Trying to fight the fatigue, the jetlag and the altitude sickness is no mean feat but flying from Santiago’s almost sea-level across the Andes to Atacama is a beautiful sight worth the ensuing sickness.
Unless you are arriving by land it is practically impossible to avoid landing in Atacama and not feeling slightly confused by the altitude and by the mesmerizing environment.
The Atacama Desert offers some of the world’s most impressive landscapes. From the moon-like Valle de la Luna to geysers and salt flats this is possibly the world’s most otherworldly destination.
Tierra Atacama is the perfect place to base yourself. Part of the Tierra Group, owned by the Purcell family who also own and run Ski Portillo resort in Chile, the Atacama resort is five star luxury with a laid back rustic atmosphere and a very local feel. It is located in San Pedro de Atacama, an oasis in the middle of the desert, albeit a very dry one.
This is one of the best places in the world for stargazing. The clear air and the altitude were key decision factors to place the world’s largest observatory and telescope nearby.
Tierra Atacama was built using the same materials and colors as the surrounding almost blending into the dusty, dry desert.
The rooms are spacious in white and brown colors using hard stone and wood. Nature is present everywhere. A towel rail made of bamboo, a dried tree branch… all of them a stark reminder that this is one of the toughest places on Earth.
The bar’s swinging chairs are a soothing pre-dinner pit stop. Sip a pisco sour while you discuss the day’s excursions and await for dinner. The restaurant faced the volcano as do half of the rooms and floor to ceiling windows provide breath-taking views of the planes and the mountains.
The interior design and architecture of the entire resort is “authentic” and uses local animal skins, handcrafted elements, precious alpaca wool carpets and covers and furniture made of local materials. Some of the walls are made of adobe in continuing with the hotel’s location past. The resort was built on the site of an old corral and some of these elements are still present today. This results in a friendly, casual and comfortable atmosphere that makes you feel at home.
The rates are all inclusive. You will get picked up and dropped off at the airport, all your meals and drinks will be included and you can choose from a wide array of excursions. Regardless of how welcoming and beautiful the resort is you did not come here to disconnect and relax but to explore Mother Nature’s fantasy playground.
Set off with the resort’s guides to explore the Valle de la Luna, where rock formations and valleys look exactly like any alien movie picturing the Moon. Surreal landscapes with the Andes in the background will make you wonder whether Hollywood has built a backdrop for one of its movies. The Death Valley is particularly mystique.
Do not miss the excursion to the salt flats, as impressive as the ones in Uyuni. The area is filled with flamingos and the colors at sunset seem impossible. All tones from red to blue with fiery pinks, bright yellows and blue.
At 4,300m high el Tatio Geysers are a must. Even if the altitude change will knock you off completely and the below zero temperatures will numb your fingers this is Nature’s explosion of sounds and smells. Enjoy a steaming cup of hot chocolate for breakfast as you see the sun rise behind the towering mountains. On the way back, you will spot plenty of wildlife including vicunas, alpacas and other animals of the same family.
In contract with the freezing temperatures at El patio you can swim in the hot springs of Puritama nearby. Eight natural pools inside a gorge with average temperature at 33 degrees at 3m500 meters this is unexpected among desert vegetation. Last but not least, Altiplanic lagoons at 4,000m are a beautiful day trip too.
San Pedro de Atacama has a wide range of accommodation options but Tierra is the most exclusive one.