“A revitalising oasis where cool design and attentive service meet against a spectacular desert backdrop”
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
- Tarif includes a fantastic excursion programme, run by friendly and experienced multilingual guides
- The dramatic scenery and light make it a favourite location for fashion and music shoots: scenes from the last Bond film were filmed here
- Fabulous treatments at the Uma Spa, and excursions allow a window after lunch when you can indulge
- It seems incongruous for a hotel in the desert, but water is plentiful
- Prices are eyewateringly expensive, but include full board and all excursions
- 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
- Food choices can be limited, particularly for vegetarians, but the kitchen is happy to rustle up alternative options
- Tourism is a double-edged sword for San Pedro - tour companies and English signage dominate its streets, detracting from its charm - and its sustainability
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- All inclusive
- All ages welcome
- Open all year
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- 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 verbena products from L'Occitane 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, facial spray, sewing kit, hairdryer, robe and slippers.
In all rooms, you get 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.
- Central heating
- Cots Available
- Extra beds
- 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 from 8am to 10am, and a breakfast picnic is taken on early-morning excursions.
Lunch (1-3pm) and dinner (8-10pm) are 3-course set menus, usually a meat/fish and a vegetarian option. The emphasis is on locally sourced ingredients and simple regional specialities - we loved the Chilean ceviche with coconut milk, and the perfectly prepared congrio fish with salsa verde. The food can veer towards the pedestrian - some of the salads are a little too straightforward and lacking the finesse expected of such a high-quality establishment - but thoughtful touches like flower garnishes are welcome.
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. Blanco and Puro Chile stand out.
- All meals included
- Children meals
- Organic produce
- Room service
- Vegetarian menu
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 10 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 llamas, alpacas and, if you’re lucky, 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 Moon Valley and Death Valley 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 in low season (May-August)
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Cooking classes
- Mountain biking
- Museums / galleries
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Well being
While it is best suited to older children and teens, smaller ones will be well looked after here - Chileans love childen. The absence of any TVs in the rooms may be a shock to the system of some children, but there's a TV in the main living area, and board games, computer games and toys are also available. There is plenty of room to run around and explore - wicker chairs hang from trees in different locations to make a cool swing, kids can pick fruit such as pomegranates and grapes when in season, and walkways lead to hidden corners where tomatoes or sunflowers grow.
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. Under 16s are not allowed in the spa area.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Family friendly accommodation:
There are two family rooms, 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.
Babysitting available by arrangement, for an additional charge.
- Baby cots
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
- Children's menu
- High chairs
- Special mealtimes can be arranged
Kids Activities on site:
- Heated indoor pool with jets and bubble beds
- Outdoor pool
- Board games
- Traditional ethnic toys (dolls, spinning top etc)
- Bicycles to borrow
- TV lounge
- Computer games
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: 75 minutes
- Hospital: 80 minutes
- Shops: 5 minutes