Adventure and luxury in Chile’s Atacama Desert

Yesterday we told you about options for taking a luxury expedition to the heart of Antarctica, one of the wildest, most remote places on the planet. It turns out there are plenty of other wild places that you can visit on your adventure vacations without giving up the finer things in life too.

Case in point, the Atacama Desert in Chile, a relatively narrow strip of land that stretches for 600 miles along the Pacific Coast of South America. The Atacama is nestled between Chile’s Coastal Mountain Range and the Andes, with this unique topography creating a rain shadow that has prevented any significant precipitation from falling in the region for the span of recorded history.

The Atacama has long had an undeniable allure for the adventure traveler, after all, it is considered the driest place on Earth. A number of trekkers come to the region each year to explore its fabled salt flats, visit small, sparsely populated villages, and take in the starkly beautiful landscapes, featuring high mountains and volcanoes in all directions. The place is also surprisingly full of life, with pink flamingos, llamas, Vicuñas, and other animals all sharing the extreme landscapes.

But over the past few years adventure travelers making the pilgrimage to the desert have often been surprised to find an award winning luxury resort located right in San Pedro de Atacama, the largest town in the area. The Tierra Atacama opened in 2008 and was immediately named to Conde Nast Traveler’s “Hot List”, as well as Travel + Leisure’s top 30 new hotels. It was also recently awarded a Juli B Style award as 2010′s Best International Resort as well, and has quickly earned itself a reputation as a spectacular place to rest and relax between excursions into the desert.
The Tierra Atacama even offers some great options for visitors who want to see the wild and untamed Atacma. They offer day trips into the desert that allow travelers to explore in a 4×4, on horseback or bike, or even on foot. They can organize treks up nearby volcanoes or cultural and wildlife expeditions that expose guests to the wonderful wildlife that call the desert home. Archeological escapes show off the local ruins and petroglyophs left behind by ancient settlers. These day trips will take adventurous travelers through wind swept canyons, up tall mountains, and across the most arid open plains on Earth.

And when you are done explore, you can return to the resort where you’ll be treated to a full spa treatment, including massages, comfortable poolside beds, or a quiet escape to the resort’s library. The comfortable rooms offer spectacular views of the nearby Licancabur Volcano, while gourmet chefs prepare tasty dishes in the resort’s top rated restaurant.

Of course, this kind of luxury adventure doesn’t come cheap. All-inclusive rates start at $970 per person for a two nights stay, based on double occupancy. But the Tierra Atacama is currently running a seven night special that includes five nights at the resort itself, as well as one free night at the Ritz Carlton in Santiago and another free night La Casona at Matetic Vineyards, which is an architectural marvel located in its own 27,000-acre private valley. The promotion runs through the end of October and includes free transfers. You can find out more information by going to TierraAtacama.com or e-mailing reservas@tierraatacama.com. You can also call 1-800-829-5325 to make your booking as well.

This looks like an amazing mix of adventure travel to a spectacular, remote location, nicely mixed with a luxury resort experience that is amongst the best in the world. What a combination!

[Photo credit: Tierra Atacama Resort]