|LUXURY HOTELS: Tierra atacama, chile|
Style: "Adventure spa": get out and be adventurous, then loaf around in designer-desert comfort.
Scene: On the outskirts of San Pedro de Atacama surrounded by desert grasses, gardens and alfalfa fields, with uninterrupted views to Licancabur volcano and the Andes.
Seen in the lobby: From Merrell to Le Coq Sportif: deep-pocketed Americans, Brazilians, French, Germans and Aussies.
THIS is a destination designed to surprise.
The entrance: a solid wall, an anonymous slice of metal gate. A walkway across an empty beaten-earth corral with just a basket chair hanging from a tree.
Nicholas Russ, the attentive manager, is waiting to greet us, radio-on-belt, and leads the way to the airy reception / dining space. Wood and stone, calfskins and native rugs, statement lights and a central cocktail bar – it's an open, social area with an oddly upscale-YMCA vibe.
A wall of glass puts theAtacama desert and mountain view on display between vertical fins of stone, dividing outside deck-bed seating areas and their fireplaces. That's where I'm going to be lying back with a drink tonight, enjoying the starscape in luxury. (They didn't put the ALMA observatory out here for nothing.)
Oddly, it's the outside spaces that create a sense of intimacy: cocooning basket chairs around the pool, and hanging unexpectedly from trees around the 5ha site. An outdoor jacuzzi and fire pit set on a simple wooden platform out in the field. A pair of simple deckchairs on the patio outside your room. And your own outdoor daybed with a porthole view punched through the enclosing adobe wall.
A wall of glass puts the Atacama desert on view
The outside-in experience is delightful. Beyond the shower in your bathroom, a glass door opens to a second shower outside - completely enclosed by stone walls but open to the sun or the stars above: desert excitement with your ablutions.
A pair of refillable metal water bottles is a reminder of why we're here. As are the big water coolers and the giant pump-action dispensers of sunscreen by the reception desk.
The Uma Spa is a persuasive part of the offering for travellers with varying degrees of enthusiasm for roughty-tufty adventuring in their group. We never made it to the indoor pool and luxurious pampering – we were a bit too keen to get out there, and do it all.
There's no pre-booking of trips: as soon as you arrive, the excursions manager is ready to sit down with you to arrange what you want to do.
Your experience is going to be all about your excursions, so it's worthwhile having a think beforehand about what's important to you, and stating it clearly. Seeing far-flung sights or being active? Hiking or horse riding? Wildlife, photography or astronomy?
Don't underestimate the unpleasantness of altitude sickness: excursions above 4,000m will need to be scheduled for after you've acclimatised.
And don't be afraid to change horses halfway. After our first evening's flamingos-and-sunset trip, having found the visit to a pueblo village en route a little ho-hum we realised that a drive plus some click-and-tick wasn’t what we enjoy. We re-calibrated our excursions plan for more exertion.
That was when we had the great good fortune to be paired with Pamela Acosta, an Atacameno with long black plaits and 18 years' experience ("I'm the dinosaur of tour guides!"). She was charismatic, and knowledgeable about archaeology, geology, plant life and animals, traditional remedies, local history and folklore.
And super-enthusiastic. She practically bounded from rock to rock to show us petroglyphs (rock carvings) ancient and modern. Her habit of doubling-up her adjectives ("it was heavy-heavy," "that's hot-hot") and superimposing "super" for emphasis ("I promise you, it's super-beautiful") completely summed her up.
You're interested in llamas? Pamela owns six of them! She can show you a photo of the latest baby: "super-super cute!"
Pamela was senior enough to be able to call the shots. She had trailblazed the route we took up the valley of the petroglyphs and over a ridge to descend by a rocky track into Rainbow Valley. We were having such a great time, she stretched our excursion longer.
When we finally spotted our late-lunch tent, set up in the middle of the empty valley by our driver, it was a delight to sit down and share the picnic with them both. So my advice would be: if you find a guide you really hit it off with, change your plans (or make a little bit of a fuss) in order to be with them again. Life's too short to be listening to a well-practised spiel.
With all this activity, we fell upon the jug of cocktail-of-the-day that stands on the bar back at Tierra with unseemly enthusiasm. (FYI the local variant on the pisco sour, flavoured with rica-rica, was very acceptable.)
Dinner time is busy and social, with attentive service. The restaurant menu changes daily and aims high (even if it doesn't always hit gastronomic gold). But don't be surprised if you look around at 10pm to find yourselves alone – it seems the hiking and trekking drives guests into bed early.
Our conclusion: stay longer, stay longer. It's a dash doing the desert in three days, and we didn't get up a volcano.
|Check in: Tierra Atacama Hotel, Domingo Atienza, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile|
|Most Indulgent Moment: The coldest of cold beers at our lunch tent set up in solo splendour in the middle of the Rainbow Valley. |
|Insider Secrets: The ground-floor Oriente rooms have a more rugged, desert-style decor, with sliding doors opening out to your private terrace and the fields of desert grass beyond. Poniente rooms have sleeker white decor. |
And... we didn’t know you could arrange early-morning yoga classes at the yoga platform out in the grounds.
|Junior Luxies: "Family rooms" on two levels sleep 6 with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Science-buff kids will love the star-gazing, archaeology-at-your-fingertips, and discovering rock carvings. Active kids will whoop it up in the hot springs and horse-riding. |
|Dress code: The resort kaftan and statement necklace are a first-night faux-pas. This is very-relaxed casual, possibly even fleece at dinner (sorry!). |
|Perfect luggage: A Briggs & Riley split-level rolling duffle. |
|Dent in the platinum: |
|Luxury Hotels Link: www.tierrahotels.com|
Read more about Chile in our DESTINATIONS
Read more Chile Hotel reviews in our LUXURY HOTELS
Jennifer Stevenson 4/05/16
- LUXURY HOTELS: Lewtrenchard Manor, Devon, England
- LUXURY HOTEL: La Reserve Hotel & Spa, Paris
- LUXURY HOTELS: Chedi Andermatt,Switzerland
- LUXURY HOTELS: Miami Beach EDITION, Miami USA
- LUXURY HOTELS Mondrian London, England
- LUXURY HOTELS The Beaumont Mayfair, London
- LUXURY HOTELS Sunrise Kempinski Hotel Beijing
- LUXURY HOTELS: Le Meurice, Paris, France
- LUXURY HOTELS: Raffles Istanbul
- LUXURY HOTELS: Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
- LUXURY HOTELS: Four Seasons Bosphorus, Turkey
- LUXURY HOTELS : Peninsula Paris, France
- LUXURY HOTELS: Andaz Liverpool Street Hotel's Art Rooms
- LUXURY HOTELS: Four Seasons Hong Kong
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Peninsula Bangkok
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Goring, London, England
- LUXURY HOTELS: Burj Al Arab, Dubai, UAE
- LUXURY HOTELS: Fairmont's Canine Ambassadors
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hotel Kempinski St Petersburg, Russia
- LUXURY HOTELS: Culloden Estate and Spa, Northern Ireland
- MY FAVOURITE ROOM... Howard Hastings
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hotel Nikol'skaya, Moscow
- LUXURY HOTELS: Love Stories
- LUXURY HOTELS: American Trade Hotel and Hall, Panama City, Panama
- LUXURY HOTELS: Rosewood London, High Holborn, UK
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Langham London, London, England
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hotel Cipriani, Venice, Italy
- LUXURY HOTELS: Le Hotel Monceau - Raffles Paris
- MY FAVOURITE ROOM... Jeremy Goring
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hotel Indigo, Hong Kong, China
- MY FAVOURITE ROOM... Petter A. Stordalen
- LUXURY HOTELS: Nobu Hotel at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Langham, Sydney
- LUXURY HOTELS PREVIEW: The State Hermitage Hotel, St Petersburg, Russia
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Washington D.C.
- LUXURY HOTELS: Andaz Fifth Ave, New York, USA
- LUXURY HOTELS: El Encanto, Santa Barbara, USA
- LUXURY HOTEL: The Warwick New York Hotel, New York, USA
- LUXURY HOTELS: Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh
- LUXURY HOTELS: Kerry Hotels, China
- LUXURY HOTELS: Villa d'Este, Como Italy
- LUXURY HOTELS: Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel
- LUXURY HOTELS: Ritz Carlton Los Angeles
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Knickerbocker Hotel, New York, US
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Greenbrier, West Virginia, USA
- LUXURY TRAINS: The Royal Scotsman
- LUXURY HOTELS: Sydney QT, Sydney, Australia
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Como Melbourne, Australia
- LUXURY TRAVEL: Hotels as Movie Stars
- LUXURY HOTELS: 'Four Stories' at W HOTELS
- LUXURY HOTELS: Dorset Square Hotel, London, England
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Valley Wing at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Plaza, New York, USA
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, California, USA
- LUXURY HOTELS: Villa La Massa, Candeli, Italy
- LUXURY HOTELS: Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, Sorrento, Italy
- LUXURY HOTELS: Centurion Palace, Venice, Italy
- LUXURY HOTELS: Punta Tragara Hotel, Capri, Italy
- LUXURY HOTELS: Royal Suite, Relais Santa Croce, Florence, Italy
- LUXURY HOTELS: Palazzo Margherita, Bernalda, ITALY
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill, London
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hesperia Isla de La Toja, Galicia, North West Spain
- LUXURY HOTELS: Mandarin Oriental Hotel, New York, USA
- LUXURY HOTELS: Four Seasons Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
- LUXURY HOTELS: Armani Hotel Milano, Milan, Italy
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Darling, Sydney, Australia
- LUXURY HOTELS: Peak Edge Hotel, Chesterfield, England
- LUXURY HOTELS: Celebrity Hotel Reviews
- LUXURY HOTELS: Travel Bible TV
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hilton Queenstown, New Zealand
- LUXURY HOTELS: Peninsula Shanghai, China
- LUXURY HOTELS: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai China
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hotel Le Bristol, Paris, France
- LUXURY HOTELS: Babington House, Somerset, England
- LUXURY HOTELS: Mandarin Oriental, Paris
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hotel Hesperia Lanzarote
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Royal Livingstone Hotel, Victoria Falls, Zambia
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Istanbul EDITION, Istanbul, Turkey
- LUXURY HOTELS: The iPad2 checks-in
- LUXURY HOTELS: Royal Wedding Packages
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hotel Missoni Kuwait
- LUXURY HOTELS: Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, Budapest, Hungary
- LUXURY HOTELS: Alila Bangalore Hotel & Residence, Bangalore, India
- LUXURY HOTELS: W London-Leicester Square
- LUXURY HOTELS: Coworth Park, Ascot, England
- LUXURY HOTELS: Viceroy Snowmass, Aspen, USA
- LUXURY HOTELS: Rimrock Resort Hotel, Banff, Canada
- LUXURY HOTELS: Post Hotel & Spa, Lake Louise, CANADA
- LUXURY HOTELS PREVIEW: The Savoy
- LUXURY HOTELS PREVIEW: Coworth Park
- LUXURY HOTEL: The Cullen, Melbourne, Australia
- LUXURY HOTEL: Luna Hotel Baglioni, Venice, ITALY
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Blackman, Melbourne, Australia
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Olsen, Melbourne, Australia
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Rees, New Zealand
- LUXURY HOTELS: Sofitel Queenstown Hotel & Spa, New Zealand
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris
- LUXURY HOTELS: Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
- JUST UNPACKED FROM... Melbourne, Australia
- LUXURY HOTELS PREVIEW: Metropole Taormina
- LUXURY HOTELS: Maison Moschino Hotel, Milan, Italy
- LUXURY HOTELS: Sanderson, London, UK
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado, USA
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hotel Le Notre Dame, Paris
- LUXURY HOTELS: Crosby Street, New York, USA
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Ritz, London
- LUXURY HOTEL: Chapslee House, Lakkar Bazaar, Shimla, India
- LUXURY HOTELS: Glenburn Tea Estate, India
- LUXURY HOTELS: Murano Urban Resort, Paris, France
- LUXURY HOTELS: Palazzina Grassi, Venice, Italy
- LUXURY HOTELS: Palazzo Versace, Australia
- LUXURY HOTELS: Rosewood Beijing
- LUXURY HOTELS: Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire, UK
- LUXURY HOTELS: Belmond Charleston Place
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Ritz at Christmas
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Lanesborough, London, UK
- LUXURY HOTELS: Sanctum Resort, Myanmar
- LUXURY HOTELS: Historic Hotels
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Knickerbocker, New York, USA
- LUXURY HOTELS: Luciano K Hotel, Santiago, Chile
- LUXURY HOTELS: Casa Higueras, Valparaiso, Chile
- LUXURY HOTELS: Hotel Awasi Patagonia, Patagonia, Chile
- LUXURY HOTELS: Tierra Atacama, Chile
- SUITE LIFE: The Savoy Suite, An Artist'sResidence
- SUITE LIFE: The Savoy's Royal Suite
- LUXURY HOTEL: The Savoy, London
- Christmas at Peninsula Paris
- LUXURY HOTEL: Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Italy
- LUXURY HOTEL: RITZ-CARLTON TOKYO JAPAN
- LUXURY HOTELS: Sage Hotel, James Street
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Silo Cape Town, South Africa
- LUXURY HOTELS: Watergate Hotel, Washington D.C.
- LUXURY HOTELS: Moxy Times Square, New York
- LUXURY HOTEL: The Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois, Basel, Switzerland
- LUXURY HOTELS: Villa Maia, Lyon, France
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Social Season at The Ritz
- LUXURY HOTEL: Belmond Mount Nelson, Cape Town, South Africa
- LUXURY HOTELS: Capella, Singapore
- LUXURY HOTELS: Pennyhill Park & Spa, Surrey, UK
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Park, New Delhi, India
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Peninsula, New York, USA
- LUXURY HOTELS: The Surrey, New York, USA