Minerals and stone characterize the San Pedro de Atacama Desert, and the same materials give texture to the living spaces at the Tierra Hotel
Thresholds between the desert and the interior melt away, with floor-to-ceiling windows and natural light that illuminates the texture of the stone details and the softness of the cowhide rugs. The main building’s flat roof belies the hotel’s modernist sensibilities, with its simple interiors that offer uninterrupted views. In spite of the bright sunshine, stepping into the courtyard offers balmy temperatures — the Atacama Desert daytime temperatures range from the high 60s to mid-70s °F.
Tierra Hotel puts you a short distance from some of the more unusual attractions of the Atacama Desert. Venturing west from the hotel, you’ll soon find yourself in the unusual setting of the Valle de la Luna, named after its austere landscape, that reminds visitors of another planet. It’s best to visit during the haze of the late afternoon, as the rocks begin to absorb the colors of the sunset. As you hike, you’ll see knobby, twisted formations of rock, formed by retreating glaciers, and further molded by millions of years of wind. Look down to see the smooth, flat surface of the ancient lake beds, a stark contrast to the jagged rocks. Evaporated lakes have left behind white expanses of salt. Look up to see dramatic stripes of mineral deposits in the exposed rock faces.
You’ll see Tierra Hotel’s architecture echoed not only in the landscape but in the nearby towns. Look out the window on a drive to the Chaxa Lagoon, to admire buildings constructed from pale local stone. At the lagoon, you’ll see flocks of flamingos gathered near the shore, dipping their beaks for nibbles of algae.
Tierra Hotel has made an effort to blend in as much as possible with its surroundings. Adobe walls in the courtyard used to surround a 150-year-old bullpen, and an archeological excavation prior to the build revealed artifacts that soon found a home in the nearby R. P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum. Sustainable technology helps the hotel live in harmony with its environment. The “grey” water from baths and sinks flows from the property through an irrigation system and keeps the surrounding acreage bristling with scrubby desert flora. Solar panels line the rooftops, allowing the hotel to vastly reduce its carbon emissions.
You don’t have to stop sightseeing while you’re at the hotel — from the terrace, you can see the Licancabur volcano in the distance. The minimalism in the rooms and shared spaces allows guests to take in the unusual quality of the strong, desert sunlight, and the shifting colors of the terrain. And when you retire to the hotel evening, you’ll see the billions of stars overhead reflected in the placid waters of the infinity pool.