It's hard to believe it’s already December! With the holiday season fully underway, we’re featuring some of our favorite places to unwind in front of a fireplace this winter—hopefully with some of your favorite people. Speaking of winter, we’re highlighting a recent trip to the Scandinavian Arctic, complete with a viewing of the Northern Lights. Beaches more your speed? We’ve got the lowdown on some of the best hotels in Anguilla. From all of us at First in Service, we wish you and your families a wonderful holiday season and a very happy New Year. Cheers to 2019!
Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
The Atacama Desert in Chile looks like Mars. Sunsets are epic. The night skies, among the clearest in the world, make stargazing a must. Our team recently experienced this other-worldly landscape on a mind-blowing ‘glamping’ weekend with Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa.
The glamorous camping adventure is a brand new offering by the all-inclusive eco-lodge, located just outside the charming town of Santo Pedro de Atacama. It’s a way for guests to dive deep into the desert experience. Included are two nights on property and one night of tented magic under the desert stars. Consider it a once-in-a-lifetime way to celebrate a honeymoon or special occasion.
Alto Atacama knows how to balance adventure and pampering into every minute. Upon arrival we were greeted with fresh raspberry juice before enjoying a leisurely three-course lunch on the terrace overlooking the red clay hills. Among the a la carte selections were ostrich carpaccio, fresh salmon with purple potatoes, and a creamy mango mousse cheesecake.
After lunch we met with Lily, “the experience advisor.” She gave us an adrenalin rush as she carefully explained each of the many all-inclusive excursion options – from geyser walks, to canyon hikes, hot springs, volcanoes, and astronomy tours. After reviewing our preferences, she customized an itinerary that would culminate in the desert excursion on the third night.
Excursions are split into half day or full day activities. There is a spa and multiple pools onsite for when relaxation is all you need. We opted to start with a hike to Moon Valley, one of the driest places on earth. The sweeping dunes and moon-like rock formations left us speechless. Sunset at Death Valley included a spread of delicious appetizers and wines as we toasted a brilliant pink and orange skyline over the canyons.
The next day we were driven 25 miles to the Puritama Hot Springs, one of the coolest highlights of the trip. Surrounded by foxtail grass, eight pools of thermal spring water sit in a valley in the heart of the desert. While the air temperature was in the 50s, the steaming springs soothed our tired muscles. As we enjoyed soaking and admiring the views, our lovely guide was busy setting up yet another gourmet spread of finger sandwiches, fruits and cheeses and the ever-present Chilean wine.
Near Puritama are the Tatio Geysers, another marvel of nature. Surrounded by a volcanic mountain range in the Andes, these 80 geysers make up the third largest geyser field in the world. At over 14.000 feet, this was a breathtaking sunrise activity. Not to mention the piping hot coffee and open air breakfast that was prepared for us.
But our bucket list moment came on our final afternoon. At 5pm we set off with our two guides into the Salt Mountain Range. This 80-mile long region is full of winding gorges, and wild lunar rock formations, covered in salt, sparkling gypsum and calcium. The two-mile hike itself is jaw-dropping. So is the surprise at the end.
Around a final corner, we headed to a wide clearing where in the distance we could see a group of people waiting for us. It was our campsite for the night. A chef, full crew, beautifully set table, roaring fire pit and two plush tents full of comfy bedding. As the sun sank into the mountains, we were treated to a delicious barbecue feast. When the sky was inky black, our guide handed out blankets, pulled out a laser and began an incredible stargazing show. He pointed out the Southern Cross, Mars, the Milky Way and more. It was the perfect ending to a perfect stay.
Getting to Atacama is a quick flight from Santiago. We flew very comfortably on LATAM, South America’s largest airline. The resort is just over an hour’s drive from Calama airport. In Santiago, we had a very pleasant stay at Singular Santiago in the very hip Lasterria neighborhood, full of shops, restaurants and nightlife.