“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”
Families, friends and sociable couples are quickly drawn into conversation at this unpretentious guest-village, 1km outside town. Rows of casitas with straw roofs and adobe towers, framed by fields of purple alfalfa buzzing with iridescent dragonflies, sit at the base of the altiplano (high plateau) - the dramatic middle-ground between the volcanic peaks of the Andes and the bone-dry landscapes of the Atacama. It's a perfect retreat to relax in between day trips to flamingo lakes and boiling geysers, sitting by the mirror-like pool with its commanding view of the 6,000m Licancabur volcano.
- This is a spacious, laid-back retreat away from San Pedro's tourist traffic, with a sociable pool-barbecue and family-friendly accommodation
- Everything - walls, windows, benches - is beautifully sculpted from adobe
- Rooms come in all shapes and sizes; each has a private terrace facing the Andes, and newer ones have an outdoor shower for washing à la belle étoile
- Inside, you'll find exotic Balinese handicrafts gathered by the ever-smiling manager Maria Angélica on her travels
- Thoughtful extras include all-day tea and coffee, and bagged breakfasts for pre-dawn excursions
- The dusty walk to San Pedro sometimes feels just a bit too long (15 minutes), particularly in the afternoon heat; you’ll need a torch (available from reception) after dark
- Prices for food and wine are slightly higher in San Pedro than in other places in Chile
- Service in the hotel’s dining room is smiley but a bit shaky, though a new chef has improved the food
- The rustic-funky décor and untamed landscaping may be too earthy for some, and there's no in-room TV, WiFi, minibar, air conditioning or ceiling fan
Best time to go
If you’re into stargazing, schedule your trip during the new moon (when there's no visible moon) for the best viewing conditions; otherwise, the drama of a full moon adds to this unique landscape.”
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- Restaurant and bar
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
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.
- Central heating
- Cots Available
- Internet access
- Safe box
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.
- Restaurants nearby
- Vegetarian menu
- Plan an adventure: ask the staff to recommend local tour guides they know personally. The guides come to the hotel to meet you then introduce you to your choice of dozens of sights and experiences - from a dawn outing to the boiling El Tatio geysers at 13,779ft to sunset at the astonishing Moon Valley (this was a highlight for us). You can also visit pre-Hispanic archaeological ruins and go horse-riding through natural sand sculptures in the desert
- Shop: San Pedro has some nice galleries and shops on Caracoles and Tocopilla streets. Look for hand-woven alpaca blankets, aguayos (traditional Andean textiles used to carry things), handcrafted Atacama pottery, cactus-wood boxes and picture frames, and jewellery made from silver or seeds from resident chanar, algarrobo and pimiento trees. The Mercado Artesenal, a covered passage off the main square, is more touristy, with items imported from Peru and Argentina
- Visit the highland lagoons. Miscanti and Miñique, at over 14,000ft, have wonderful birdlife including flamingos, plovers and geese - not to mention breathtaking vistas
- Visit Padre Le Paige Archaeological Museum - a real treasure, it has a wheel of small galleries displaying the finds of the Belgian Jesuit Priest and documenting details of 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 and has 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 of SPACE entertain and enlighten lay-observers and amateur enthusiasts alike, and you can view and photograph stars, planets and nebulae through a handful of large telescopes (see Rates)
- Test your limits by trying an extreme sport - like climbing a volcano or sand-boarding down the dunes (a specialty of local agencies like Vulcano)
- Back at the hotel, share a bottle of wine and swap stories with other guests on the patio, swim and sunbathe, or borrow a book to read on your private terrace
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Horse riding
- Museums / galleries
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
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.
Family friendly accommodation:
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
- Airport: 75 minutes
- Hospital: 80 minutes
- Shops: 5 minutes