Sometimes travel inspires, and you simply say it better…
So, here’s a blog dedicated to the words of one of our guests from London, who stayed with us at Awasi Atacama in August.
“Awasi is an experience that comprises excellent accommodation, world-class cuisine, superb (and friendly) service as well as tailor-made adventures in the Atacama region.
This is one of those rare establishments where one must not make any effort to attain ultimate comfort and privacy. The staff will endeavour to fulfil each and every one of the guest’s requests and/or needs (this includes food allergies/intolerances). All the managers, guides, receptionists and bar tenders spoke very good English, which is very important if one wants to grasp every detail of the Atacama experience.
There are only a dozen of rooms and suites decorated in a simple but tasteful manner (which actually suits San Pedro’s relaxed and unpretentious character). The rest of the public areas follow the same design principles and the overall result resembles a very cosy private home in the heart of San Pedro.
We opted for a round suite (9) with a spacious king bed and a vast bathroom with two washbasins, a large tub and a separate shower. This suite has a nice private patio with two sun beds and an outdoor shower. Suites 9 and 10 are the newest (autumn 2015) and most secluded in terms of access and visibility from the public areas so we would recommend either these two in case you want a bit more privacy. Suite 1 used to be the largest and in addition to the patio it also has a little sitting room under a pergola roof. We nearly took this suite, however please note that it is adjacent to the road and thus you may experience more (and louder) noise from traffic, dogs and tourists from within the room or patio.
The heart of the hotel is, on one side, a small pretty swimming pool (unheated). It is cold so not ideal for dipping into during the winter season. Adjacent to the pool is a fire pit surrounded by comfy sofas and blankets, which set the prefect scene for stargazing after dark.
The hotel is located in the centre of San Pedro, so the main street Caracoles is just 5 mins walk from Awasi. There is not much to see in the town itself, most of the commercial establishments are either restaurants or travel agents. The town is literally 4 blocks square so it will take you less than an hour to see the main square and surrounding streets. There are two banks with ATMs that are open 24hrs, in case you need cash.
The rate includes full board and drinks with the exception of premium brands and we were delighted with the choice of excellent Chilean wine that was available as part of the package. The dining managers will be able to recommend the best pairing for your meal choice. As for the food, chef Juan Pablo’s delicious dishes put a smile on our faces every meal. Each creation was beautifully presented and thoroughly explained when served.
The high standards and excellent service typical of Relais & Chateaux are present in every detail of the dining experience.
It is important to note that the cuisine is not really typical of San Pedro. However, the chef makes the effort to use local traditional (and ancestral) ingredients (rica rica – a local herb from an endemic bush that populates the Atacama area in vast quantities; chañar – the small and sweet fruit from a local tree, merquén – a very, very hot red pepper ingested by the bravest locals) in most dishes, creating some of the most interesting flavours we have ever tasted.
The other side of Awasi is comprised by the adventures that one opts to have in the Atacama region; whether it is a simple hike nearby or a road trip to the remote volcanoes and highland lakes near the border with Argentina. The key is to intend to have fun and enjoy the company and expertise of the guides and driver.
Each suite/room “comes” with your own personal guide (and driver), who will make every effort to share their enthusiasm and love for this magnificent part of the world, full of life, colour, history and contrast indeed.
We had the wonderful Mabel as our guide and Cristian as our driver (see picture). The duo took care of us in all trips outside San Pedro (and Mabel also drove us to and from the airport). Without much hesitation Mabel suggested modifications to our planned itinerary for the week, in order to maximise the enjoyment of the sites and save time.
Our tours included walks in the Devil’s Canyon, Tatio Geyser, Lejia lake in the highlands (this is an off-the-beaten-track trip and not listed in the options, but worth asking for it), Moon Valley first thing in the morning with bike ride (you will avoid the crowds of the evening and enjoy the most blissful silence on top of the dune), star gazing and astronomy tour at night and the petroglyphs of Kezala. All the full-day and half-day excursions are carefully planned, with mini-picnics available at the end of each or full meals (for example we had a delicious lunch with stunning views over the valley and a hearty breakfast at 4,000m) depending on the distance travelled, level of complexity of the trip and time of the departure from the hotel.
It makes a huge difference to visit the local attractions and sites on a private car/truck; there are no groups, no delays, no crowds, and no irrelevant chitchats! The only chats one has are with the guide/driver, if you are interested in discovering more about the history, geology and biodiversity of the Atacama. Mabel was very proficient in all subjects and she always had something interesting to say about all the places we visited and all the flora and fauna we spotted.
This was truly one of the best experiences we had –worth every penny and we would happily repeat!”