Awasi Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama, Atacama Desert, Chile Book from

Intimate rustic-luxe oasis in Chile’s most dramatic desert, with adobe cabanas, sociable pool patio and tailormade private excursions
For thousands of years, San Pedro de Atacama has provided respite for travellers crossing the world’s driest desert. Today it’s the jumping-off point for tours of a startling geological collage of volcanoes, salt flats, turquoise lagoons, boiling geysers and Sahara-like dunes that awes even the most cosmopolitan traveller.

Quechua for 'home,' Awasi Atacama offers an authentic and singularly personal welcome. Cabanas with pointed thatched roofs mimic the neighbouring historic village, Aldea de Tulor. Meals served on the patio introduce surprising local flavours. Your private guide is ready to take you off-road to places tourists haven’t discovered. While the local wildlife, magical sunsets and nightly riot of stars will make you feel small, at Awasi you’re anything but insignificant. Drop your dusty hiking boots in the basket by your door to be cleaned. Savour a glass of Chilean Carménère by a poolside fireplace. Drift to sleep in a kingsize bed. This is the smallest and most intimate luxury lodge in San Pedro, and our favourite.

Highs

  • The grounds: landscaped paths connect cabanas to a sprawling 'living-room' patio with candle-lit conversation areas, fireplaces, an open bar/kitchen and a pool
  • Creature comforts: kingsize beds, WiFi, free lemon-mint lip balm and acclimatizing chachacoma tea
  • Authentic architecture: brea (hollow twig) lampshades, walls of adobe and smooth San Pedro River stones
  • Distinctive cuisine fusing local herbs, grains and fruits; or you can walk to San Pedro's restaurants
  • Fantastic bespoke outings, from llama caravans to river hikes: for each couple, a multilingual guide and 4x4 GPS-fitted jeep await (no coach trips here!)

Lows

  • It looks frighteningly expensive - but bear in mind that rates include all meals, drinks, private excursions and transfers from the local airport
  • Dusty San Pedro is very much a tourist town with cheap souvenirs, restaurant touts and crowds during summer, but you can escape the tack at Awasi
  • The altitude (2450m/8000ft) may cause mountain sickness (headache, nausea), while the intense sunlight and arid desert air take their toll on hair, skin and sinuses
  • There are no TVs or DVDs. Nature provides the drama here

Best time to go

Days are sunny and mild nearly year-round - ranging from 72F (22C) in the winter (June-August) to highs of 90F (32C) in the summer (January-March), the busiest months for tourists. In February, the “Bolivian Winter” can produce some rainfall. Winter nights can be chilly; temperatures can fall below freezing.

On February 2, the biggest festival in San Pedro, Festival de la Candelaria, features a large parade of bands and dancers.

Our top tips

  • If you’re into stargazing, schedule your trip during the new moon for the best viewing conditions; otherwise, the drama of a full moon adds to this unique landscape
  • Bring lots of layers of clothes (whenever you come), and lots of sun-cream - the sun is intense at altitude
  • If you want to see more of Chile's stunning landscapes, combine a stay here with Awasi Atacama's sister property in Patagonia

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 10
  • All inclusive
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

Each of the cabanas is a luxurious oasis in itself. Furnished with dark wood and wicker, and decorated with twig sconces and handmade dolls, interiors have a quirky but comfy elegance. Adobe walls, wood floors and thatched roofs keep you appropriately warm or cool, depending on the season.

We loved the circular cabanas. Some of them share a patio, complete with umbrellas, a cushioned wrought-iron couch, wicker chairs and a bistro-style table (but each has a small private patio too); the fifth sits apart, with a huge patio all to itself. Our spacious bedroom had a kingsize bed, a cushioned chaise longue with a reading lamp, a wicker easy chair and an executive-style writing table with stationary, postcards, even a sharpened pencil. Other thoughtful touches include a bedside torch and a pair of walking sticks.

As for our bathroom, we could have hosted a party in its marbled and tiled grandeur. In addition to twin sinks, there’s a nook for a partially sunken tub (with bath salts and a loofah), a shower (with rain head) behind a beaded curtain, and a separate toilet room. You get a makeup mirror, a hairdryer and a tray of amenities including a natural pumice stone, a hand-carved wooden comb and Awasi Atacama’s own line of lip balm, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and milled soap - a deliciously piquant blend of mint and lemon derived from the thumbnail-size limón de pica.

Three equally spacious rectangular cabanas (adjacent to the main lobby across the road) have larger private patios and long, narrow bathrooms.

At night, step outside to marvel at the starriest night sky you may ever see, then slip between crisp white sheets topped with a down comforter and an alpaca blanket. The evening turn-down service brings an Awasi chocolate in a cactus box and a woven mat to your bedside.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Wake to the songs of desert finches and have breakfast delivered to your room or semi-private patio table. Or amble down a flagstone path lined with golden pampas grass and river stones to the main patio, where breakfast is served from 8-10am - but you can get it served later if you want. Fresh fruit, still-warm breads, pitchers of hand-squeezed orange and chirimoya juices, yoghurt, cereals and cold cuts are arranged buffet-style on the counter, where a cook is ready to fix you eggs, omelette, French toast - whatever you like. It's a luxurious start to the day which would be a credit a 5-star city hotel, let alone 8000ft up in the Chilean desert.

Lunch (1-3pm) and dinner (8-10pm) are served daily, on request - again the hotel can adapt to your schedule. The emphasis is on light fare, easy to digest at this high altitude. Our first dinner included pumpkin soup tinged with ginger, handmade fettuccine flavoured with rica rica (a local herb similar to rosemary) and a creamy dessert parfait made with a local fruit called lúcuma.

Daily menus - featuring fish, meat and vegetarian dishes - have footnotes defining the local ingredients. Executive chef Ana Mingo creates a unique fusion of traditional Chilean specialties and international dishes with local produce supplied by subsidised farming communities called ayllus. Feast on fish such as Chilean reineta or steak topped with a sauce blending the local Carménère varietal with a syrup from the plum-like fruit of the chañar tree.

If you don't like the look of the daily specials, choose a salad and spinach fettuccine (a good option for vegetarians) and ice cream for dessert. Guests are welcome to take recipes home or learn new cooking tips, perched on a stool at the open kitchen.

The bar stocks premium liquors, including the popular pisco, and a good selection of wines from all regions of Chile, as well as a premium wine list. Settle into a cushioned sculpted adobe booth and enjoy the music (energetic Latin beats in the morning; smooth jazz vocals after dark). If the night air is crisp, pull an alpaca blanket over you, or settle by an open brazier or fireplace.

Awasi staff are also happy to recommend local restaurants offering everything from omelettes to empanadas, and all within walking distance.

Features include:

  • All meals included
  • Bar
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • At the hotel: Swim, get a massage in a poolside cabana, sip pisco sour by the fire, take a cooking lesson, enjoy a long soak in the tub and stargaze from your private patio

  • Book a day-adventure: there are over 20 choices, customised to your fitness and interests, from an early-morning trip to the boiling El Tatio geysers at 13,780ft, to witnessing the astonishing sunset at Moon Valley (with wine and cheese). All are designed to have minimum environmental impact and maximum visual impact (you'll see places which even the locals don't know about)

  • Shop: San Pedro has a handful of nice galleries and shops on Caracoles and Tocopilla streets. Look for hand-woven alpaca blankets, aguayos (a traditional Andean textile used to carry things), handcrafted Atacama pottery, cactus wood boxes and picture frames, and jewellery made from silver or chañar, algarrobo and pimiento seeds. The Mercado Artesenal, off the main square, is more touristy, with items imported from Peru and Argentina

  • Discover Atacama culture: Padre Le Paige Archaeological Museum is a treasure - a wheel of small galleries displaying the finds of the eponymous Belgian Jesuit priest and documenting the daily life and evolution of the Atacamenean culture. Take a peek into the Church of San Pedro, a national monument since 1952; it’s constructed with leather straps instead of nails, with a ceiling of cactus, mud and straw

  • Stargaze: A thick blanket of stars is a nightly spectacle in this thin, dry atmosphere. Tours by French astronomer Alain Maury from local company SPACE entertain and enlighten lay-observers and amateur enthusiasts alike; view and photograph stars, planets and nebulae through a handful of large telescopes

  • Test your limits: Various extreme and adventure sports - from climbing a volcano to sand boarding on the local dunes - are on offer from local agencies like Vulcano

  • Learn local crafts: In San Pedro take a ceramics, stained glass, silk-screening or jewellery-making class

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Astronomy
  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Photography classes
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Safaris
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Traditional cultures
  • Trekking
  • Wildlife

Kids

Awasi Atacama has many child-friendly activities, including the chance to get to know a traditional trade in the region during a visit to a local artisan and to try it with their own hands, the chance to learn about local flora and fauna and astronomy, and the chance to keep a travel blog during their stay.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Families staying in the Rectangular Suites can request extra beds for a supplement, as well as cots

Baby equipment:

Baby cots available on request

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Families Should Know:

Keep in mind that small children can react unpredictably to altitude

Distances:

  • Airport: 75 minutes
  • Hospital: 80 minutes
  • Shops: 5 minutes
Kid Friendly:

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