I was recently fortunate enough experience Chile’s Atacama Desert. These 3 amazing days & nights were jam-packed with activities. And now that I'm home, I cannot believe all we did, in such a short amount of time! I can only imagine the endless memories you would have if you were to stay for an entire week.
Most, like myself before venturing there, may have never heard about the Atacama Desert or, at the very least, are unfamiliar. The Atacama Desert is located within a stretch of land in Chile’s northern third, nestled between the Andes Mountain Range and the Pacific Ocean. The terrain, a mix of rolling sand dunes and stony foothills sprinkled with mirror-like salt lakes set against the stunning snow-capped Andes, makes for one of the most picturesque settings I have ever seen. Having experienced this gorgeous landscape firsthand, I can tell you it is a destination that has been missing from all our travel bucket lists.
We stayed at the Explora Atacama Hotel, a true architectural beauty. Simple, yet refined, it provides you with everything you need. The Explora brand prides itself on the ability to immerse their guests into the true culture of an area, not the tourist version. The intention in the hotel’s design and the attitude of the staff reflects this as you are encouraged to use the hotel as a comfortable home base from which to actively explore the remarkable surroundings. There are no TVs in the rooms and Wi-Fi is only available within the main lobby. In today’s modern world where access to Internet is rarely more than a few finger taps away, having to leave the comfort of my bed to check my email seemed onerous, but it really wasn’t. Lounging in the nearby lobby complete with lovely social areas with fireplaces and hand-crafted furniture, as well as some of the friendliest staff I have ever experienced provided a more than suitable setting when I did need Wi-Fi access. As the trip went on, however, this arrangement proved to be a refreshing break from everyday life, allowing me to disconnect from the digital world and pushing me to connect with the world around me.
Due to its location, Atacama experiences very little rainfall—some areas do not even have any recorded history of rain—helping it earn the title of the Earth’s driest desert. Some of the terrain is so dry that it is used as a testing ground for NASA instruments and rovers before taking them to Mars!
As you would expect in a desert, the temperature can get rather warm during the day but drops significantly at night. Though we were there in South America’s winter, it still climbed to 75 degrees Fahrenheit one day and reached a low of 28 at night. Other than the temperature, however, Atacama is distinct from most of Earth’s other deserts.
Framed by sand dunes and salt basins, accented by snow-capped mountain ranges in the distance, you can explore geysers, hot springs, rock formations, lagoons, lava and volcanoes. The adventures accessible in this beautiful region are endless, and guides at Explora Atacama Hotel are happy to assist in any planning and logistics, offering over 40 excursion options to choose from.
We fit a great deal into our 3-day schedule. We hiked up to the top of a valley where we took our shoes off and ran down sand dunes. We went for a hot-air balloon ride in between the mountain ranges, rode horses through the desert, had a desert BBQ with authentic Chilean food and live entertainment, watched the sunset over the salt flats, hiked the Moon Valley, drove to the Tatio Geysers, swam in hot springs, saw the beautiful San Isidro Chapel, and my favorite excursion, we saw the flamingos at the stunning Chaxa Lagoon.
The pictures are gorgeous and they don’t even do it justice! You can only imagine the breathtaking beauty until you experience it for yourself! Remembering my time there as I write this now gives me goosebumps. It is a real-life painting you can immerse yourself within and experience with all your senses.
While Explora does have an amazing spa and beautiful pools you can lay out by, if you are after a typical, umbrella drink-in-hand, toes-in-the-sand, relaxing vacation, Atacama may not fit the bill. Vacationing in Atacama is about getting out of your normal routine; being thrust into unfamiliar surroundings and letting your imagination roam free. Life at the Explora Atacama Hotel feels free of rules, free of commitments, free of stress, and that in and of itself is a beautiful thing. And when you combine it with such an extraordinary place, which many in the world have never seen, it becomes an indescribable destination that you must experience for yourself to truly understand.