TravelTango - Helsingfors Ranch

Helsingfors Ranch - Province of Santa Cruz - Patagonia

Estancia Helsingfors


HELSINGFORS...
A unique destination in Patagonia- Impressive nature- Exclusive service- Sophisticated regional cuisine

The Lodge | Activities | Packing list | History | Photogallery

The Lodge

Helsingfors se encuentra a 180 km de El Calafate. La Hostería se encuentra rodeada de un majestuoso escenario natural, protegida por una tupida arboleda que cede paso a una panorámica vista del lago y la Cordillera de los Andes

During the early XX century, a Finnish adventurer, Alfred Ranström, settled at the foot of the Andes Mountains, on the SW shores of Lago Viedma. As a memory of his fatherland, he named his estancia after his country's capital city: Helsingfors (Helsinki in Swedish). Here he lived with his wife, Marie Lisau and their children, lightening up this wonderful spot, never imagining that they would be the main characters in one of Patagonia's most touching stories. During the 60's, a traditional family from the province of Santa Cruz bought this beautiful land, and since 1995 they have been receiving visitors from all over the world who wish to discover Patagonia through a unique and exclusive experience such as we offer at Helsingfors.

The lodge is surrounded by a majestic natural landscape, protected by lush woods which give way to a panoramic view of the lake, Mount Fitz Roy and the Andes Mountains. It has 8 rooms with a private bathroom, decorated and designed with an exquisite taste, combining colors and textures that blend in with the environment. Guests share their experiences around a large fireplace in the living area or enjoying a drink at the bar. A refined cellar with Argentine and Chilean wines accompanies the delights of a sophisticated regional cuisine. * Located in Los Glaciares National Park * Eight exquisitely decorated rooms (some have whirlpool baths and others have Scottish showers) * Regular transfers from El Calafate on pre-specified days * Sophisticated regional cuisine * Open October through April

Activities:

Tours are exclusive for Helsingfors guests and are conducted with a bilingual guide. Navigating to Glaciar Viedma, in order to discover the life of glaciers, their secrets, sounds, being stunned by their enormity and the variety of their colors; trekking or horseback riding in the mountain, through valleys and up rivers until, after crossing a lush wood of lengas, you find the brilliant Laguna Azul and the glacier bearing the same name; accessing remote landscapes such as Lagunas del Morro, which are unveiled after a long walk (for trekking lovers) or navigating through the Moyano, where you will be able to enjoy nature and will have a chance to practice trout fishing; horseback riding through endless beaches on the shores of Lago Viedma overlooked by Mount Fitz Roy; these are some of the outdoor activities offered by Helsingfors.

Trekking or Horseback cabalgata to Blue Lagoon

The visitor sets out on an old grass trail which starts at the same lodge. The path enters the river Alfredo valley (the same one that provides energy to the lodge), gradually ascending by the sides of the Huemul Hill and with the musical noise of the river. After a 40-minute walk, a most magnificent view can be seen from where one can appreciate the magnitude of Mt. Fitz Roy emerging from the other side of Viedma Lake. The path continues to enter deeper into the valley that becomes narrower, surrounded by the Cordón Huemul and its peaks that reach 2700 ms in height; the Blue Lagoon glacier can already be seen in the horizon of the valley. The footpath then leads into a forest of “lengas” and “ñires”. During the journey it is usual to see guanacos and condors curiously approaching to observe the visitor. After a one-hour walk at the end of the valley, one sees the river descending in escalating form on the rocks, forming a spectacular waterfall at a height of 300 ms. The journey continues bordering the mountain to where the river rises and which is reached after a 50-minute climb and places the traveler where the snows are permanent on the mountains that surround him. A 10-minute walk and a small wood separate the visitor from his objective. Upon arrival, one can see the lagoon in a deep bright blue contrasting with the darkness of the mountain and the whiteness of the glacier which descends from the highest of the Andes Mountains to the very bank of the lagoon. The surroundings are beautiful and invite to contemplation and reflection in absolute silence, which is only interrupted by the sounds of the usual avalanches that take place from the summits falling to the glacier. Back >>

Rating of difficulty: Medium
Length of trip: 16 kms
Maximum height reached
during the trip: 850 ms
Duration of trip: by foot: 5.30 hours /on horseback: 4.30 h

Navegation to Viedma Glacier

Leaving from the Lodge’s pier, one embarks in a Zodiac with capacity for 18 passengers, which guarantees the maximum security on the Viedma Lake. One sets out Northbound, with Mt. Fitz Roy in front like a great lighthouse guiding the way over the enormous mirror of 1100 km2 of water. It takes a 40-minute navigation to reach Viedma Glacier. During this time, while bordering the Western coast of the lake, the visitors may have the privilege to observe the Strict Reserve (“Estricta Reserva”) – where mankind has no access – of the Glaciers’ National Park, where the largest colony of “guemals” (domestic stag in extinction) dwell in the Austral Patagonia. In spite of these creatures being extremely shy, the observant traveler may be lucky enough to notice some drinking water from the lake banks or hidden among the vegetation.

Before reaching the glacier, hidden within the rocky walls, lies the Amphitheatre Waterfall – “El Anfiteatro de la Cascada”, a narrow entrance of water in the rock, which enlarges once inside, thus forming a large circumference, with walls 40 meters-tall and crowned by a 10 meters-tall cascade which falls in the middle of the amphitheatre.

It takes only a few minutes more navigation before reaching Viedma Glacier, the giant of Glaciers National Park, that with its colossal size of 978 km2, makes even the Upsala of 902 km2 seem small (for years the largest of National Park). Upon arrival, the view is sublime: the glacier haughtily stands approximately 60 ms above lake level and on its walls nature displays tones of blue never seen before. The motors of the Zodiac are switched off at a prudential distance to listen to its rhythm: internal and external ruptures produce large uproars alternating with unpredictable silences. Together these compose a perfect natural symphony that touches those who have the privilege to perceive this; it is precisely then that the traveler understands that the glacier can, not only be observed, but also heard, one can feel it, one can live it.

As if this sight wasn’t enough, one disembarks on the dark side of the glacier to take a close view of the erosion that was provoked by its pass on the rock, leaving it completely trimmed forming neat shapes and curves. Cautiously approaching the glacier, one can touch it, drink its millenarian waters, and if the ice-conditions allow it, the visitor may explore inside searching deeper in its caverns which separate the rock and ice (this option is only possible in some circumstances, the tour-guide will decide whether the conditions are appropriate). After 40 minutes crossing the dark side, one sets out again to return to Helsingfors, not before taking as a token, a piece of millenarian ice for the evening drinks.

Rating of difficulty: Medium
Length of trip: 50 kms
Maximum height reached during the trip: 350 ms above sea level
Duration of trip: 5 hs

Navegation and Trekking to Laguna del Morro

Departure from the lodge’s pier, heading Westbound along one of Viedma Lake’s branches – which penetrates the Andes Mountains – known as Moyano Bay. During the navigation one can appreciate the Huemul, Mascarello, Moyano Hills and the majestic North Hill, while reaching the end of Moyano Bay, one comes across a valley of the river with the same name and at the end of it, descending the mountains, the Moyano Glacier, in its upper part as a hanging glacier and in its lower part as a valley glacier. After 25 minutes of navigation one arrives at the descending point, where one sets out for a 30-minute walk until one comes upon what is known as the Morro Lagoon. A mirror of crystal water is revealed with emerald green “lenga” woods that surround it. This lagoon is a quiet and peaceful paradise, ideal for trout fishing. Those more enthusiastic can continue walking for a short time and discover the two lagoons (one of them very extensive) and both are close by.

Those who wish can return on the Zodiac. The most adventurous can choose to return walking, bordering the Wind Peninsula. The distance by foot is 9 kms.

Rating of difficulty: Medium
Length of trip: 20 kms
Maximum height reached during the trip: 450 ms
Duration of trip: Round trip navigation: 4.00 hs. One way navigation and return by foot: 7.00 hs

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Packing list
Basic pack should include

Equipaje recomendado

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History

The story of Helsingfors is closely related to Alfred Ramstrom’s life, its founder, and it takes place in the beautiful glacier area on the Coast of Viedma Lake.

At the beginning of 20th century, a group of Scandinavians were captivated by the landscape, and they settled in this area and played a significant role in the development of Santa Cruz lands.

Alfred Ramstrom arrived in Argentina in the year 1907 after fleing away from Finland, his homeland, which was going through a difficult situation under the Russian Regime. Finland was part of the Great Power and had become the “Autonomous Grand Duchy”, the Russian Zar being the Grand Duke.

He started working at a lumber-yard in the Obera area, in the Province of Misiones, where it was customary for foreigners to be hired for forest exploitation. In 1912, he was employed by the French Company for the building of a large shed on the premises of “La Primera” Ranch, in the area of Chatlén. He was fascinated by the marvellous views and started breeding horses, which were sold for the acquisition of land for his new ranch in 1917. He gave it the name of “Helsingfors”, which means Helsinski (Finland's capital city) in Swedish.

Andreas Madsen and Pedro Jensen were two Scandinavians who had worked with Ramstrom in “La Primera” Ranch. Both of them returned to Denmark, and after a while, came back to Argentina. They were married to Martine Thompsen and Maria Lissau, respectively. While they were staying in Punta Arenas, they gave birth to their first children. Maria Lissau and Pedro Jensen had two sons, Herald and Oluf, and they lived together until Jensen died of tuberculosis in 1918. Maria, who did not speak the Spanish language, and her helpless family, lived by the local people's charity, until Madsen (who had already settled in his ranch called “Fitz Roy”, in the area of Chaltén) learnt about the tragedy, and decided to help Maria, by taking her and her sons along to live with them on “Fitz Roy” Ranch. Once there, she started working as a laundrywoman.

The Madsens’s Ranch was the meeting point for all the Nordic dwellers in the area. Here, Maria met Alfred Ramstrom. In November 1919, they got married and on 19th of November, their first and only son, Knud, was born in Punta Arenas. His birth was one of the most well-known ones in the Viedma Lake area, due to the fact that it took them 17 days to make the journey from Helsingfors to Punta Arenas. They sailed across lakes and rivers and travelled along snowy paths in the Province of Santa Cruz.

The Ramstrom family sent their eldest son, Oluf, to Denmark so that he could study and become acquainted with his mother’s birth land. But he did not like Europe, so he came back to Patagonia. Teachers were hired for the children’s education, and stayed with them in Helsingfors. They were taught the basics. Only Knud went to school; he was a boarder at Saint David’s School in Trelew.

During the 40's, Alfred Ramstrom went sick, so he travelled to Buenos Aires with Maria to be hospitalized in the Hospital Alemán (German Hospital). Knud, who was in Mendoza learning his Uncle Einar Ramstrom’s job -he owned a neon-light factory- returned to Helsingfors in order to take charge of his father's ranch. In September 1942, Ramstrom died and Maria went back to Helsingfors carrying her husband’s ashes, which were buried in his beloved land just like he had wished.

Shortly after, Knud married Filomena Pérez and settled in Helsingfors together with Maria, Oluf and Harald, who were still single. After a while, Knud and Filomena left Helsingfors.

In 1946, Filomena and Knud started building their own house with clay bricks a few meters away from “Moa” Maria’s house. This house would be extended in 1960 and would come to be the house model to be built 34 years later for the purpose of hosting visitors at Helsingfors.

Knud had a passionate interest in trees, and we owe him a lot for the beautiful grove that we have in Helsingfors at present. He had a great love for coniferae for he had the possibility of sowing pine seeds and taking care of them till they became grown-up plants. The first species he sowed were sequoias, which still thrive and are several meters high.

The married couple had three sons: Alfredo, María Isabel and Inés. They lived with their children on the ranch until the latter ones moved to other towns to study: Río Gallegos, Piedra Buena and Río Grande. The three children had a very happy and healthy childhood in the country. They were free and could explore and enjoy the landscape, while Moa Maria’s wealth of wisdom accompanied them with her games, stories and happy laughter.

In 1969, they decided to sell Helsingfors Ranch to the Susacasa family because their children’s absence made them feel very lonely. In 1972, Moa Maria died and they moved from their ranch in Río Chico to Río Gallegos, where Knud worked at the Agrarian Council, until he retired as Head of the Department of Forests and Parks in 1976. Knud Ramstrom died in 1986 and Filomena lives in Rio Gallegos with her daughter Maria Isabel at present.

Since 1996, Helsingfors welcomes visitors from all over the world and allows them to discover its past, its great beauty and enjoy Patagonia in a unique way.

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