March 7-9, 2018
Located in a private area of the Huerquehue National Park the Tinquilco Refugio makes a great base for exploring the park’s two great trails. See Cerro San Sebastián and Los Lagos for a full report of the trails.
Located on a pretty wooded site, the refugio has a very pleasant outdoor patio, perfect for hanging out on warm summer afternoons. Don’t expect spectacular views, more a charming spot to chill.
The lodge sleeps about 16 in 4 double rooms and 2 bunk rooms that sleep 4 each. We had one of the double rooms with a shared bathroom. While called a king room It barely holds a queen bed with not much room to spare. The bed, however, is more comfortable than most in this price category and is topped with a down comforter.
The shared bath is small but adequate with an extra sink in the entry way to the bathroom. The shower is showing its age and is in need of an update. The hot water is extremely difficult to regulate, oscillating from scalding hot to freezing cold. However the hot water, such as it is, is available 24 hours.
The refugio is set up nicely for guests with a reading nook upstairs and a lounge area downstairs in the open concept dining room/ kitchen/ lounge area. The kitchen is divided into an area for guests to cook their own meals and one where the host, Patricio, cooks for you.
Patricio, the owner and host, is a charming character and an excellent cook and is what really makes this place special. Dining here is like visiting a friend’s house with great conversation, food and wine. One of our most treasured experiences in Chile.
The refugio is not staffed before 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning, so breakfast is laid out the night before. A simple affair of quality products including homemade whole grain bread, butter, and a variety of homemade preserves. French press coffee is available.
Dinner the first night was prepared by staff as Patricio had a business meeting and was not available to cook dinner.
The vegetarian meal included of two excellent salads followed by porotos granados, a typical Chilean dish, consisting of beans and corn prepared in the summer when the beans and corn are fresh. Everything was beautifully executed. We were eight guests at the dinner table. Six German speakers and us, though most of the Germans spoke excellent English.
On our second evening Patricio cooked. He had been to Pucón earlier that day and found fresh seafood, caught just that morning on the coast. He explained that in Chile you are never very far from the sea.
Dinner started with a mariscos soup, his grandmother’s recipe. Excellent seafood, nicely cooked in a flavorful broth.
The main dish was a local trout served with a potato and avocado puree with a dash of nutmeg, an ingredient he now has difficulty getting in Chile. It has been used by drug smugglers to confuse the police dogs and is no longer available in the whole form in Chile. Everything was beautifully prepared. At the table were four guests, us, an Australian couple, and two friends of Patricio. A fabulous evening.
Planning your stay a bit off high season is much nicer as I think the facility would feel crowded at full capacity. Also watch the weather. We had great summer weather for hiking. I’m not sure how the refugio would feel in bad weather.
Driving to the Refugio
Whether we could drive to the refugio or not was a concern for us as we had a Peugot 2007 and not a 4-wheel drive with high clearance. The CONAF park ranger recommended that we leave the car at the park entrance parking lot a good 1.7K from the refugio. We had read that other guests had successfully made it to the refugio in regular cars, so with the good weather and dry roads we made the drive. Not once but twice. One tough spot was particularly high and we had to keep up speed to get over it but otherwise the road wasn’t too much of a problem. They regraded the road during our stay, so the drive out on the last day was a breeze.