“It’s a desert conundrum” writes Chris Moss in Conde Nast Traveller. “You visit the driest, emptiest place on the planet to ogle the Martian landscapes, squint at the shimmering salt lake, gawp at the cosmos—this is world-renowned stargazing territory, home to the ALMA radio telescope. But at this hotel just outside the hip hiker-hub of San Pedro, part of you just wants to stay put.”

Conde Nast Traveller (UK) and Conde Nast Traveler (USA) have now combined, so the Gold List 2019 is the first transatlantic list, created by teams in New York and London. It spans six continents and 36 countries.

UK travel writer Chris Moss put forward Awasi Atacama, our Relais & Chateaux lodge in Northern Chile. His write-up continues:

“Inspired by pre-Inca ruins, this Awasi—the first of the tiny, rootsy Chilean chain, open since 2007—is all pale wood and tan adobe walls, with shade-giving trees pressing in on all sides. There are plenty of alpaca blankets and books in the public spaces, and a fire-pit and candlelight encourage intelligent idling after dark. The 10 suites have bathtubs, chaises, more blankets.

“The restaurant serves up sublime octopus causas. It would be too easy to indulge in all of this and then join fellow wanderers at the bar and talk about expeditions to undertake, maybe tomorrow, over a glass of Maule Valley merlot. Fortunately, Awasi insists all guests have a private guide—invariably an expert on Andean geology or geyser physics—and their own four-wheel-drive, so spending a little time away from the retreat is pretty straightforward, too. This is a place made for hedonistic hermits, part of a new breed of superior and polished wilderness hotels.”

Awasi Atacama Private Guide and 4×4

So what is the Gold List? The Conde Nast team says: “They’re gold as in exceptional. Gold as in classic. Gold as in brilliant. Gold as in you’d do it all tomorrow.”

To run alongside the Gold List, Awasi also appeared in a Conde Nast Traveler online piece by Mark Ellwood: “The Traveler 25: A Very Opinionated, Totally Subjective List of Things We Loved About Travel This Year”.

Here it’s Awasi Iguazu’s time to shine, as it was announced winner of the Hotels With Best Treats/Turndown Service:

“Awasi Iguazu in Argentina, according to Christopher Wilmot-Sitwell, co-owner and director of cazenove+loyd. He tells the story of how a guest—a designer looking for inspiration for her next collection—chatted with the day’s guide, and found a unique turndown treat that night. “There on her pillow in the evening was a beautiful book of watercolors and illustrations of animals and plants of the region, drawn by one of the Jesuit monks dating back to 1630.”

One of the 14 villas at Awasi Iguazu. Photo: João Canziani

Among the interviewees for the piece was Awasi’s Director General, Matias de Cristobal, who gives his highs and lows on travel with tips on frequent flier programmes and the best airline headphones: 

“The noise-cancelling ergonomic pair that Matias de Cristobal, co-founder of Awasi, received on Qatar Airways was so good ‘they came home with me’.”