But then, tearing yourself away to head back to the hotel and blast away the desert dust under an outdoor shower before taking an aperitif in the open-plan bar isn't so tough. A stylish retreat set in 5 hectares of land just outside the oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama, this 32-room hotel is beautifully designed in muted tones of adobe and local materials to blend with its surroundings perfectly. Inside, all is modern and sleek - volcanic rock, llama rugs and local textiles create a soothing interior. Friendly staff pull out all the stops to cater for your every need, from a chilled poolside pisco sour, to a therapeutic massage, to late-night stargazing while laying back on comfy cushions around outdoor fire pits. Amazing.
- Sympathetic use of traditional materials including dry adobe bricks, wood and bamboo
- Astonishing array of desert landscapes, from moon valleys to salt lakes to spurting and steaming geysers
- Tariff includes a fantastic excursion programme, run by friendly and experienced bilingual guides
- The dramatic scenery and light make it a favourite location for fashion and music shoots: scenes from a recent Bond film were filmed here
- Fabulous treatments at the Uma Spa, and excursions allow a window after lunch when you can indulge
- Food choices are surprisingly varied for such a remote location; there are 3 menus, including one for vegetarians
- Prices are high but include full board and all excursions, so we think it's great value
- San Pedro de Atacama sits at 2,400m, and some expeditions take you as high as 4,500m, which can induce altitude sickness - factor in a day or 2 of acclimatisation
- Though it is located in an oasis, water consumption should be sensible
- Tourism is a double-edged sword for San Pedro - tour companies are ever present and arguably detract from its charm
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- 32 rooms
- All inclusive
- Over 10s welcome
- Closed: 1 Apr 2024 - 30 Nov 2024
- Spa Treatments
- Beach Nearby
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Car not necessary
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
- Bicycles Available
A flowery garden path leads from the hotel's main living area to the minimalist yet cosy bedrooms, each of which has its own external door. They're spotless, spacious, light and airy, with a desert-inspired décor and colour scheme.
But it's the view which is the main attraction - towards the stunning conical Licancabur volcano, or facing the sunset behind the salt mountains. In the Oriente Rooms, full-length sliding doors lead outside to a cushioned seating area, which is great for star-gazing in the clear desert skies.
Inside, the four-poster beds are large and firm, with soft white cotton sheets, a lightweight duvet, a warmer brown counterpane and plump pillows. Llama-skin and woollen rugs partially cover the warm grey stone floor, and an upright wicker chair and armchair complete the soft furnishings.
The bathroom is separated from the bedroom by frosted glass with a pretty branch design, and fragrant products from Austral Organics - a local brand - are supplied. Our room (number 6) had 2 wonderfully powerful showers, 1 indoor and 1 outdoor, while others (such as room 30) replace the indoor shower with a tub. You also get a Tierra Atacama-branded vanity set, hairdryer, robe and slippers.
In all rooms, you get air-con, a fan, heating, WiFi and a safe box but there are no TVs. It can get a little stuffy at night as the adobe walls retain the day's heat and release it in the evening, but this can be solved by leaving the doors open for a while or switching on the A/C.
- Safe box
The restaurant forms a part of the main open-plan living area. High ceilings and full-length windows allow a sense of space and light that echoes the plains beyond. Slim steel columnns, dark wood tables and the palate of muted desert shades keep things cool.
A decent breakfast buffet of cereals, breads, toast, conserves, cold cuts and cooked eggs is served in the mornings.
Lunch and dinner are 3-course affairs with 3 choices per course (always with one vegetarian option). The emphasis is on locally sourced ingredients and simple regional specialities with a twist - we loved the Chilean ceviche with coconut milk, and the perfectly prepared congrio fish with salsa verde. Since our visit, the menus have been elevated even further, and "traditional dinners" are held every few nights.
A comprehensive list of Chilean wines is available, but only a small selection of wines by the glass are provided under the all-inclusive tariff. After-dinner coffees and teas are served, but an interesting and tasty alternative is an infusion of the local rica-rica herb, which is reputed to have digestive properties. Fresh fruit salads are always on the menu, and delicious fruit juices are prepared to order at the bar at any time.
There are several decent restaurants in San Pedro de Atacama, particularly on and around the bustling Calle Caracoles, serving parriladas (barbecued meat), pizzas, sandwiches and local specialities.
- All meals included
- Organic produce
On your first day you figure out an itinerary with the head of excursions. Guides are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and friendly, and speak excellent English. Transport is comfortable, and snacks and cold drinks are provided; trips are for a maximum of 12 people, but usually the group will be about 6. You could:
- Visit the nearby salt lake, Salar de Atacama, at sunset to pretend you're on a different planet. Watch the mountains changing colour, and try to capture the perfect image of pink flamingos mid-flight
- Take a cactus walk through rugged terrain and marvel at this hardy plant's ability to flourish in the most inhospitable environment
- Wildlife to spot includes vicuñas (they’re very shy), vizcacha (a type of huge rabbit) and foxes. Birdlife is incredibly varied depending on the habitat you visit (dry desert, oases etc), including 3 different types of flamingo, owls, and raptors
- Explore Vallecito and practice your photographic techniques, while getting a fascinating insight into the genesis of the mountains
- Get up early to take a trip out to the 80 geysers around the El Tatio volcano to see steam rising from the centre of the earth
- Get active: volcano climbing, horse riding or biking adventures can all be arranged through the hotel (they have bikes to borrow). Or go sand-boarding on one of the massive dunes nearby
- Head to the nearby village of Toconao (just 550 inhabitants) to see its beautiful church and houses of white volcanic stone, and pick up some local cactus-wood handicrafts
- Pay a visit to the Museo Arqueologico to see the fascinating collection of Atacameño artefacts acquired by Belgian missionary Padre Gustave Paige
- Take a trip out to see the petroglyphs (rock engravings), recording the experiences of indigenous people and traders of the past
- At the hotel you can practice yoga on platforms in the grounds or take cooking classes
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Cooking classes
- Horse riding
- Mountain biking
- Museums / galleries
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
Only children aged 10 and over are allowed, and the wild landscape and excursions are definitely best suited to older kids and teens. The absence of any TVs in the rooms may be a shock to the system of some children, but there's a TV and board games in the main living area. Between excursions, there is plenty of room to explore - kids can pick fruit such as pomegranates and figs when in season, and walkways lead to hidden corners where lush vegetation grows.
The desert landscape is visually exciting for kids, and while they may not be as enthralled by geological intricacies as their parents might, the excursions can easily be adapted for families.
Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
There are two apartments, both made up of three interconnecting bedrooms, which each have their own bathroom, plus a large private terrace overlooking the hotel gardens. These can sleep up to six people.
Extra Beds Available
Kids Activities on site:
- Heated indoor pool with jets and bubble beds
- Outdoor pool
- Board games
- Bicycles to borrow
- TV lounge
Kids Activities nearby:
- Visit the village - cute main square, interesting church with a cactus roof, museum with Atacameñan mummies
- Excursions tailored for kids focusing on wildlife such as visiting the salt lakes with flamingoes that fly at sunset
- Horse ride or cycle round the village lanes
- Walk up the sand dunes and roll down them
- Soak in the hot springs
- Watch the night skies through a telescope and learn about the Andean constellations such as the llama and the fox, plus the planets and Milky Way
Families Should Know:
Pool is unfenced, there's an open fire in the living room.
- Airport: 90 minutes
- Hospital: 100 minutes
- Shops: 20 minutes
Tierra Atacama is located just outside San Pedro de Atacama in the Atacama Desert, about 8,000ft above sea level and 1,670km north of Santiago.
Calama El Loa (98km away) is the nearest airport and has flights from Santiago's Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez airport. Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.
From the Airport:
Airport transfers are included in the all-inclusive tariff. A taxi will cost around 30,000 pesos and the journey takes about 1.5 hours.
Should you prefer to travel overland from Santiago, it's a 2-day road trip by car (with intermittent petrol stations). For car hire, see our car rental recommendations.
From Santiago it's a long but comfortable 20-hour journey by bus, with seats that recline fully - see TurBus for details.
Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.com.
More on getting to Chile and getting around
- Calama El Loa 98.0 km CJC
- Beach 300.0 km
- Shops 1.5 km
- Restaurant 1.5 km