THE ATACAMA DESERT IS THE MOST ARID, DESOLATE AND DRIEST IN THE WORLD BUT SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA IS SURROUNDED BY UNIQUE NATURAL LANDSCAPES, ANCESTRAL CULTURES AND IS CONSIDERED THE ARCHEOLOGICAL CAPITAL OF CHILE. DELUXE HOTELS SUCH AS THE AWASI ATACAMA ALLOW US TO ADMIRE THE LANDSCAPES AND NATURE OF THIS UNIQUE REGION.
By Ernesto Ruben from House of Travel
This is a destination recommended for couples and groups looking for a calm and relaxing destination to an active and adventurous experience, with the caveat that you will return to a desert oasis full of comfort, pampering, delicious local food and a great team of professionals to make it all work.
The Atacama Desert offers everything from budget experiences for the college crowd to tailor-made high-end outings for travel connoisseurs. In the case of the Awasi Atacama Hotel, its excursions are private, exclusive, and programmed according to the preferences and pace of the guests. A private guide helps plan the trips and accompanies guests during their stay. You can choose full-day or half-day trips.
From easy strolls to intense treks, horse-back riding to bicycle rides, visits to archaeological sites, visits to the salt flats, Altiplano lagoons or villages hidden among the deep valleys, the Atacama Desert offers much more than what most travelers imagine. You can get up at dawn to see the geysers and relax in the thermal pools. Bird-watching during the day or an exquisite evening of star-gazing with local guides are some of the experiences you can organize during your stay.
Thousands of years ago, Atacama was already inhabited by groups of hunter-gatherers.
As for the climate, its main characteristic is the marked fluctuation in temperature between day and night. Days are luminous and pleasant all year round. In winter, which is during June, July and August, the average temperature is 72ºF/22ºC during the day and at night it goes down to around 39ºF/4ºC; temperatures can occasionally go below freezing.
In the summer, temperatures vary between 82ºF/28ºC during the day and 61ºC/16ºF at night. During these months the temperature can reach 90ºF/32ºC.
Geological transformations give birth to ranges, volcanoes, salt flats and lagoons, bodies of water that emerge in the middle of the desert, thermal pools, geysers and marshes. An intense blue sky invites you to discover scenery crowned by mountains and volcanoes almost 20,000 ft/6,096 m high.
A varied array of flora and fauna has managed to adapt to the extreme conditions of the desert. Llamas, guanacos and vicuñas graze the plains, while flamingoes and a surprising variety of birds inhabit the lakes and salt flat areas. Foxes, viscachas, rheas and lizards blend into the brightly colored surroundings.
The native flora is made up of legendary chañar and carob trees, whose wood is still used for construction purposes. A large variety of striking bushes and plants and enormous cacti adorn extraordinary landscapes, while the vast extensions of paja brava (wild grasses) give the Andean slopes a golden shimmer.
Thousands of years ago, Atacama was already inhabited by groups of hunter-gatherers. The passage of the Tiahuanaco and Inca cultures and later the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors had a major influence on the Atacama culture, which was forced to integrate in order to survive. The population is currently made up of descendants of the first inhabitants of the region, Atacameños and European colonists, with a strong Chilean and Quechua influence.
The Awai Atacama Hotel has an exclusive and exquisite restaurant with a team of dedicated professionals under the guidance of chef Juan Pablo Mardones, who has designed a sophisticated menu, fusion of Altiplano and international food, providing guests with new flavors and aromas using typical ingredients of the area. These foods, which are part of the staples used by the native people, such as purple potatoes, patasca stew, quinoa, or chañar fruit.
With the landscapes, excursions, accommodation, climate, culture and cuisine that the Atacama Desert has to offer, it is no surprise that it is fast becoming a hot-spot for the sophisticated traveler, a unique experience that should not be missed.