Explora Atacama

Located in the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama, Explora Atacama was designed as the perfect base from where to explore the desert, the Andes highlands, and its surroundings. Through more than 40 explorations including hiking, biking, vehicle touring, horseback riding or stargazing in the observatory, you’ll be able to discover the deepest mysteries of the desert: its contrasts, geography, the sky, wildlife and culture. The lodge is uniquely located in the Ayllu de Larache (initially a kin-based community of the ancient Aymara people), near the village of San Pedro de Atacama.

The 17-hectare (42-acre) grounds comprise 20 indigenous parcels, some with timeworn pathways and buildings that Explora is committed to preserving out of a profound respect for the area’s original inhabitants. Designed to blend in with the landscape and with views to the Andes Mountains and gardens, the ranches comfortable rooms ensure travelers a deep rest after a day of exploration. There are 4 bright and roomy Catur suites simply, but elegantly built with warm wood, modern amenities and balconies overlooking the countryside.  There are also 19 Tular twin rooms with 8 interconnecting rooms which are perfect for families and have views over the Salt Mountain Range.

The kitchen designs dishes to enable guests to perform various explorations and still feel light, agile, and healthy. Furthermore, based on our luxury of the essential, the chef seeks to offer pure flavors from quality ingredients. Dishes are always accompanied by a superb Chilean wines and carry a menu of Premium wines for those that would like to try other alternatives. The Explorer’s Bar is the meeting place of our guides for planning explorations. Stocked with liquor and Chilean wines, the bar is frequently the meeting point of returning groups at nightfall.

Just a short walk from the hotel is the Quincho – an inviting BBQ area that includes a renovated, old traditional adobe house and its patio. Here, on special occasions, we get together with guests for a traditional spit-roasted-lamb, beef and fish, as well as other local dishes – all accompanied by Andean music, song and dance performances by accomplished local artists.

Surrounded by foxtail plants and lush native vegetation are four, interconnected, ambient-temperature pools – ideal for relaxing, building back strength and enjoying the deep desert silence after a day of intense exploration. Near the pools are sauna and steam bath facilities, and open-air Jacuzzis. The massage center is located near the hotel, in a restored Colonial adobe-straw building. Turi Puri, which in Kunza, the language of the area’s early inhabitants, means “House of Water,” invites you to discover a new level of inner peace, outer harmony, and revitalized energy.

 

After arriving in Santiago, Chile’s capital city, you need to take a 2-hour connecting flight to the city of Calama. At Calama Airport, a member of the Explora team will pick you up and drive you to Explora Atacama, approximately one-hour away.

During winter (June – September), the average daytime temperature ranges from 9º C (48º F) to 24º C (75º F) – inviting you to soak up the sun in the lodge’s relaxing lounge chairs, on the terraces or in the glassed corridors. During summer (December – March), daytime temperatures fluctuate between 13º C (55º F; early morning) and 25º C (77º F; evening), with a maximum of approximately 32º C (90º F) – a period of the year calling for an afternoon siesta before joining one of the evening explorations.

Ninety percent of the days are clear and sunny.  However, between mid-December and the beginning of March, occasional rains and snow in higher areas result in what is called the Altiplano Winter. During these months and due to unstable weather conditions in the area, some of the explorations could be subject to changes or even canceled in order to protect your safety.

 

San Pedro de Atacama and its surrounding areas are one of Chile’s most enigmatic territories. The diversity of the landscape is one of the most popular attractions. Aware of this, we take our travelers to explore every corner. Just to mention a few experiences that explora Atacama propose, we ride horses through the red land plains and huge sand dunes, characteristic of one of the driest desert in the world, visit turquoise lagoons that are located over 4,000 meters (13,123 ft) in the highlands, walk through geysers, and follow green riverbeds in an area where water is a limited resource.

Either on foot, horseback riding, or bike –including high mountain ascents and astronomical sessions– over 40 explorations take our travelers to the cultural richness of this fascinating territory. Below is a sample of some of the many explorations you can choose from. They are always led by a competent guide from our School of Guides and are made up of groups of up to eight travelers.  They have different length and difficulty levels.  The altitude of our explorations ranges between 2,800 (9,186 ft) and over 5,000 meters above sea level (16,404 ft); consequently, some of them need prior acclimatization. For safety reasons, high mountain hiking requires a minimum of two nights acclimatization so that travelers can get used to high altitudes and then scale up slowly towards higher mountain peaks.

A minimum of five nights is recommended for an exploration experience in which you can really know what Atacama is about, although we are sure that after each exploration day you will want to extend your stay to explore more of this wonderful place.

Half Day Hikes

Guatín – Punta del Inca

Departure by van from explora we take the road toward the Guatin village, at the confluence of the Puritama and Purifica Rivers. For the most part, this exploration goes through a cactus valley. The trail follows the river along a canyon, crossing it several times, and descending by the edge of waterfalls (with falls of 3 meters/ 10 feet, approximately). Finally, leaving the canyon, we enjoy panoramic views of Atacama. Return to the hotel by van.

Kamur

Departure by van from explora to La Luna Valley where we enjoy the varied scenery of La Sal Mountains, where the wind and water erosion have carved the land into stone sculptures, geological formations and sand dunes. We walk across several valleys and vast plains, typical of the desert landscape. Return to the hotel by van.

Matancilla

Departure by van from the hotel toward the Domeyko Mountains, home of the guanaco, a mammal of the Camelidae family. We visit archaeological sites with cave paintings and walk through a ravine that was used as a caravan route for trade and foraging by several ancient people that populated the Atacama Desert. By the end of the hike, we arrive to the Arcoiris Valley, a site with huge earth walls. Rich in minerals, these walls render a multicolored landscape.

Full Day Hikes

Kamur

Departure by van from explora to La Luna Valley where we enjoy the varied scenery of La Sal Mountains, where the wind and water erosion have carved the land into stone sculptures, geological formations and sand dunes. We walk across several valleys and vast plains, typical of the desert landscape. Return to the hotel by van.

Kulamar

Departure by van from the hotel, we take the road to Argentina toward the the Andean Highlands. We begin the walk at over 4000 m (13,123 ft) with views of several salt flats and highland hills. With birdwatching opportunities, this exploration leads us through salt flats until we reach the pass of the Mochota Hill, with views of the Aguas Calientes salt flat. Finally, we have lunch at a spot that will be selected depending on weather conditions.

Ruta del Agua

Departure by van from the hotel toward the north side of the Puritama Natural Reserve. We start hiking with views of the The Mountains, its volcanoes and the Atacama salt flat basin. To get to the hot springs, we walk across several ravines, some of them deep and others shallow. The hike offers a chance to note several changes in the flora and visit the habitat of the Andean mountain cat, one of the world’s least studied endangered species. At the hot springs, we have a light lunch and enjoy the thermal pools. In the evening, we keep walking along the ravine toward Guatin, a grazing area. Because of the contrasts in flora and fauna due to elevation changes, this hike offers a chance to visit intermediate ravines between the oasis and The Mountains.

Gato Andino

Departure by van toward the Argentinean border in central Andes where we hike through remote and colorful landscapes. We walk through unusual rock formations and highland salt flats with views of the mountains. Return to the hotel by van.

Half Day Biking

Valle de la Luna

Departure by van from explora toward La Sal Mountains. Here, we begin cycling from La Paciencia plain toward La Luna Valley through a captivating landscape. We return to explora by bicycle. The return roads are very different from one another and include uneven slopes, with several ascend and descends.

Tambo

We depart from the hotel and cycle across the Catarpe Valley. We ascend toward Cuchabrache through an old road that goes across La Sal Mountains, where we pass by several gypsum and salt ravines. During this bicycle exploration, travelers can appreciate the local culture, observe the petroglyphs and visit the San Isidro Chapel.

Full Day Biking

Río Grande – San Bartolo

We depart by van from explora toward Rio Grande, from where we begin cycling along shepherd paths on the side of the river. During this exploration, we pass through different ravines. In some of them we will need to get off the bike and walk it along. The strength of this exploration is that it offers speed changes and direct contact with nature. Return to the hotel by van.

Horseback Riding

Valle de la Luna

Departure from explora horse stables toward La Sal Mountains, crossing the Chula sand dunes. We trot and gallop our horses until we reach La Luna Valley. During this horseback ride we go through pristine and solitary landscapes, experiencing the desert’s emptiness. For riders used to gallop and trot for long spans.

Valle de Marte

We depart by horse from the hotel toward the Marte Valley. Here, we ride through desert landscapes with reddish sedimentary formations and clay esplanades. This exploration is ideal for travelers who want to get a general idea of La Sal Mountains’ geography.

High Mountain Ascents

Volcán Corona

Departure by van from explora toward the Talabre village, southeast from the San Pedro oasis. The ascent begins with a hike through volcanic rocks and boulders. Its length depends on snow conditions. The summit offers views of numerous volcanoes in the Andes Mountains, including the Lascar volcano with its characteristic vent. The descent route goes through volcanic rocks for 2-3 hours. Lunch is served in the highlands.

Volcán Colorado

Departing by van from explora we head north toward the foot of the Colorado volcano. We start climbing gradually over a slope that becomes steeper as we go forward. We pass through huge rocks and loose stones to continue climbing until we reach the summit, which offers panoramic views of the Atacama salt flat basin and the highlands. The descending route toward the base goes through barely marked paths and requires great care. Return to explora by van.

Expedition

Volcán Licancabur

After completing several explorations at over 4000 m (13,123 ft), gradually acclimatizing our body, on the sixth day we depart by van from explora toward a remote campsite in Bolivia. Once settled, we go on a hike in the area of Laguna Verde and Laguna Blanca, from where we enjoy a good view of the Licancabur volcano. The following day, we begin our hike before sunrise. The trail is very well marked and we light it using headlights. Mid-way, we watch the sunrise over Laguna Verde and Laguna Blanca. After hiking for several hours, we reach the summit, from where we have a view of the world’s highest crater and lagoon. The descending route can be challenging due to the steep slopes and unstable ground. On our way back, we pass by ancient Inca ruins.

 

 

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