Awasi: The Atacama Desert Oasis

At 10,000+ feet above sea level, less than a millimeter of rain per year, and miles of jagged salt flats, the Atacama Desert would seem to repel all things luxury…but then there’s Awasi. This lodge in San Pedro de Atacama has the coveted Relais & Chateaux seal of approval, and we quickly realized it wasn’t just its stunning design, unbelievable activities, award-winning food, and high thread count sheets that earned them five-stars—it is the unparalleled personal attention. There are over three dozen staff members for just eight rooms and every room comes with a private guide and chauffeur, dedicated to making your Atacama wishes come true. Awasi was an absolute oasis in the driest desert in the world.


Originally a second family home, the property was inspired by the simple homes of the nearby archaeological site or an early Atacama village, Aldea de Tulor. The earthy buildings are round in shape and made with the traditional mix of adobe, mud, grass, and stone with a concrete core for modern-day stability.

03 Awasi

The villas with brea-stick roofs may appear rustic from the outside, though inside they anything but. Our circular suite was so spacious and beautifully decorated with a mix of tailored and organic accents–from French settees to locally woven textiles.

04 Awasi

We had our first meeting with our guide in this chic outdoor lounge and quickly settled into its sea of colorful pillows. “First things first,” she said. “Can I get you a glass of Chilean wine?” Absolutely. She returned with two crisp glasses of Viognier (Awasi is all-inclusive, by the way) and discussed the slew of cultural and adventurous excursions to create our ideal itinerary.

05 San Pedro de Atacama

Our heads were racing with all the exciting possibilities in the area so we decided to get our bearings with a stroll through the town center, which was just outside Awasi’s front door. San Pedro de Atacama, a town that was actually apart of Bolivia until the 1800s, feels particularly unique to Chile. Its buildings are made of adobe, dripping with red clay from the incredibly rare and brief rain cloud that pass through–no matter if it’s a posh restaurant or the town church. It feels a bit like the the wild-west, filled with extreme athletes, hippies, luxe ladies, sun-worn locals, and flash-packers mingling in a town that has a character all its own.

06 Atacama Volcano

Looking down most streets you can catch glimpses of the snow-capped mountains and volcanoes in the distance. To get a better vantage point and to see how dazzling a sunset could be, we walked ten minutes out of town and up a tiny hill for this jaw-dropping vista. You’d think any vision of snow would be a mirage, but at 17,00 ft the Andes can beat the desert heat.

07 Awasi cuisine

We made our way back to Awasi for dinner and knew we were in for a treat. The incredible menu changes daily, each meal with multiple courses of Chilean-fusion cuisine presented to perfection. Case in point: the raspberry sorbet, served in a candied baby papaya topped with a caramelized crisp…How beautiful is that?!

08 Cejar

We woke up early the next day for our first big excursion: A bike ride to Cejar Pond. Located in the middle of the Atacama Salt Flat, this pond is so salty that the buoyancy rivals the Dead Sea. What looks like white rocks around this pool are actually salt crystals.

09 Moon Valley-Atacama

If there is one iconic spot in San Pedro de Atacama’s varied landscape, it would have to be the Moon Valley. Numerous travelers gather at its ridge for sunset but our guide had a secret peak in mind. Carrying a cooler of wine, cheese, crackers, fruit and mixed nuts, our amazing Awasi team led Mike and I up a steep hill for the most breathtaking and exclusive sun-downers.

10 Death Valley Atacama Awasi

The next morning we slept in to enjoy a late breakfast, the hotel pool, and to gear up for some late-day horseback ride and stargazing. I’m not a rider, but when presented with the opportunity to gallop through the magnificent dunes of Death Valley, I suddenly found my equestrian within.

11 Atacama Stargazing

When 10pm stuck were swept away by Awasi’s resident astronomer Jorge Antonio Corante Fernández and into the desert abyss for our stargazing session. With a rainfall of four inches every 1,000 years, and 0% humidity nearly every day of the year, the Atacama has some of the clearest and most spectacular night skies. Jorge had all the knowledge and high tech telescopes to teach us about all the stars we never get to see in the Northern Hemisphere and more.

12 Tatio Geysers

The thing we loved most about Awasi is that the luxury isn’t confined within the walls of their lodge; it follows guests wherever they go. This sit-down sunrise breakfast, aside the steaming Tatio Geysers, is one of many examples. With Awasi, wherever we wanted to go, whatever we wanted to do, it was always possible and achieved with unforgettable style.


Anne and Mike Howard are creators of the around-the-world honeymoon blog and Trip Coaches or those looking to extensively travel the world safely, affordably and off the beaten path. You can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @HoneyTrek.


Glamping Review: Patagonia Camp

Inside Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia, there are many fabulous and transporting options for lodging, most of them highlighting the incredible natural riches of the area. But perhaps nothing will get you closer to the outdoors than a stay at Patagonia Camp and its collection of 18 luxury yurts on the edge of Lake Toro.


Patagonia Camp has an ecological mission to minimize its impact (as well as its guests’) on the environment. For example, instead of mowing down trees (like the lenga, a tree indigenous to Chile)) that surround the property to make space for your bedroom, all the camp architecture is placed on wooden stilts and platforms. Patagonia Camp also recycles its water through a waste treatment plant, which is why you’re discouraged from using your own bath amenities and should instead go to town on the ones already in yurt. And before visions of ho-hum shampoos and soaps clog your mind, know that the hotel collaborated with a company in Santiago to create products that are not only biodegradable but sweet-smelling, too. The travel-size bottles of body treats are packed with ingredients like aloe vera and lavender that will make you forget you ever brought your own stuff. I loved the shampoo so much I took it with me at check out.


The All-Inclusive option, which is what most guests go for when booking here, includes a variety of perks, from local transfers and the park’s entrance fee to an open bar, meals and a selection of excursions. More intrepid (read: fitter) travelers will definitely want to do the Torres Base Trek, one of the famed hikes in Patagonia that will inflict all sorts of physical demands such as the final 45-minute uphill climb to the foot of the Three Towers, one of the geographical icons of South America. Patagonia Camp’s location right by Lake Toro, however, affords its guests plenty of exclusive excursions, too, like fishing on the lake and a fairly easy hike to one of the nearby waterfalls. If you want to spring for activities not included in the program but well worth the added expense, kayaking on Lake Grey is one of those Bucket List experiences you never thought you had. An afternoon spent paddling around with floating glaciers close enough to touch is simply unforgettable. All of it is guided by kind (and thankfully patient) locals who have mastered this area and, more than likely, the English language. Patagonia Camp is constantly developing new excursions to give travelers truly immersive opportunities when they’re in Patagonia. Who knows what new-fangled itinerary they’ll come with next?

Front desk

After a day of adventure that will acquaint you to Patagonia’s natural majesty, you’ll retreat back to camp for a little R&R before that evening’s meal. The main house is essentially the one-stop shop at Patagonia Camp. It’s where you check in, there’s a lounge where you can hang out and perhaps meet other guests, there’s a small bar where you can try some Chilean vinos, and it also houses the main dining room where all meals are served. Almost everything that comes from the kitchen is local and sourced from Puerto Natales, a small town outside the park. One of the more spectacular meals at the camp is the traditional lamb BBQ, which is organized three nights a week. An entire lamb is slow-roasted for five hours leaving it deliciously tender. Its served with all sorts of sides and vegetables, filling enough to reclaim all the calories you would lose after a full day’s hike.


The yurts themselves aren’t particularly huge (each is about 300 square feet in total plus a terrace), but they are wonderfully decorated with locally handcrafted furniture like the pale wood desk and bed plus colorful woven textiles and plush animal hide area rugs. Each unit is simple, uncluttered and stylish. The bed is placed directly under a clear patch of the yurt’s roof allowing you to soak in star-lit skies before going to bed. It’s a fantastic inclusion that you may not think you want but given the low air pollution in Patagonia, you’ll (especially city dwellers who never see the star) be glad it’s there. And the large windows that look out to the lake will constantly remind you of just how gorgeous and unspoiled this pocket of the world is. Leaving the curtains open at night and letting the stream of sunlight to wake you up in the morning is the perfect start to a day in Patagonia. And the bright turquoise of Lake Toro will be the first thing you’ll see.

Spotlight: Tierra Atacama in Chile

One of South America’s best kept secrets is Tierra Atacama in Chile. This eco-friendly lodging facility has a peculiar surrounding landscape to say the least. It neighbors a volcano, marshland, geysers, and salt flats teeming with flamingos. Credit is due to Tierra Atacama for creating an oasis of modern luxury amid such a rugged and beautiful landscape. Tierra Atacama is a boutique glamping experience created by the same family that owns and operates Ski Portillo. Tierra Atacama creates experiences for guests that combine outdoor adventure and sports with modern comforts and excellent service.

The architecture, interiors, grounds and spa of Tierra Atacama were designed by Chilean professionals with the goal of balancing local cultural influences while creating a place that allows guests to relax and spoil themselves. Every room has a private terrace that overlooks the Licancabur volcano. The interiors are casually elegant. The designers used hand-made textiles produced by local villages. The rooms are meant to embody authentic desert culture.

311-habitaciones.jpg.1024x0Photo: Tierra Atacama website

Tierra Atacama has a special culture that is all part of the adventure travel experience. The ambiance is casual and friendly. Guests are invited to gather in the living room, library, bar, by the pool, and the gardens on the terrace. Great care is taken to make sure guests feel as comfortable as if they were in their own homes. It’s a great meeting place for old and new friends. The landscape speaks for itself and Tierra Atacama has created a special experience where you can enjoy the good life in one of the most unusual spots on earth.

SP3.jpg.1024x0Photo: Tierra Atacama website

The weather is pleasant and dry year round. Any month is a good choice for travel to Tierra Atacama. It does rain occasionally during between January and April; snow can be seen in the high mountains. This rarely affects travel in San Pedro, however, it does mean that some high-altitude excursions may be suspended as the roads become inaccessible. Desert temperatures vary greatly following the rising and setting of the sun. Dressing in layers is recommended year round. Night temperatures in winter (June-Sept) are very cold. Sunblock, sunglasses and sun hats are essential any time of year.

Spa1.JPG.1024x0Photo: Tierra Atacama website

Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa in San Pedro de Atacama offers guided adventures, Altiplano excursions and bird-watching; as well as luxury spa services, fine dining and boutique hotel hospitality. Create an opportunity to treat yourself to eco-tourism in one of the world’s most unique destinations, the Altiplano of the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile.

Find out more about Tierra Atacama and start planning your trip.