Alto Atacama Resort & Spa
Set in the Chilean desert, just outside the tiny town of San Pedro, you’ll find Alto Atacama – a desert haven surrounded by natural beauty. With architecture influenced by the local villages, the 42-room resort’s terracotta structure is designed to blend into the natural red rock formations in the area. Not just for lazing about, residents are encouraged to get out and experience their surroundings, the local indigenous populations and the vast, empty spaces. More than 30 activities are on offer, including horse riding over sand dunes, biking through desert canyons, climbing volcanoes and exploring ancient Incan ruins. A large number of the resort’s staff are indigenous people with a deep connection to the region and the environmental sustainability cornerstones of the resort’s ethos.
The design of the resort is simple in feel and adheres to the colours and impression of the landscape it sits in. Following the concept of “Andescape”, Veronica Poblete has landscaped the resort’s gardens by following the traditions of those cultures that walked the desert many years ago. Everything has been put together using local labour and materials, right down to the hand-carved stones and tiles that make up the resort’s structures. Groups of llama and alpaca lazily bask in the sunlight of Alto Atacama’s stables, and the grounds showcase distinctively native flora and fauna. The resort’s restaurant uses locally sourced organic produce – some of which can be found and collected on hiking trips that the resort organises – to create beautiful cuisine that is complemented by fine Chilean wine. Guests can choose to dine outdoors or inside, with the opportunity to mingle with the wide variety of international guests.
Rooms start at roughly US$560 (about A$600) per person, per night for a double booking. altoatacama.com
LAN operates daily flights from Sydney to Santiago, with connections to Calama. Return economy fares start at A$2,349 and business class fares from A$6,659. Total flight time is around 15 hours plus stopover. From here, the resort is about a 90-minute trip by car through the desert. The small town of San Pedro is less then two kilometres from the resort. lan.com
When to go
Spring and autumn have the least variance in temperature between day and night, and are generally milder.
Awasi is comprised of just 12 villas nestled on a private reserve adjacent to the Torres Del Paine National Park, with sweeping views of Lake Sarmiento. Designed to be an exclusive hideaway, the lodge’s villas are inspired by old Patagonian shelters and ranching outposts, and are beautifully decorated with extensive furnishings and rustic décor. The resort’s buildings are made from locally procured wood and are designed to blend into the surrounding scenery. With a natural reserve right on the doorstep, there are myriad opportunities for excursions and Patagonian exploration.
Awasi assigns a guide and a vehicle to each villa meaning the length, route and timing of tours are at the guest’s discretion. Once you’ve worked up a considerable appetite, you can dine in the resort’s restaurant, which is exclusive to guests and headed by chef Federico Ziegler, who places an emphasis on local ingredients to create deluxe Patagonian gastronomy.
Villas start from US$2,970 (about A$3,174) per person twin share for a three-night program. Rates are all-inclusive of food and beverage, private excursions and private vehicle transfers to and from Puerto Natales and Cerro Castillo. awasi.com
LAN operates flights from Sydney to Santiago, with connections to Punta Arenas. Return economy fares start at A$2,875 and business class fares from A$7085. Total flight time is around 20 to 30 hours including stopovers. lan.com
When to go
Awasi notes that part of experiencing this area of Patagonia is the unpredictable nature of its climate. Each season presents a new challenge weather-wise, with strong winds characteristic of the area a factor to consider year-round.
The Vines Resort & Spa
Set in the Uco Valley in Mendoza, the famous wine region of Argentina, The Vines is a true spectacle – a 22-villa retreat set among 1,500 acres of vineyards against the backdrop of the snow-capped Andes. This resort will appeal particularly to wine aficionados, with available activities including the opportunity to roam the vineyards and harvest grapes, or make your own custom wine with consultant winemaker Santiago Achával. Co-founders Pablo Gimenez Riili, a Mendoza lawyer and wine connoisseur, and Michael Evans, an American former political consultant, came together in 2004 to make a reality out of their vision: “to be South America’s finest resort, known for extraordinary wine, laid-back luxury, uncommon adventure, heartfelt hospitality, impeccable service, authenticity and fun”.
Accommodation options come in the form of one- or two-bedroom villas, all with substantial indoor and outdoor living spaces. If you feel like you simply can’t leave, there are residence options available or, if you want a good excuse to return regularly, opportunity exists to purchase a profesionally managed private vineyard. The resort’s restaurant is headed by internationally acclaimed chef Francis Mallmann, who uses a raft of open-flame cooking techniques or “seven fires” to showcase Argentinian beef, cast-iron baked salt-encrusted salmon, and grilled seasonal fruits. Indoor and al fresco dining options are available, and for large groups, the outdoor chef’s table offers prime seating for watching the seven fires in action.
When you’re ready to play, the Andes are at your doorstep and 300 sun-filled days a year are yours for the taking. Mendoza is a new frontier to discover, and the resort’s Gauchos are ready and willing to take you on your excursion – be it fly-fishing or horseriding through the mountainous countryside.
One-bedroom villas start from US$510 (about A$545) per night plus taxes including breakfast and Wi-Fi access. vinesresortandspa.com
LAN offers daily flights from Sydney to Mendoza via Santiago. Return economy fares start from A$2,495 and business class fares from A$7,103. Flight time is approxiately 18 hours plus stopover. lan.com
When to go
With 300 days of sunshine a year, there’s no preferable time to visit. However, the region is especially spectacular in the autumn, when the climate is comfortable and tourist numbers are down.