Situated in northern Chile between the Pacific and the Cordillera de Los Andes, San Pedro de Atacama is an oasis located 8,015 feet above sea level. This area of desert, oasis, volcanoes, salt fields, and hot springs has for centuries played host to the pre-Columbian Andean cultures of South America.
The bright and airy Hotel de Larache, the base for explora Atacama, is set in the moonscape-like Atacama Desert. Recent renovations to the 50-room hotel include the addition of four handsome guest suites, two sala de exploradores, a Turkish Bath and open-air Jacuzzis, and a glass-walled, open-style kitchen.
Seeing exploration has always been at the heart of the explora experience, the sala de exploradores, covered in a wealth of maps and photographs of the area, offer a great space to consider your options for the next day – going to your destination by foot, horse, mountain bike, or vehicle – all while enjoying a drink from the bar nextdoor. The hotel also has its own observatory, for some of the finest stargazing on the continent.
From Hot Springs to People
Outposts of humanity are few and far between in these remote parts of Chile. Yet their impact on explora’s mission is incalculable, providing travelers with unforgettable glimpses into the culture, customs, and natural beauty. Indeed, without them a journey here wouldn’t be the same. And so, over the years, the Santiago-based travel operator, which also has lodges in Patagonia and on Easter Island, has made constant efforts to support the communities it visits.
In 2000 explora helped refashion the Puretama Hot Springs near San Pedro from a few dirty pools into an inviting destination for travelers and locals to relax and bathe, an effort that not only garnered a world architecture award but also, after being given to the Atacameños, generates $150,000 annually for the community. The money is used for the Internado Andino boarding school and other projects.
Also, explora guides teach English in local schools throughout the Atacama, including the elementary school in San Pedro and others in Solor, Talabrea, Camar Socaire and Rio Grande. The company also makes donations to Juriques, a local medical institution that aids children with physical disabilities.
The head of explora’s Atacama guiding operations works with a clinic in San Pedro to promote health awareness, recently taking 150 locals on a walk and then feeding them. Schoolchildren are brought to the property and shown around and fed. Besides its own recycling efforts, explora will this year establish training on recycling and other environmental initiatives at schools throughout the region.