“Adobe village with a Balinese flavour, volcanic views, a lagoon-style pool and a community spirit, 1km from the tourist hub of San Pedro de Atacama”
Behind Hotel Altiplánico’s walls, 3 rows of casitas sprawl across tranquil gardens and agricultural fields, laced with irrigation canals and flagstone and gravel pathways. It feels more like a village than a hotel.
Most of the 31 rooms have unique layouts and vary in size to accommodate up to 5 people. There 15 Standard Rooms (with queensize or twin beds; two of these can be set up as triples or singles on request), plus 2 Triples and 2 Singles. Those here on a special occassion should opt for the Superior Rooms or Suites, which come with more space and some gorgeous design touches. If there are 5 guests, a number of Family Rooms are available on request.
The casitas are sculpted from adobe mud-bricks; benches, headboards and small geometric windows are all moulded from the malleable walls. One-of-a-kind decorative touches - iridescent Indian saris, Guatemalan desert-rainbow panchos, intricately carved Balinese armoires and the owners' own mosaics and hand-glazed windows - add colour and character. One of the rooms has a gorgeous triangular cut-out window, mimicking the shape of the majestic Licancabur volcano it frames; another room has its own beehive fireplace. The effect throughout is cosy and gently exotic, and all rooms have a private terrace facing the Andes.
Bathrooms are spacious and all have showers (ours also had a tub) and hairdryers, as well as Altiplánico’s own-brand shampoo, conditioner and body lotion in refillable stainless steel containers. Nature types will love the outdoor showers in some of the rooms, where you can wash under the most magnificently starry sky you’re ever likely to see.
From 7 to 10 each morning, a simple, hearty breakfast buffet is laid out on tables along 3 sides of the sunny dining room, where a stunning Balinese teak tree sculpture covers almost the entire back wall. With plump loaves of freshly baked bread, cereal made from quinoa (a protein-rich grain), scrambled eggs, mini-hotdogs and apple tart, plus fresh fruit and cookies to stuff into your backpack, it’s a satisfying carb-fest for guests heading out for an active day hiking the volcanoes, horse riding or bobbing about in a saltwater lagoon. Kids will love the chocolate milk, puffed cereal and sweet bread.
If you’re touring the Tatio geyser field (departure time: 4am!) or have an early flight out of Calama, the staff will come in early to brew fresh coffee and send you off with breakfast in a bag. Packed picnic lunches are also available if you're off on an expedition - just order them from the café/bar. Purified water and hot water for instant coffee and tea (including coca tea, which helps ease the effects of altitude sickness) are on offer throughout the day.
Altiplánico hired a new chef in July 2010 and what was once a cafeteria serving rudimentary meals has blossomed into a nice little restaurant for lunch and dinner. Well-plated starters include octopus with paprika scallops and big bean croquettes, and there are tempting à la carte mains such as grilled salmon with quinoa tabouleh and tuna steak with vegetable risotto. Even the pizzas have gone gourmet - the rocket, pesto, goats’ cheese and bacon option was one of the best we’ve tasted. There’s also a good (though pricey) selection of Chilean wines.
Despite the desert location, San Pedro has a surprising amount of options for eating out if you can handle the walk into town - Todo Natural has a great range of salads and we tried delicious stuffed avocadoes at Casa Piedras. We also hear good things about Blanco and Adobe, both more upmarket restaurants.
Children are welcome and will enjoy playing in the pool, plus older kids will love the exciting excursions. Keep in mind that small children can react unpredictably to altitude.
There are a number of Triple Rooms, and 2 of the Standard Rooms can also be configured as triples. There are also 3 Family Rooms which can sleep up to 5, these are available on request only