Long before the city of Puerto Natales became a gateway for Patagonia vacations and a ferry terminal for Chile’s northern fjords, tiny Puerto Bories was one of the region’s economic powerhouses. A century ago, when the granite needles of Torres del Paine symbolized little more than the presence of pasture to graze sheep, Bories became the processing point for wool and lamb exports that helped provide prosperity for southernmost Argentina and Chile.
Built by the Sociedad Explotadora de Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia’s most powerful 20th-century institution, Bories was a post-Victorian industrial architecture landmark that became a national historical monument a few years after it closed operations in 1993. After weathering in the wind and rain for another decade-plus, it’s now reopened as part of a luxury hotel that’s preserved the original installations as a museum open to the public.
Approached through the former woolshed, present-day Bories has recycled parts of the historic structure into a spacious bar and restaurant while preserving the boiler room, engine room and even a steam locomotive in their original configuration – even though they’re no longer operative. Hotel guests, in fact, pass through those rooms en route to their sleeping quarters.
Nature and its landscapes may be the main reason for taking a Patagonia vacation, but detours to historic sites like Puerto Bories can enrich the experience.