Located within the Nahuel Huapi National Park, Llao Llao is poised on a small hill between two impossibly blue lakes and framed by three snow-capped mountains. It is in one of the most glorious spots in the Patagonian Lake District.

Designed by the architect Alejandro Bustillo in 1938, Llao Llao is also a national landmark and a source of pride to Argentines.

Mention that you've stayed here and you'll be met with the same awed silence as if you said that you were a close friend of Diego Maradona's.

The road to this hallowed position, however, has not been smooth. Just over a year after it opened the hotel burnt to the ground, amid rumours that it had been cursed from day one. But the tenacious Bustillo (he designed and oversaw 250 projects in his lifetime and undertook all the work on Llao Llao for free) wasn't someone who gave up easily and the hotel was up and running again within 14 months.

Then, in 1978, as Argentina pulled itself out of economic crisis, Llao Llao, at the time state-run, was closed. It remained boarded up for 15 years (apart from a very brief flirtation with Club Med). The sleeping giant was finally rescued and renovated by a group of private investors in 1993 and in 1999 became a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World group.

Now known as Llao Llao Hotel and Resort, its impressive range of facilities and activities makes it Argentina's ultimate all-inclusive destination. Activities include condor-watching on Mount La Buitrera, fishing, archery, guided walks and golf.


The Llao Llao Hotel and Resort (00 54 2944 448530; www.llaollao.com) Avenue Ezequiel Bustillo, Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina.

Time to international airport: It's a two-hour flight from Buenos Aires to the airport San Carlos de Bariloche which is around a 45-minute journey from the Llao Llao Hotel and Resort.


Although more than adequate, the standard double rooms are a tad disappointing for a hotel of this calibre. There are 147 doubles, 11 suites and one cabin. However, they all have a lake or mountain view and the hearty buffet breakfast included in the price is superb. The huge lobby lounge also has to be seen to be believed. Decorated in the style of a Canadian hunting lodge, Oriental rugs drape the glossy wood floors, antler chandeliers hang from the beams on the ceiling, and paintings by some of the most eminent Argentine artists grace the cypress and pine-log walls.

Freebies: toiletries, slippers and a good many activities too, such as tango classes and guided walks. Also, free daily transport to the 67km of glorious slopes on Mount Catedral (the ski season runs from July to August).

Keeping in touch: phones in the rooms and cable TV; internet access is free in the business centre.


Doubles in low season start at $175 (£90); high season, $295 (£150).

I'm not paying that: then try the good-value Quetrihue cabins on 78 Rio Colorado in nearby Villa La Angostura (0054 02944 495061 www.quetrihue.com.ar). A cabin for two costs from just 180 pesos (£30) and includes breakfast and maid service.