Calle Séquitor S/N. San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
This all-inclusive boutique resort is a stylish oasis on the edge of town in the Atacama Desert.
The tiny desert town of San Pedro de Atacama has more than its fair share of luxury all-inclusive hotels, each vying for the attention of travelers looking for start-to-finish service including accommodation, food, drinks, and guided desert adventures. Tierra Atacama is for those who want an easy-going sanctuary in the middle ground between adventure and relaxation.
Modern, angular buildings manage to blend with their desert surroundings while asserting their own style in steel, stone, and glass. Fig trees, pomegranates, rosemary, asparagus, corn, and other produce flourishes around the buildings, supplying part of the kitchen's needs and lending an unexpectedly lush feeling to the grounds. Other areas of the 10-acre property are home to a growing array of solar panels and a large outdoor grilling and dining area for group events and parties, complete with a stage for bands.
The 32 rooms are clustered near the main lodge, bar, and restaurant. Each has A/C and ceiling fans, Wi-Fi, L'Occitane bath products, and gourmet Chilean chocolates from Damien Mercier at turn down.
Oriente rooms, built on the ground level, are intimate and romantic. They offer views of the nearly 20,000-foot-high Licancabur Volcano from almost every vantage point, like private furnished patios, an indoor shower, and an outdoor shower. I tried both showers in my room and the water was not very hot in either and both had very low water pressure. I do realize that Tierra Atacama is in the middle of one of the driest deserts on earth and I agree that water is a precious commodity. However, even the green traveler in me was frustrated with the tepid dribble.
Poniente rooms are located on the second level of a building behind the Oriente rooms to ensure volcano views from these rooms as well. Poniente rooms have a sophisticated loft feel with a sofa and a decorative wall dividing the spacious bedroom and sitting area from the bathroom, which has a bathtub as well as an indoor and outdoor shower.
Finally, there are two duplex units that can sleep six. The master bedroom and bathroom is upstairs and there are two bedrooms downstairs along with a shared bathroom. The master bedroom has A/C, but downstairs bedrooms are fan only. That turns out to be more than sufficient for sleeping since desert temperatures dip dramatically each night. The master bedroom also has a huge furnished patio. The duplex rooms do not have volcano views or indoor/outdoor showers. However, they are much more spacious and a great option for families or small groups of travelers who want to stay together.
All accommodations are the same price because Tierra Atacama, like most all-inclusives, is priced per person using standard all-inclusive rates. Some guests switch rooms mid-stay to experience a different ambiance.
Given the remote location, I was surprised by the reliability and speed of the Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. There are three computers for guest use in the lobby as well as the only TV in the place. However, I never saw anyone using the computers or the TV which is a testament to the allure of Atacama Desert and the draw of Tierra Atacama's relaxing facilities.
The large Uma Spa offers a long list of standard massages and facials at competitive prices (for example, an 80-minute hot stone massage is $120) plus a few surprises like reiki, and lymphatic drain treatments. There's also free yoga on an outdoor yoga platform, a heated indoor pool and jetted tub, and an outdoor pool. While not exactly big enough for laps, the outdoor one does the trick in the desert heat. The adjacent boutique is well-stocked with outdoor clothing, bathing suits, hats, and other essentials you may have forgotten to pack.
Tierra Atacama offers fewer guided excursions than some other Atacama all-inclusives (the adventure menu lists around 20 full-day and half-day outings), however, the main attractions in the surrounding desert are well covered. Skilled guides speak all major languages and tour vans and bicycles are in great shape.
Small group trips have a bespoke feel and flexibility and give guests a chance to meet and share experiences. For those who want or need privacy, Tierra Atacama recently inaugurated a new Tierra Private package that provides a personal guide, driver, and vehicle (priced upon request and subject to availability).
In general, the food is well executed, but fancier than it needs to be. Though the wild boar in red wine and bacon reduction remains a standout meal for me, I (and other guests I spoke with) would have liked to have had more regional or Chilean options on the menu.
There are many vegetarian dishes on the menu, which changes daily, and they're not just boring afterthoughts. Though I'm a meat eater I chose vegetarian options on several occasions and was not disappointed. I was sorely disappointed, however, when I ordered the hamburger from a semi-secret menu that's offered to kids and other picky eaters. What arrived was a processed "meat" patty that was inedible. Wait staff quickly delivered a thin freshly grilled steak in an attempt to salvage a steak sandwich out of the situation, but the damage was done.
Unlike the food, the wine, beer, and cocktails at Tierra Atacama showcase many Chilean standouts. The list of included Chilean wines is varied and compelling with all the major varietals covered. There's also a premium selection of wines from around the world for purchase. Craft beers are offered in addition to mass produced beers. And don't miss the Atacama Sour cocktail which is made with Chilean pisco infused with a fragrant desert plant called rika. I had variations of this cocktail all over San Pedro de Atacama and the version made at Tierra Atacama was the most balanced and enjoyable—the perfect relaxing refreshment after a day of desert adventures.
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day in an active destination like the Atacama Desert and the Tierra Atacama breakfast buffet is ample, fresh, and varied. Choices include smoked salmon and fantastic French baguettes, croissants, and chocolate croissants plus cheese, sliced meats, fresh juices, lots of fruit, and healthy options like yogurt and oatmeal. You can also order eggs as you like them. Then depart your oasis for a day of adventure in the desert.
Web Address: tierrahotels.com
Total Number of Rooms: 32
Published rates: US$1,550 per adult for two nights based on double occupancy including all meals, house wines, cocktails, juices, sodas, one full-day or two half-day guided excursions daily, airport transfers from Calama Airport, and taxes. Rates are lower for children.
Review by Karen Catchpole and photos by Eric Mohl.