The Atacama desert has some of the most spectacular scenery and hiking mountains in the world - and hence one expects the highest quality of guides and trips.
Explora Atacama delivers on this front brilliantly, with a full roster of guides who have extensive experience with guiding (more than 5+ years in most cases) and a brilliant range of hiking trips as well as other activities ranging from an on-site observatory to large stables/corral to biking to van trips for those who want lesser activities. Add to this four beautiful swimming pools, excellent service, good food and rooms and friendly people and you have an almost perfect place to stay.
I stayed at Explora Atacama four years ago for six nights and just recently for six nights; four years ago I thought it was excellent and was surprised to find it was even better this time around. Things could of course change -- it could experience the massive exodus of guides and deep declines in quality of explorations that I witnessed at Explora Patagonia. But right now this is the place to go -- it has the best guiding team one can possibly hope for - anywhere.
There are 50 rooms and a capacity for up to 100 people but the hotel property is so spread out the lodge does not feel nearly that big. The lodge and dining area is very well designed and spacious.
There are a couple of points that are important to keep in mind in terms of what this sort of hotel is for and what it is not for. Atacama is an adventure destination and if you are in your 30s or 40s and in really good shape and like hiking or mountain biking and have some experience with it, this is going to be a lot of fun. For those who are overweight or in not so good shape or older or less experienced with hiking, you need to manage expectations. The guides are young and strong and experienced -- they do things in their free time like mountain bike down volcanoes. While they do their best with less active or experienced guests, they can have difficulty fully appreciating the viewpoints of those who are less active (and keep in mind that in some place like Atacama less active may mean quite active elsewhere). Still, the staff and guides try really hard. So, while on some of the more dangerous hikes the guides are very careful people bring the right things (and will often bring two guides instead of one), the information on van trips and other trips aimed at the less active is less complete. The information on the Explora website is also sketchy on what to bring for what -- there is an assumption that people who go to these lodges do know what they are doing to a degree. You don't need to be in a great shape or to be very experienced to visit Atacama but the more you have done, the more you will enjoy and appreciate Atacama. And if you are in bad shape or completely unexperienced, there is a risk you will be disappointed.
On my recent trip on Atacama I was lucky enough to climb up Licancabur from the Bolivian side, the volcano Toco and do a number of excellent other trips. Because I wanted to climb Licancabur in a week, the hotel -- and in particular my fantastic guide Gustavo - did an excellent job putting together an acclimatisation program. It is not easy to get someone coming from sea level ready in just one week to climb 1300m starting from 4600m but Explora did this - with flying colours as I was able to reach the summit of Licancabur just
about the time of sunrise.
The other thing I'd note as an important factor is altitude - an issue magnified by the fact that Atacama is very, very dry.. While this lodge is in town at a reasonable 2500m, many of the most interesting trips are at 4000m or above. This means it is not a great idea to just come to Atacama for four days as you will not have time to acclimatise and see the really interesting things. Also the area around Atacama is vast. I'd regard a week as an absolute minimum and if you really are a serious hiker or want to really see the high altitude area and climb a number of the volcanoes, stay for 10 days or more. Some of the higher volcanoes have dangerous or difficult descents and this factor also needs to be kept in mind.
Every hotel has its time of glory - for Explora Atacama it is now. Go there.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Our lodge is located on a plain known as the Ayllu de Larache, once inhabited by an ancient Atacameno community. We have respected the original layout of the land and restored and maintained some of the buildings.Opened in 1998, our lodge is situated on 17 hectares (42 acres) of grounds just a few minutes' walk from the town of San Pedro de Atacama. In the area surrounding the lodge, we have maintained the ancient pathways and buildings which form a labyrinth that invites exploration.There are 50 rooms housed in three long buildings, positioned to form a central square planted with large trees for ample shade. On the fourth side of the square is the building which houses the lodge's public spaces. The views from the lodge's broad terraces enable you to enjoy Atacama's vast chain of volcanic mountains.In 2008, we set ourselves the challenge of intensifying your explora Atacama experience, remodeling the furnishings and the indoor and outdoor spaces. Now that the work is complete, we are pleased to be able to offer you new facilities and services. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- De Larache Hotel
- Resort All Inclusive De Larache
- Explora Atacama San Pedro De Atacama, Chile