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Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa


This may be one of the coolest hotel experiences on the planet.

Okay, here's the deal: the Tierra Hotels in Chile have an awesome setup, all built around the experiential side of travel. There are two different sister hotels, one in the Atacama Desert in the north and the other right next to/inside the Torres del Paine national park in Patagonia. You pay one (hefty) price per day, but all your meals and drinks are included, but what is really cool is each hotel has about 10-15 trained guides (and a dozen nice new vans) whose sole purpose is to maximize your experience in these magical places. When you arrive, they just ask "What are you in the mood for? You want hikes? You want relaxation? You want views? You want a horseback ride? You want spa?" They have a set destination tours, with half-day or full, that you can set up, change, or do on the fly. They've picked out the best things to do, the best sights to see. The rest is up to what you're up for. Then you go.

The groups are small—so you're not stuck with a dorky group the whole time like on a cruise ship—and can be anywhere from 2 to 9 people. People are always coming and going, so there's new people every day, and you get to mix with a different group on each outing, or pair up again with people you like and explore what you like—from hiking to flora, fauna, or geology. They all know what they're doing and teach you things all along the way. I don't usually do guides—I usually like to figure it all out myself and get lost—but this is one sweet setup.