“A revitalising oasis where cool design and attentive service meet against a spectacular desert backdrop”
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.
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.
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:
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)
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.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Pool is unfenced, there's an open fire in the living room.