Hotel Tierra Atacama, Chile


The Hotel Tierra Atacama is a spa hotel in the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. The surrounding land resembles a desolate moonscape and the hotel is a 20 minute walk from the centre of San Pedro de Atacama.

The resort has 32 bedrooms and was designed as an adventure and spa hotel with expert guides available to guide guests through the desert and provide tours to nearby salt flats, Valley of the Moon, Puritama Hot Springs, green canyons, wildlife areas, caves, volcanoes and the El Tatio geysers in the region (there is also the opportunity to look at the night stars in one of the best areas on earth for astronomy). The resort is owned and operated by the Purcell family who also own the Chilean Portillo Hotel and Ski Resort. Travel+Leisure magazine have placed the Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa on their list of best hotels for 2008 and it is also on the Condé Nast Traveler Hot List for 2008.

Construction

"The surrounding land resembles a desolate moonscape."

The 32-bedroom resort and spa opened in February 2008, construction having begun in 2006, in a five-hectare desert oasis in the Chilean Altiplano. The $7m €4.9m, £3.4m) hotel project was designed by the well-known Chilean architects Rodrigo Searle y Matías González, plus Colin Henry and Andrea Borraez, and is constructed from Talabre stone, sand-blasted glass, oxidised iron, adobe mud brick and compacted earth to make it appear as if it has erupted from the landscape spontaneously.

Construction work was undertaken by Construction Inca Ltda on the 3,000m² area. Part of the hotel was built on a 180m-long platform because the surrounding landscape floods periodically.

At the hotel entrance is a dry-stone feature wall that sets the scene for the sustainable style of integrated architecture. Further into the hotel are other dry-stone walls and floors, with other materials including adobe bricks, rammed earth, wood and bamboo.

Thin strips of steel and glass are used carefully in the rooms to frame views as if they were landscape paintings on display. The heavy earth-and-stone structure is ideal for the desert climate, with its hot days and cold nights.

The adobe bricks and compacted earth absorb the heat of the sun in the day to keep the interior cool so that less air conditioning is required and then release it at night to help heat the building.

The interior design was carried out by Alexandra Edwards and Carolina Delpiano, and the landscaping of the resort was designed by horticulture students from the local area coordinated by Teresa Moller y Asoc Landscaping Studio and incorporating water gardens and fig trees. The hotel with its two parallel guest-room wings also has an abundance of outdoor rooms and terraces that have been framed by stone walls and positioned to set off some of the superb views. The outdoor areas include furniture and fireplaces for relaxation during the night hours.

Facilities

The hotel has a 5,060ft² (470m²) spa called the Uma, which is named after the local Aymara Indian name for water. The spa has four treatment rooms, a relaxation garden, an outdoor swimming pool, whirlpool, and Turkish and Finnish saunas.

"Thin strips of steel and glass are used carefully in the rooms to frame views as if they were landscape paintings."

A full range of treatments is on offer, including exfoliations, wraps, massages and specialist signature therapies such as scrubs and baths using the lithium-rich salt from the Atacama salt flat and desert herbs, and wraps using volcanic mud from the area. More esoteric treatments use essential oils, and Chilean gems and crystals.

The resort’s guest rooms are large and comfortable, decorated in warm colours with heavy dark-wood furniture and adorned with art based on the local desert and locally made textiles. All rooms have private terraces and views of the Licancabur volcano.

The restaurant, also decorated with Andean art and statues, offers a wide range of cuisine from Chilean and Andean, accompanied by local Chilean wine, to seafood and international dishes. A great deal of produce comes from the resort garden.

There are also living room spaces for relaxation and an outdoor dining area along with a library and hotel bar.