Business & Economy

Southern Chile bioreserve draws tourists with Tolkien-inspired hotels

By Maria M.Mur

Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve, Chile, Oct 21 (EFE).- Three unique hotels in the Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve, an area of temperate rainforest in southern Chile, entice tourists with innovative concepts that blend in with that remote area’s natural environment.

One is in the shape of a giant mushroom, while another calls to mind an ancient tree with enveloping branches and a third is reminiscent of a hobbit’s dwelling in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

The executive director of that private, for-profit reserve, Alexandra Petermann, told Efe that this protected area was created two decades ago at the site of a former forestry operation.

She said the idea was to build hotels that have a “special mysticism” and seamlessly blend in with the environment, rather than go the mass tourism route.

“They’re attractive hotels for guests,” Petermann said. Although those tourists may not be naturalist to the extreme, they “come to see the architecture and, when they do, they fall in love with nature and become aware of the importance of conservation.”

The first hotel to be inaugurated was “Montaña Magica” in 2005, followed by “Nothofagus” in 2007 and “Reino Fungi” in 2011, each of which are connected to one another by a series of walkways.

“The idea was to go from a mountain – from something more cave-like and rooted to the soil – to living in tree foilage, which is the … experience you look for in Nothofagus’ rooms, to living inside a mushroom,” the project’s architect, Rodrigo Verdugo, told Efe.

He said he was inspired by the universe created by Tolkien in “The Lord of the Rings” but also by the “geometry and impossible curves” of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, whose works include the Sagrada Familia church and Park Guell in Barcelona.

“I like to define the style as ethnic surrealist. Surrealist because of the design itself and ethnic because it tries to represent the Huilo-Huilo forest. And materials from here, like oak and rauli beech, were used for its construction,” Verdugo said.

Located around 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of Santiago and covering an area of 100,000 hectares (385 square miles), Huilo-Huilo is a private reserve that was created in 1999, when the local forestry industry was in decline.

Its attractions include numerous waterfalls and the glacier-covered Mocho-Choshuenco volcano.

“At the end of 1998, there was a big crisis and a lot of unemployment. And as a family we started thinking what we could do with this incredible place,” Petermann said of lands her family had acquired in that region in the 1970s.

Over the years, Huilo-Huilo has become a model of sustainable tourism, with its woods having gone from attracting 5,000 tourists a year to more than 100,000.

“Our goal is to be a type of Yellowstone or Yosemite,” she said of two famed national parks in the United States that restrict the flow of tourists during peak periods. EFE


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