Chile Part 3: Off the Grid in Puyuhapi

Me in the hot springs

There is something disconcerting about that helplessness you feel when you learn you will spend the next two days without access to email or social media. You don’t want to believe you are one of those people so hopelessly addicted to your phone that its loss causes anxiety. But you are.

Where we embarked for the boat ride to Puyuhapi Lodge

So I felt for the first hour or two after arriving, by speedboat, to the Puyuhapi Lodge and Hot Springs, nestled in a wooded beach along a fjord called Canal Puyuhapi accessible only by water in northern Patagonia. We had been greeted with a glass of champagne, seated in a beautiful airy lobby with a cozy fire and hand-carved wooden furnishings over wool rugs in muted colors. Oh by the way, said the friendly woman who welcomed us, there is no wifi and no cell service. She pointed to a computer station-you can use that for the internet (remember Internet cafes?) and if you need to make a call, let us know. In my initial anxiety I tried logging in to Gmail on the computer station and found myself blocked because I couldn’t receive a verification text. OK, I thought, you are on a retreat for a couple of days. Nothing you do is so important that it can’t wait.


And a rejuvenating retreat it was. Our room looked out over the water to the mountains of Parque Nacional Quelat, which for most of our stay were shrouded in clouds. November is still low season in Patagonia and the place was nearly empty—an older couple from France, a younger couple from the USA, and, later, a group of 14 British finance guys on a kind of corporate bonding adventure trip.

View from our deck

We immediately booked massages in the spa for that evening, and sat in the swirling indoor hot tubs overlooking the fjord. But the next day, we discovered the real attraction of Puyuhapi— the outdoor hot springs (or termas in Spanish) fed by very hot minerally water that burbles out of the underground. We reached a series of stone pools of varying sizes and temperatures by a short path through what feels like a dripping rain forest.

Walk to the termas

The hottest pool is at the edge of the water, with an expansive and tranquil view. Here we returned several times in the course of two days- I came early one morning to find solitude before breakfast. Here was where any anxiety and restlessness could dissipate.

View from the termas

Our first morning we awoke to a grey drizzling rain-the weather we had expected in Patagonia but had not yet encountered. I was eyeing the rack of red and yellow kayaks across the beach on a boat dock. Pete and I wandered over to the dock. The rain picked up a bit but the wind was calm and the water still. Pete suggested we wait till the afternoon but I was jealously eyeing the young American couple who had just paddled off from the dock. “It may never stop raining today,” I said, “and we have rain jackets so what are we waiting for?”

Sea birds seen from a kayak

Everyone should have a place that feeds their soul—for me it’s being out close to the water, surrounded by mountains. It’s where I go where I live and in Patagonia the mountains are higher and wilder and the water more vast and unending. We paddled around a nearby island and watched gulls perch and then fly off a nearby fish hatchery.

What’s a little rain?

Eventually the soft shower turned to mist and then stopped altogether. For a while we just floated on the water, not needing to go or be anywhere in particular.

Birds on a fish hatchery

The second morning I took a walk through the rainforest, called a Valdivian temperate forest. In an ecosystem completely different from the dry open mountain terrain we had seen a few hundred mile south, here was an understory of huge ferns, stands of bamboo and the giant leaves of nalca, a native rhubarb with tall spiky red flowers. Underfoot were a tangle of root and wet branches and stones.

The valdivian temperate forest

By the time we left, I think all four of us were rested and happy— well fed, massaged, soaked by hot springs— and yes, ready to check emails once again.

Greenness everywhere
A walk in nearby Quelat National Park

11 Replies to “Chile Part 3: Off the Grid in Puyuhapi”

  1. I am so inspired by the adventures of you and Pete! Thanks for sharing your trip! We look forward to hopefully hosting you both in the finger lakes after you return.


  2. Astonishing in all ways. The beauty, remoteness, this unique place, and your bravery. I can see why there might be a little anxiety on this trip – I’m anxious just reading about it! But glad you found a way toward centering and getting off the grid. I find a short (or long) internet vacation occasionally to be a requirement! And, that you have a partner who likes the same things.


  3. I’m such a connected person but gosh, I love being off the grid. I worry about on the grid. It seems so antithetical to bring human but here we are so it *is* being human. Love this tale of yours.


    1. I meant it when it was disconcerting to realize how addicted I am. I want to be more like you! Truth is, it became a kind of relief.


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