The flight from Santiago, the capital of Chile, to Temuco, in the region of La Araucanía, lasted a bit more than an hour. We were three journalists with a mission: spend three days and two nights in the 5 star-hotel Antumalal, only 2 kilometers from Pucón, to taste the the new winter season menu.
We arrived at the airport and there was a van waiting for us. Fernando, our driver, turned out to be an avid conversationalist.
We arrived at Antumalal hotel shortly before 11 AM, where we were greeted with lit fireplaces and a late breakfast.
I went up to my room and was happy to see that it was identical to the photos I had previously seen on the Internet: the bed, wide and comfortable, fought side by side to crown itself as the main character of the room. Its rivals: the fireplace and the spectacular view to the Villarrica lake, which can be appreciated from the huge windows arranged throughout the hotel.
After a brief nap, we went down to the dining room, where Rony Pollak and his son Andrew Morgali, the hotelGeneral Manager, accompanied us. The alternatives for lunch were charchican of cochayuyo or trout with quinoa and cooked vegetables. I chose the fish and I didn’t make a mistake.
The construction of Corral del Sol
The history of Antumalal —Corral del Sol, in mapudungun, local language, which I translate as Sun Yard—- started on the first half of the 20th century, when a couple of Czechs left a Europe in ruins looking for a better future. Guillermo and Catalina Pollak arrived in Pucon, Chile, perhaps attracted by the cold weather and the green landscapes that reminded them of Czechoslovakia, says Andrew, the couple’s grandson.
The hotel that began as a tea room on the shores of Lake Villarrica, led to a hotel built on a plot of five hectares thanks to the first CORFO credit granted by the president of Chile, Gabriel Gonzalez Videla in 1944.
The result, designed by the Chilean architect Jorge Elton, is a construction with Bauhaus influences that mixes functionality and modernism; a hotel that integrates perfectly with the landscape thanks to the use of native wood, stone and concrete, becoming a hotel landmark thanks to its visionary concept of lodge.
One of the Antumalal’s entrance walls bears witness to the visit of great personalities such as Neil Armstrong, actress Emma Thompson and actor James Stewart. About 200 meters from the hotel is the royal villa: it was built specifically for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1968.
We took the van again, this time to visit the workshops of Juanita Becerra, an artisan of Curarrehue, located 38 kilometers from Pucón. The landscape left me absorbed: layers of colours and mountains serve as a background to the river Trancura. Juanita showed us her workshops, her source of inspiration an a piece of her life.
Our next stop was in La Cocina de Elisa (Elisa’s kitchen), the restaurant of Elisa Cea Epuin, just in front of Curarrehue’s main square. “It’s a Mapuche surname,” said Elisa, proud and serious. With a frown on her face she added she was busy with an order. We waited for her, while we entertained ourselves with the products displayed at her place: murtilla jams, canned changle (a local mushroom), honey biscuits and piñones (a typical southern fruit), among many others.
Elisa, more relaxed, noticed my curiosity looking at all this products, unknown to me. She invited us to try some changle empanadas, accompanied by muday, a typical Mapuche drink made from wheat. “I learned everything from my mother, but she cooks so much better than me,” she said. Elisa’s frown now gave way to a face full of laughter. Before we left she gave me a bag with piñon cookies and a brief, but warm hug.
Before returning to Antumalal, we stopped at Rony Pollak’s home, where we were greeted with tea and one of the best handmade cakes I have ever tried. And I do not exaggerate: Ron is the lively reflection of what I expect when I go to the south of Chile: a warm but simple person who conveys tranquility, just like the hotel her parents built.
On returning to the hotel, one of the attendants lit the fireplace in my room. I took a bath and then dipped into the wide bed, with the soft sound of the burning wood in the background.
The charm of the details
With 16 rooms and four chalets, the charm of the Antumalal is in the details: like the chairs and armchairs adorned with laces and the stone stairs that take you to the hotel’s spa. It also has an organic garden that provides the restaurant of the hotel, whose gastronomic bet is based on the vision of Rony’s mother, who used local ingredients of the area, a tradition that remains until today.
The second day of my visit to the hotel I went to visit Pucon. In the afternoon we participate in a tasting with the new Antumalal’s winter menu. First we tried a table “from sea to mountain” with goat cheese, pebre, sopaipillas, squid pil pil, crab pie, smoked sausage and skewers of loin.
Then we tried a selection of the main dishes: (from left to right, bottom photo) roasted strip of chancaca honey accompanied by creamy mote, crab filled sorrentinos and leek with saffron sauce, and risotto of chestnuts with ragout of deer and merlot (my favorite). For dessert we sample roasted pears in honey and thyme ice cream.
My visit to the Antumalal hotel was a perfect three-day escape from the Chilean busy capital, to one of the most visited places in the country by locals and foreigners. Pucon is a destination that has a lot to offer, both in winter and in summer, being the Antumalal the perfect place to rest, enjoy and take advantage of the many activities offered by the hotel: sauna and massage in the spa, trekking to the hot springs, horseback riding, rafting, birdwatching, among others.
Thanks Rony Pollak for the invitation. I really enjoyed the company of Andrew, Fernando, Maria Estela, Ana Maria and thanks to the entire Antumalal hotel team.
*This article has not been sponsored and all opinions correspond to my criteria and freedom of expression granted by the hotel Antumalal.
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