Discover the finest hotels and journeys in Mexico, Central America, and South America

Awasi — Atacama Desert, Chile

Tocopilla 4, San Pedro de Atacama, II Region, Chile

Awasi Hotel

Exceptional service reigns supreme at this secluded 8–room enclave located within an easy two-block walking distance from the main village of San Pedro de Atacama. How the super–posh Awasi makes money is a mystery, as the staff to guest ratio is more than sufficient; each guest is assigned a private guide and driver for the duration of their stay. Prior to arriving at Awasi, a questionnaire is emailed regarding dietary requests; liquor and wine preferences; activity levels and interests; if you’re celebrating a special occasion; and whether you’d like a butler to unpack your luggage. This simple gesture sets a certain tone of sophistication before you have even stepped foot in San Pedro de Atacama.

Awasi is a destination for discerning travelers who demand luxury, as well as privacy. Think celebrities, overworked executives, and civilized globetrotters who prefer to leave the details to a professional.

Guests are greeted with a refreshing citrusy rico rico beverage before being escorted to their rooms. Locals claim the fruit aids in the effects of altitude sickness. The property straddles both sides of Tocopilla street, which may be disconcerting for some guests who must leave one portion of the property and cross a street to reach the dining room, pool, bar, and main common areas. This part of the hotel, Awasi #2, offers three rooms, similar in décor, but rectangular in design. The main section, Awasi #1, has five free standing rooms, styled after the ruins of Tulor, clustered around an airy communal space. Thick adobe walls and thatched roofs further mimic traditional local construction.

Awasi Hotel common room

King sized beds kitted with crisp white linens, an ottoman lounging area, and ample desk are comfortably spaced around the room’s circular perimeter. Bedside pitchers of water are a thoughtful touch in this dry climate. Dark wood floors, limited windows, and minimal lighting lend to a somewhat dark atmosphere. Closet space is plentiful, with an automated safe. For those who wish to stay connected, complimentary Wi-Fi is available throughout the property and rooms feature an iPod docking station, but no television, radio, or alarm clock.

The bathroom area will make any woman feel like a pampered princess, with more square footage than most New York City studio apartments. A decadent dressing area with his and her sinks, heated towel rack, and Awasi branded products divides the space. To the right, sits a discreetly placed toilet and separate sunken tub area. To the left, an n elegantly tiled walk–in shower—sized perfectly for two—shares a wall with a sunbathing–worthy outdoor patio with al fresco shower. Like the rooms, the dining, bar, pool and lounging areas are laid out in a circular fashion, with relaxed open–air areas flowing from one to the next. Although the vibe at Awasi is a bit subdued, the fire pit, living room–like dining room, and high–octane cocktails encourage sociability.

Awasi Hotel Dining

The pool is not huge, but a slice of tranquility sized for such an intimate property. A handful of shaded and non–shaded lounging options, along with two poolside beds and a private cabana, are perfectly spaced for privacy. The cabana doubles as a cozy dining option, or when curtains are drawn, a romantic spot for a couple’s massage, with the soothing background sounds of nearby fountains. Common areas are landscaped with local plants and cacti. Local textiles and pillows in bright green, orange and pink accents adorn comfortable white sofas, while strategically placed heat lamps and a well-maintained fire pit take the chill of the cool evening air.

The culinary and wine programs at Awasi are nothing short of inspiring, showcasing locally grown products, such as pumpkin, chañar, peas and quinoa. A lengthy list of Chilean wines by the glass features a 2008 Amaral Sauvignon Blanc and a very food-friendly 2007 Aliwen Cabernet Sauvignon–Syrah. Awasi also offers a selection of premium wines for an additional fee. A three–course set menu is offered daily for lunch and dinner, along with a menu of more standard cuisine for less adventurous palates. Recent menu highlights included a Grilled beef with Socaire potato au gratin and a salted salmon filet with sautéed broad beans. The kitchen is more than happy accommodate specific culinary whims upon request. Restaurant and bar facilities are limited to guests of Awasi, but friends staying off–site are always welcome to join guests to dine.

More than two dozen excursions are available and arranged on a one–on–one basis with your own private guide. Guides pair up with guests based on the interests expressed in the initial questionnaire. Like archaeology? There’s someone with that specialty. Strenuous mountain biking? Hope you can keep up. Elvira Montenegro met up with me over lunch the day arrived. Within a few hours, I was whisked in a Jeep to the town of Tulor for a historic primer on one of the Atacamans first and most important settlements. Next stop, Quitor Pukara—a fortress built dating back to 1,000 AD and a stunning perch to watch the desert sunset. Montanegro is one of only a handful of guides in San Pedro de Atacama who takes people to the historic ruins of Zapar, where evidence of previous inhabitants and artifacts remain untouched. Other popular Awasi excursions include Moon Valley and Toconao and Atacama Salt Lake.

Awasi Excursions

Although exclusivity is the obvious draw of this über-boutique property, it’s the finesse, grace and forethought of Awasi’s suave staff that creates highly personalized experiences and keeps its well-heeled clientele coming back.

Web Address:
Total Number of Rooms: 8
Published rates: $1280 per person based on double occupancy for two night, all-inclusive suite accommodations.

Review and photos by Charyn Pfeuffer.
Related story: Excursions in the Atacama Desert Region.