Bahia Bustamante, a working estancia on Patagonia’s craggy coastline, is somewhere quite extraordinary. Unapologetically remote, this private sheep farm is more about location than it is luxury, yet with charming accommodation and a host of unique activities on its doorstep, it is the ultimate off-the-beaten-track destination in Argentina. Eli journeys to the end of the world to find out more.
Arriving at Bahia Bustamante in the dark, stepping out into cold and whistling winds, I did wonder where on earth I had landed after a long journey from Comodoro Rivadavia airport. What was in store for me there and was I going to like it?! However, after a hearty shepherd’s pie for dinner, a cosy night in my sea cottage as well as a fabulous sunrise the next morning, the magic of the place became clear. My stay at Bahia Bustamante was truly unique, and I would urge anyone who enjoys nature and is looking to get away from it all to consider venturing there.
What is Bahia Bustamante?
Bahia Bustamante is an estancia located in the Chubut province, south of the Valdés Peninsula in Argentina. It is a fantastic destination for those looking to get off-the-beaten-track, explore nature in its most pristine form and seek out some fantastic wildlife.
The property was initially built as a seaweed processing plant in the 1950s, started up by the grandfather of current owner, Matias Soriano. The lodge sits within the old ‘town’ which, once home to more than 400 seaweed workers and their families, has its own police station, church, grocery store and workers houses. Staying at Bustamante allows you to discover the history of this traditional and remote Patagonian town.
The estancia was first opened to guests 10 years ago, and tourism remains the third tier of the business, behind seaweed harvesting (sold in large quantities for food and medicine) and the operation of their sheep ranch year round.
How do you get there and how long should I stay for?
To get to Bahia Bustamante, you have to fly from Buenos Aires. You can either take a transfer from Comodoro Rivadavia airport, which takes just over 2 hours, or if you are coming from Peninsula Valdés, the journey takes about 4 hours by road from Puerto Madryn or Trelew. If you prefer, you can hire a car and make your own way. This is a brilliant way of doing things for those who prefer their own schedule and parking is plentiful once you arrive. I would recommend a minimum of 3 or 4 nights to make your stay worthwhile, although I’m sure you could spend up to a week there if you have the luxury of time!
What activities are on offer and what wildlife might be likely to I see?
There are a wide range of excursions available at the hotel, and the schedule is always kept open ended as many of the activities on offer depend on weather conditions which are very changeable in Patagonia. Weather permitting, you can enjoy boat trips, trekking, biking, horse-riding, 4×4 tours, a visit to penguin island or the petrified forest, to name a few. They also offer a fascinating historical tour which allows you to explore the town and learn about the history of the village and the long-standing seaweed business.
In terms of wildlife, this will vary month by month but throughout the year, the team at Bustamante enjoy spotting sea lions, penguins, orcas, dolphins, maras, rhea, guanacos, armadillos amongst others! If you would like to combine your trip with whale-watching season on Peninsula Valdés, which falls between June and mid- December, then bear in mind the property is only open between October and March.
What is the accommodation like?
Accommodation is in one of 6 cosy sea cottages along the shore. Formerly workers houses, they are not luxurious per se, but considering the location, the cottages are fantastic! Each one has its own sofa area and kitchenette, accommodating up to 4 people. We recommend the superior sea cottages which have all been recently renovated and boast fantastic sea views.
When should I go and when should I book?
The property is open from October until the end of March, and each season offers something special and different in terms of wildlife and weather. From November onwards, the weather gets warmer so you can enjoy some time out on the beach. I would recommend securing your spot here with a few months’ notice as with only 6 cottages, availability is limited at peak times of year.
What makes it so special?
Bahia Bustamante is much more than a hotel; it is a destination in itself. With very few visitors each year, it still feels completely authentic and unspoilt, something that is becoming very difficult to find these days. It is worth bearing in mind that the property is totally isolated, allowing you to totally switch off from modern life (there is no mobile phone signal and WiFi is only available at certain times of the day). The fact that the lodge is so difficult to access makes it even more special and thanks to its isolated location, it is only visited by a select number of tourists each year.
What to pack:
No matter the month, some things are essential at Bahia. I’ve shortlisted a few of the necessities to squeeze in your suitcase…
- Windproof layer/raincoat
- Walking boots
- Scarf, hat/gloves
- Lip balm
- Spare batteries
- Battery pack
- Good book