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Follow in the footsteps of the emigrants and adventurers who sought a perfect reflection of Europe among the distant lakes of Argentine Patagonia
A view of Llao Llao hotel looking from Lake Perito Moreno to Lake Nauel Huapi in northern Patagonia
Photographs PHILIP LEE HARVEY @philip_lee_harvey_photographer

DURING THE 1930S, THE bourgeoisie of Buenos Aires faced a conundrum. Rich on the proits of their young nation, they had become used to extravagant holidays in dawdling by the banks of Lake Como, St Moritz to scoff chocolate and breathe crisp Alpine air. But with Europe in the grip of extremism and the build-up to World War II, they had to look elsewhere.

Around this time, architect Alejandro Bustillo hit on a novel solution. Rather than taking Argentinians to Europe, he decided to have a slice of European-style sophistication constructed in one of the wildest quarters of Argentina. Some 850 miles southwest of Buenos Aires lies the Lake District – the point at which gravel desert rockets up into the snowy summits of the Andes. A territory of lakes of uncharted depths and unconquered peaks, on a good day it might just pass for St Moritz, or maybe Zermatt.

On a little promontory, Bustillo set about designing a resort hotel to rival the Ritzes of Europe. There would be a golf course, where Argentine beef barons could hit their nine irons and watch errant balls plop into glacial lakes. It would have boutiques where the barons’ wives could buy expensive dresses, and an on-site chapel where they could confess their avarice. There would be a ballroom in which guests could dance beneath chandeliers as the building rocked in the gales of the Andean night. The Llao Llao Hotel would be a pocket of urbanity in one of the world’s great wildernesses – Patagonia.

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