For his 50th birthday, Michael Paravicini gave himself an extraordinary hotel. Or, rather, gave himself permission to act on his long-time dream. And so in 2011, the Swiss-born Paravicini, who spent his first career racking up millions of frequent-flyer miles in global IT for Commerzbank and Zurich Insurance, set about shopping for a swath of land in a beautiful and remote part of the world.
The search led him back to a country from his childhood—Chile—and down to the lake district about an hour’s flight south of Santiago. On a family vacation, he’d been smitten with Pucón, a resort town popular with high-profile Chileans and Brazilians for skiing and water sports but little known in the northern hemisphere. Paravicini bought a large tract of land there and hired top architects and designers to develop a high-end boutique hotel.
On the eve of its first birthday, the Vira Vira Hacienda Hotel has already been accepted by Relais & Châteaux.
Vira Vira adheres to the model that put Chile on the luxury-adventure map: Tiny, high-design resorts with all-inclusive prices that include gourmet meals, terrific local wines and activities galore. These are places to push your limits—and then get sublimely comfortable. And, to be sure, all-inclusive doesn’t mean mass-market; Vira Vira’s rates start at $1,475 per person for a three-night stay.
That gets you a large but homey berth in one of the six guest rooms in the main lodge. There are also 12 split-level suites in a villa complex right in front of the rushing Liucura River and three guest rooms in Paravicini’s own home. All are clad in warmed-toned local lenga and alerce wood and outfitted with custom-designed furniture by noted architect Cristián Valdés and colourful, locally crafted woolens. But their best features may be the floor-to-ceiling windows with the bathtubs placed right in front (or actually outside, in the case of the villa suites).
Vira Vira’s 56 acres are subtly gorgeous, with snow-covered volcanoes dotting the horizon and lush trees in the foreground. A short hike uphill takes you into primeval forests of 1,000-year-old monkey-puzzle trees draped in feathery lichen. Because of the lakes nearby and the steep mountains, there’s an enormous range of all-season land- and water-based activities. Vira Vira’s guides are well-seasoned, and their offsite partner for horseback riding, Rodolfo Coombs, a former trainer to the Spanish Olympic equestrian team, is a charming spitfire worth visiting even if you don’t think you want to ride.