explora en Atacama (Hotel de Larache)
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Ayllu de Larache
San Pedro de Atacama
The enormous Atacama Desert, which stretches 600 miles from northern Chile to the southern border of Peru, is flanked by the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. Its Martian terrain, at an average elevation of 10,000 feet, is the highest and driest desert on earth; too arid in some spots for even microbes to grow. But it endures as one of the most starkly beautiful places on Earth, where the light is perfectly transparent and the darkness is utterly profound. The Atacama's sand mountains,(+) More
The enormous Atacama Desert, which stretches 600 miles from northern Chile to the southern border of Peru, is flanked by the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. Its Martian terrain, at an average elevation of 10,000 feet, is the highest and driest desert on earth; too arid in some spots for even microbes to grow. But it endures as one of the most starkly beautiful places on Earth, where the light is perfectly transparent and the darkness is utterly profound. The Atacama's sand mountains, gurgling geysers, and hot springs would be reason enough to explore this region; throw in six nearby colossal volcanoes and the curious aquamarine pools dotting the vast salt flats, and it's irresistible.
The Hotel de Larache, located in the northernmost part of Chile, is the best stepping-off point for adventuring in the Atacama. Not only is it a ridiculously luxurious oasis (with seven pools in which to cool off), but it was also conceived as a place where visitors could fully immerse themselves in the environment. Case in point: they offer eight to ten outings per day on foot, bike, or horseback. The intensity of each activity variesfrom exploring the nearby village of San Pedro de Atacama, mountain-biking over 100 miles along gorge rims and past flamingoes floating in salt lakes, trekking with Aymara shepherds herding alpaca and goats, or summiting the loftiest volcano in the area, 19,590-foot Volcán Sairecábur. (There are a staggering seven mountaineering trips offered that top out over 17,000 feet.)
Guests needing to acclimatize before heading out into the Atacama (the lodge is 8,000 feet above sea level) or to recover from investigating the altiplano's many mysteries couldn't find a better spot than this remote oasis. The architecturally-striking lodge is set among fragrant pear and quince trees on 42 acres of former farmland. It's traditionally built with low-lying adobe buildings with big, cool patios. All of the 52 rooms are flooded with desert sunshine, and decked out in wood, wicker, and tile, plush down comforters, and soft, imported linens. Jacuzzis in each offer the ideal spot to soothe sore muscles from a day of adventuring.
Overstuffed couches, handcrafted pottery, and intricate, locally made tapestries add to the posh feel of the main lodge. The rooftop deck is great for repose, refreshment, and nightly gazing into the star-crammed sky. The cuisinelike quinoa tabbouleh and seafood cevicheis simple but sumptuous, and is usually served in the quincho, or outdoor barbecue area, where divine Chilean wine flows freely.
Heather Hansen is co-author of Disappearing Destinations: 37 Places in Peril and What Can Be Done to Help Save Them and has written for publications including Men's Journal, Outside, and Mother Jones.(-) Close
The Atacama oases, in the middle of the driest desert in the world, are situated at 2,500 meters above sea level, making the Atacama not only the driest, but also the highest desert on earth. The outlandish geography of volcanoes, salt flats and high altitude wetlands, has an unparalleled appeal.
But the oasis of San Pedro is simply an introduction. It is the last area where human life is possible; where a visitor can still be harbored. Once you leave San Pedro towards the altiplanos and the volcanoes, you can truly perceive remoteness, where one experiences an entirely different world, an untamed place far from civilization as we know it.
The program at explora en Atacama, based at Hotel de Larache in San Pedro, puts visitors in the middle of a fantasy land ripe for exploration and adventure.