are at optiumum levels for rafting. The fishing season runs from 15 November-15 May, though by May winter will be well on its way.

Our top tips

The minimum stay here is a week which is ideal, you may want to stay for 2 weeks, but that should be the maximum unless you really do like your own company.

Don't forget an extra towel, and your favourite toiletries, and depending on which activities you'll be taking part in you may want to bring some all-weather gear. You may also need a couple of books for days when you have nothing planned.

Great for...

Eco
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Hideaway House
  • 1
  • Self-catering (chef on request)
  • Over 2s accepted
  • Closed: 1 Apr 2016 - 30 Nov 2016...
  • Pool
  • Sauna
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room:

Rooms

Walking through the door of the Ranchito, it doesn’t take too long to get your bearings. There's only 1 bedroom - indeed, in reality the whole house is only 1 room, simply furnished in native wood and very cosy. One half forms the sitting area for daytime relaxation, complete with a sofa bed, a small table and cowhide chairs; the other half is partitioned off into a kitchen on one side and a bedroom on the other. In the latter a double bed is tucked in cosily behind a bamboo screen, with traditional coverings thrown over it, wool rugs on the floor and a small chest of drawers. There's an adjacent cabin which can sleep a further couple in a double bed (note: the cabin will not be used by anyone else unless they're part of your group).

The interiors are light and airy, thanks to the expansive windows, all the better to enjoy the scenery. Days begin pretty memorably up here, stepping out of bed to the best wake-up view imaginable, as the soft light of morning casts its glow on the towering granite peaks of Tres Monjas. Enjoy a cup of tea in bed followed by an invigorating shower in a tree (towels are provided, but bring your favourite toiletries), with 24-hour hot water recycled from the wood-burning stove.

And after a day spent up the mountain, there's no better place to be than on the veranda’s reclining chairs, as the sun sets over the mountain-tops and finally gives way to those stars. Throw in the requisite candlelight, turn up the heat with another log in the fire and snuggle up under the blankets - you probably couldn’t get much more romantic.

Features include:

  • Barbeque
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Extra beds
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Oven
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Terrace

Eating

It’s not often that you can say your dinner has been delivered by ox-cart - but it is here. Or at least all of your pre-selected ingredients are (deliveries are made upon arrival for the entire week, to ensure no interruptions), and it's difficult not to be enchanted by such a novel start to your stay. From here on, it's up to you. With the Ranchito’s fully-equipped kitchen (wood burning oven, copper hot water heater and full set of crockery and cooking utensils etc) those who wish not to be disturbed can comfortably opt for self-service. However, in the spirit of catering to every requirement, those who prefer the luxury of not having to lift a finger whilst away from home can enjoy the benefits of a personal chef, who makes the climb as and when required, to prepare everything and cook.

There's an Eco-camp at the base of the mountain, Campo Tres Monjas, an overnight stop for kayakers - you can choose to dine with the group if you wish. Meals are delicious home-cooked fare, supplemented by organic vegetables from the greenhouse across the valley. And despite the location, any special requests made before arrival are met as far as is physically possible; now that's service for you.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Chef on request
  • Coffee tea making
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Organic produce
  • Oven
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Go fly-fishing nearby, with an expert English-speaking guide available if requested. The area is world-renowned for its brown and rainbow trout. The surrounding Futaleufu, Azul and Las Cruces rivers as well as the nearby lakes are teaming. The average catch is between 1 and 4 pounds, although fish up to 12 pounds are caught on occasion. Dry flies, a wide variety of streamers, stone flies, nymphs, grasshoppers, damsels, mosquitoes and old standbys like wooly buggers have been successful in the area

  • For an alternative option, fish from a raft all the way from the Argentinian border back to town, where you will spend the night in a hosteria before rafting (or riding or hiking) on back to the Ranchito

  • Horse-riding here is world class, much of it along a network of trails and bridges that connect the local homes and villages. Choose from half-day rides along the Río Espolón or through the unspoiled Río Chico Valley, full-day rides to the Laguna de las Rosas and Laguna Noroeste or along the impressive Inferno Canyon, or overnight rides to the Lago Azul or the Futaleufu valley, where you camp at a remote ranch or on the lakeshore

  • Relax with a good book, and savour the peace and the surroundings

  • Hike from your back door, with guide if desired

  • Go mountain biking - it's possible to cycle all the way back to town on a 4-hour trail

  • Raft down to a local’s house - Casa de Empanadas - and camp there, then sea-kayak to the bottom end of Lago Yelcho, before returning to the Ranchito

  • Try your hand at kayaking - or simply watch the experts strut their stuff in the rapids far below

  • Enjoy the sandy river beach and hammock, about 20 minutes’ walk away at the base of the mountain at Campo Tres Monjas

  • Swim in a nearby river pool and paddle in crystal clear shallows

  • De-stress with a Swedish and deep tissue massage, also down the hill, followed by a sauna and hot shower amongst the rocks

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Private guided tours
  • Rafting
  • Swimming
  • Trekking

Kids

Children are welcome, though it might feel a little cramped with more than one child. There's an extra bed in the Ranchito, and the adjacent cabin has a further double bed. Although there are activities down the hill, this place is really about escapism and solitude, so it's probably not the ideal family holiday.

Best for:

Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Babysitting available by arrangement

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
8/
Value
10/
Overall

{{ review.firstName }}{{ review.countryName ? ', '+ review.countryName : '' }},

Rates for The Secret Ranchito