There was a time centuries ago when sailing around Cape Horn via the Drake Passage was the fiercest test for the world’s bravest men. Still today, the southern reaches of Chile and grandeur of Patagonia’s landscape is regarded as one of the world’s holy grails for adventure seekers. When it comes to real adventure, versus armchair adventure, the rugged mountains and interior waterways spur longing in the hearts of robust-minded travelers.
“Patagonia is the epitome of the final frontier,” says Sandi Kinton, president of Site Konnection, a venue research company based in Newport Beach. “If your clients are turned on by nature, and the beauty of nature, nothing is going to turn them on like Patagonia,” she says.
Kinton, who experienced Patagonia on her own, recommends it for incentive attendees who want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, or who want serious bragging rights around the water cooler. Exploring the icy glaciers and fjords is unlike any other travel experience, she says.
The most popular event is hopping aboard sturdy rubber zodiacs to navigate between drifting icebergs across the San Rafael Lagoon in San Rafael Lagoon National Park. Here, the high adrenaline in the group is palpable among the 19 ancient glaciers and 13,000-ft Mount San Valentine. Hours go by in peace and quiet amid awe-inspiring beauty around the lagoon’s tranquil waters. And then, without warning, massive chunks of ice come roaring free from the glacier before crashing down into the water. The group, says Kinton, feels at once exhilarated and humbled by the unforgettable spectacle.
Hard-charging clients who like hiking and ecology could find the challenge they’ve been seeking in Torres del Paine National Park, internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful, unique and pristine places on the planet. Granite peaks such as Cuernos del Paine thrust high upward from the Patagonian steppe, encircling glaciers and lakes spawned by the southern ice sheet. In warmer months, the breathtaking vistas lure nature lovers from around the world.
For group accommodations, Kinton says to keep in mind that Patagonia is remote. There are no large hotels with every amenity under the sun. Most are rustic lodges and Swiss-style chalets, which limit group size. The star of the show is the 50-room Explora Hotel Salto Chico in Torres del Paine. The simple, almost minimalist design atop a rocky precipice sits in stark contrast to the rugged peaks towering overhead.
Meanwhile, the cuisine and service is “refined versus luxurious,” according to the hotel. As such, the thrill of being where few others have been is the motivation and reward, rather than indulgent personal pampering. Past guests have said the view outside their window was so staggering they had trouble concentrating on eating their breakfast. Patagonia is that type of incentive—high drama for high performance.