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Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa

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Tierra Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Finding Food—and Frank Lloyd Wright—in the Chilean Desert
YOUR OWN OASIS IN THE DESERT, WITH GUIDES, AN INCREDIBLE POOL, GOURMET MEALS… AND NICE THREAD COUNT
Tierra Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Tierra Atacama
Finding Food—and Frank Lloyd Wright—in the Chilean Desert
YOUR OWN OASIS IN THE DESERT, WITH GUIDES, AN INCREDIBLE POOL, GOURMET MEALS… AND NICE THREAD COUNT
Tierra Atacama
A short drive outside the town of San Pedro de Atacama, Tierra Atacama has wonderful views of fields and Volvano Licancabur. The hotel is part of the Tierra hotel group owned by the Chilean-American Purcell family (who also own Tierra Patagonia, Tierra Chiloé, and Portillo Ski Resort). The property originally served as a cattle corral, but Chilean landscape artist Teresa Moller has transformed the grounds, preserving the ancient algarrobo and chañar trees and restoring the adobe walls.
 
The bedrooms are decorated in natural colors, with local touches like ceramics marching along the sills of the extra-large windows. Animal-skin rugs and alpaca throws provide a touch of warmth for the cool desert nights. You can see the incredible silhouette of Volcano Licancabur from all the rooms, but the Poniente rooms are slightly larger and have better views. There is a friendly communal vibe at the hotel, and upon arrival guests meet with the head guide in the main lounge to choose from the range of group activities on offer each day.
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Finding Food—and Frank Lloyd Wright—in the Chilean Desert
Tierra Atacama is a resort in Chile's northern desert that was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, my hometown of Oak Park’s most influential architect. Tierra Atacama’s most obvious Wrightean influences are in the low design of the earth-colored buildings, the concealment of front doors, the landscaping with prairie grasses, and the integration of structures into the natural landscape of the desert. As Wright drew inspiration from the prairie, the kitchen at Tierra Atacama draws ingredients from the desert. I’m fascinated by the foods people find in the desert. Some parts of the Atacama desert have not seen rain in 400 years, and the landscape is rocky, dusty, and seemingly inhospitable to life. Still, stuff grows in even the most hostile environments, and people eat it…mostly, I’m guessing, because they have to, though that doesn’t mean the food isn’t a little tasty. Driving through the desert toward the hotel, we stopped the car for pictures and I was attracted to a kind of gnarly plant, looking a little like old oregano, growing here and there along the road. I was told it was Rica Rica, a wild bush that apparently grows only in this region. With what must be a taproot going down dozens of feet, the Rica Rica, which translates as “tasty tasty,” is used in the kitchen to infuse pisco, the regional brandy used in the famous Pisco Sour. The Rica Rica has a taste somewhere between sage and basil. Not bad for a food growing in some of the most challenging land in the world.
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YOUR OWN OASIS IN THE DESERT, WITH GUIDES, AN INCREDIBLE POOL, GOURMET MEALS… AND NICE THREAD COUNT
You may have seen it blow up in a James Bond movie — the recent good one, with Daniel Craig — but it is still there. The two Chilean sister hotels of Tierra Hotels are one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. They’re expensive, but worth every penny. Everything is included: room, breakfast, lunch, dinner, booze, and the best part — guides. When you add it all up, and being in one of the most remote and foreboding places on the planet, it actually is a great value…an experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Set just the right amount outside of the little desert oasis town of San Pedro de Atacama, the Tierra nestles nicely into the surrounding desert landscape. Everything is done just right. And the best part — I didn’t have to figure out a single thing. I can’t imagine doing this area without this ideal setup. The wasted time alone would have killed my whole experience. The places they take you don’t have any road signs, and often you’re the only ones there. Between the two Tierras, by far, the best hotel experiences I’ve ever had.
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