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Mandala Andino Spa, Chile

Everyone teased us — challenged us actually — that we’d never find a spa to review in Antarctica. Well, they were right, sort of (keep reading), but during our Antarctic cruise, we were delighted to discover a spa when our luxury expedition ship, Hurtigruten's MS Fram, docked at one of our first ports-of-call in Chile, Puerto Natales.

The Mandala Andino Spa is run by lovely twin sisters and their mother, shown here with our masseuse, Patty. We quickly asked about massages, and were instructed to come back in an hour or so, and they could accommodate us with back-to-back appointments.

The property, Mandala Andino, features deep tissue, hot stones, reflexology, Shiatsu Zen therapy, Shiatsu in an ergonomic chair, Reiki, plus hot tubs that are actually huge wooden outdoor tubs, shown above. Talk about your Chilean ambiance!

For the massages, Kathy went first. The setup was actually a small room in the back of a a small gift store just off the sidewalk. The therapist, Patty, apologized for her English, but of course, it was not bad at all. And since we don’t speak Spanish, her communication was helpful. We each asked for the one-hour relaxing massage, which she delivered efficiently and without — greatly appreciated. The room was extremely warm, probably for the comfort of people coming in from the blistering cold of Patagonia and undressing. It was so warm, in fact, that we eventually, we had to ask for the heat to be lowered. We did notice, however, that the stand-alone radiator unit came in handy for another reason — Patty used it to warm her massage oil in a stainless bowl. So the warmed massage oil was very welcomed, along with her expert hands. Only once did we have to request more pressure. She adjusted easily.

Puerto Natales is considered the Gateway to the beautiful Torres del Paine, a huge national park that is a must see when in Chile. We highly recommend a visit.

And what about the hunt for a spa in Antarctica? Well the closest we found was courtesy of the Expedition Team onboard the MS Fram.

Our ship anchored just off Whaler’s Bay, Deception Island. That's it at left. This is one of the most visited spots in Antarctica, which is of course relevant, since so few visit the Great White Continent (about 32,000 all of 2007). Update 2018: Antarctica visitations are definitely rising: Total visitor numbers to Antarctica grew 17% from 44,367 in 2016-17 to 51,707 in 2017-18, continuing the upward trend that first started in 2011-12.

The island is actually a collapsed volcanic caldera, so the black-sand beach still steams with the thermal water below in some spots. Our MS Fram team members dug a hole, or “pool” in the sand so our fellow cruisers, at least the brave ones, could warm up in the thermal water after taking a cold, polar plunge. That’s different!

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