Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa shines as brightly as the stars that twinkle above it by night: the hotel is brilliantly placed for astrological – and other – adventures. We’ve never been able to resist a hotel that has a map room, especially when the Atacama Desert beckons beyond (and there’s a spoiling spa dishing out volcanic-mud treatments and desert-herb facials). Two pools, restrained mid-century interiors, a wine-loving bar, excellent restaurant and frankly brilliant staff count among Tierra Atacama’s considerable Chilean charms.
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A bottle of wine and a welcome note in your room on arrival
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £541.94 ($700).
Guests can stay on the bed and breakfast rate, or go for the all-inclusive, which covers transfers, all meals, drinks (excluding premium spirits and wines), and either two half-day excursions or one day excursion.
Tierra Atacama’s fertile, eye-pleasing grounds are no happy accident: the hotel called upon the services of acclaimed Chilean landscape artist, Teresa Moller. Teresa renovated the original adobe walls, enhanced the old irrigation canals and preserved ancient algarrobo and chañar trees.
At the hotel
Orchard, gardens, alfalfa fields, medicinal herb garden; terrace with fire pit; map room, TV lounge, guest computers, communal areas with working fireplaces. In rooms: desk and workspace, air-conditioning (or fans), black-out curtains, free bottled water, minibar, L’Occitane bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Kick back and relax in the spacious Poniente Rooms, which have large picture windows so you can spy on the closest volcano, plus a private terrace with an outdoor shower for adventurous bathing (clean or otherwise).
There are two pools to splash around in: an awe-inspiring outdoor oasis in view of volcanoes, with eye-widening crescent-moon-shaped wicker sunloungers, plus an indoor pool attached to the Uma Spa, with water jets, bubble ‘beds’ and other playful features.
Uma means ‘water’; at Uma Spa, you can expect exactly that – and more besides. The spa has three candle-lit, cocoon-like treatment rooms, where nimble-knuckled masseuses dish out facials, massages, body wraps, scrubs and alternative therapies. Treatments feature volcanic mud, lithium-rich salts and desert herbs. Try the spa’s adventure menu, which matches excursions to post-adventure therapies: you could hike up Moon Valley, then unwind with a crystal massage and reiki ritual, for example, or opt for a hot-stone massage after visiting the Tatio Geysers. Just sitting in the relaxation area will reboot you, especially when you factor in dramatic volcano views and on-the-house servings of rica rica herbal tea and ice-cold cucumber water.
Picture a modern Chilean explorer, then pack accordingly. (Start with clothes and shoes you can trek to volcanoes and villages in.)
The hotel’s single-storey, flat-floored design makes it suitable for wheelchair-users.
Little Smiths aged 3–12 can come along. Full-size cots and cribs can be added to rooms; there’s a family-friendly pool for water-babies to splash around in. Beyond that, the hotel doesn’t provide much, so you’ll need to bring your own extras.
The restaurant’s produce is locally sourced (the majority is grown on-site); earth-kind light bulbs feature in rooms; solar energy is used; eco-friendly activities on offer here include hiking and horse-riding.
If you’re not familiar with Chilean cuisine, prepare to be delighted: typical dishes are flavoursome, light and healthy, showcasing fresh, seasonal ingredients. The hotel restaurant acts as an excellent guide to the region’s bounty: its daily-changing, three-course set menus champion Chilean beef, lamb, seafood, fish and home-grown produce (vegetarians have nothing to fear here). Expect to see plenty of quinoa, Andean spuds and fresh herbs; you might start with a crab-filled pastry or a grilled-pear salad with camembert; progress to ostrich fillet with cabernet sauce and a side of thyme and sage fettuccini, then finish with a traditional southern crumb kuchen (cake) with cabernet sauvignon ice-cream (for example).
Oenophiles will think they’ve died and gone to grapey heaven at Tierra Atacama’s bar, which champions Chilean varieties, including the merlot-like carmenere. A pick of the country’s best chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, merlots, cabernet sauvignons, pinot noirs and syrahs are all available; let the well-informed staff wine-match your meals.
Dinner is served until 10pm (breakfast is 8am–10am; lunch is 1pm–3pm).
Calle a Sequitor s/n, Ayllú de Yaye, San Pedro de Atacama.
You’ll find Tierra Atacama Boutique Hotel & Spa on the edge of San Pedro de Atacama town, on a rugged, arid plateau in the Andes mountains of northeastern Chile.
Calama El Loa Airport is 100 kilometres away, a 90-minute drive. You’ll need to fly to Santiago International Airport first (British Airways offers flights from Heathrow; you can also connect from Amsterdam, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Miami, Sydney and other hubs), then hop on a two-hour domestic flight. Return hotel transfers from Calama are included in the all-inclusive rate.
San Pedro de Atacama is the closest town, 10 minutes away by car. It’s worth picking up wheels from Caloma El Loa Airport (where Europcar, Avis and other rental companies operate) if you want to explore the hotel’s incredible scenery.
Worth getting out of bed for
Where do we start? This hotel has an adventurous schedule in mind (should you want it; Tierra Atacama is equally good at relaxation). It’d be a massive shame to skip the heart-quickening local highlights: the hot springs at Puritama, best visited after a morning at the Tatio Geysers; walking expeditions to the Machuca and Rio Grande to discover small traditional villages and river gorges; a trip to the petroglyphs at Rainbow Valley and Purilaktis; hiking in Moon Valley… Opt for the spa’s Adventure Menu and you can pair your adventures with rejuvenating treatments. Sit in the map room before you set off, so as to plan your explorations properly (staff are on hand to help).
The hotel is far from restaurants and cafés, so dine in-house during your stay.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this Chilean hotel in the Andes and unpacked their carménère wine and kuchen cakes, a full account of their adventure will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa in the Atacama Desert…
Tierra Atacama has a history in hospitality: the hotel is built on the site of an old cattle corral, where drovers who brought cattle from Argentina to the Port of Antofagasta paused to feed and rest their animals after the arduous Andes crossing. The drovers would take a bit of time out too, restocking and refueling with food and water (and, one imagines, something a little harder, if only to keep them warm at nights) before continuing their journey. You don’t need cattle or a cattle prod to swing by these days, but you can definitely expect to leave feeling as refreshed as a rejuvenated drover. (You can also admire the corral’s original adobe walls, deliberately preserved for modern guests.)
Today’s visitors will be wowed by Tierra Atacama’s dramatic volcano views, elegant mid-century interiors (which riff respectfully on traditional Atacama motifs), restful spa and ravishing restaurant: a brilliant introduction to the region’s edible bounty (particularly since all meals are included). It could be easy for a hotel in such a cosmic setting – the star-lit desert, Rainbow Valley, Moon Valley and so on – to be overshadowed by its eye-popping scenery, but Tierra Atacama shines just as brightly as the other stars in the firmament.