Hotel check: Hotel de Larache

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Background

Hotel de Larache, or Explora Atacama, is a Mantis property and opened in 1998. Mantis is a family-run collection of privately-owned 5-star properties. Its specialist areas include boutique hotels, game reserves, eco lodges, ski lodges and chalets, and yachts.

Where is it?

 Hotel de Larache is in the San Pedro de Atacama oasis on a plain known as the Ayllu de Larache. We flew from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo in Brazil and onto Santiago in Chile. From Santiago we took a two-hour domestic flight to Calama. A pick-up transfer from Explora takes you from Calama to San Pedro de Atacama – about an hour away by car through the desert.

Rooms

Tastefully designed with wooden ceilings and stone tiled floors, 46 comfortable rooms and four suites open onto a central courtyard. Each has a small living area, a hydro-massage bath, monsoon shower, and a king-size bed with crisp linen, down duvet and ultra-comfortable pillows. A wall-to-wall rectangular window affords panoramic views of the orchard, the Cordillera de Sal (salt plains) or views of the distant smouldering Volcano Licancabúr. Bright blue doors, green furniture and splashes of yellow wicker echo colours found in the adobes of San Pedro. Apart from roomy dressing gowns, slippers, unlimited drinking water, toiletries and a safe, little pots of lemon lip balm were a welcome touch. Humidifiers to counteract the parched atmosphere are available on request at no extra charge.

Restaurants & Bars

The main restaurant that can accommodate up to 100 diners offered a set menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Think deliciously unctuous, svelte, sophisticated food with silver service and top Chilean wines. Floor to ceiling windows maximise the view of the volcanic mountains, or you can eat outside on the terrace. Maps, photographs depicting the Atacama wildlife, and satellite images of the area decorate the walls of the wrap-around bar area, where you can enjoy a traditional pisco sour or a tasty snack between meals. We also enjoyed a barbeque in the “quincho” – a type of boma – where Atacamenian performers in traditional masks and costumes entertained us with music and dancing.

Meeting & Conference Facilities

Three meeting rooms can accommodate 100, 40, or 12 delegates. Computers and Wi-Fi Internet are available for guests. Explora’s Corporate Adventures & Executive Retreat Programme offers great experiences for incentive trips, including daily desert explorations with multi-lingual guides and the largest private astronomical observatory in Chile. The Atacama is the best place in the world for stargazing.

Leisure Facilities

Explora Atacama own the Termas de Puritama situated on 17,297 acres, where you can relax in natural hot spring pools, with aperitifs included. There are also four elegant outdoor pools – two of which are solar heated – plus a sauna, steam bath, open-air jacuzzi, massage salon and shaded sitting areas with deck chairs. Hotel de Larache is the only lodge in Atacama that offers its own stables, with 26 horses especially trained for excursions. Guides provide basic training for beginners. Guests are encouraged to go on at least two explorations a day, on foot, mountain bike or horseback. Everything is included and there are at least 40 outings to choose from, including salt flats where three species of flamingo live in shallow lakes; hundreds of spurting geysers at El Tatio; desert walks through ancient settlements; hikes through canyons among three metre cacti; sunset sojourns to Moon Valley or the multi-hued Valle del Arcoiris (Rainbow Valley), where minerals turn the sands from green to pink; photographic safaris; volcano climbing and much more. You plan your daily journeys with your guide in the ‘Explorer’s Room’, with an extensive library and large-scale maps. A gift shop and art gallery feature Atacama Indian crafts.

Verdict

An oasis of extreme civilisation off the beaten track in the high Andean desert. If you like your wilderness served with hot showers, cold plunge pools, chilled beers, gourmet food and efficient, smiling staff, then the Hotel de Larache is for you.

Caroline Hurry

Contact
Address: San Pedro de Atacama
Tel: +56 22066060
Email: info@explora.com
Web: www.mantiscollection.com