Tucked into the oasis of San Pedro within Chile's beguiling Atacama Desert is an all-inclusive hotel like no other. Explora's Hotel de Larache is not just a place to stay, it's a base for sun-blinding adventure.
As a rule, many travelers tend to avoid all-inclusive getaways. The idea itself seems to trap the itchy-footed tourist in a box, unable to see a country beyond the perfect symmetry of the hotel gate. But Explora poses a different idea: an all-inclusive adventure.
Whereas other all-inclusive resorts see themselves as both destination and activity, Explora fashions itself as a base camp - a comfortable home from which to discover the culture and natural surroundings of the Atacama Desert.
That's not to say the property lacks amenities. Explora's Hotel de Larache boasts Chile's most advanced amateur observatory, a traditional quincho, computer and book rooms, store, restaurant, bar, meeting facilities, stables, and 17 hectares of land with four pools, two Jacuzzis and saunas, and a steam bath. Yet, there are no TVs and the pools and other facilities are hidden in a labyrinth of old roads and adobe walls that make them an adventure of their own. Furthermore, all of these are meant for resting before, after, and in between exploration.
Similarly, Explora lacks the pretense of other all-inclusive options. Guests are not urged to dress up in fine attire for meals; the food is an exploration - a discovery of local Chilean ingredients that can be enjoyed in exploring attire.
There are no Doric columns or flashy adornments. The rooms and lodge are elegantly simple, fitting into the landscape with nods to local fabrics, building materials, and aesthetics.
Explora makes adventure travel easy and accessible. The young trilingual guides are some of the best in the country having passed a rigorous selection process and, more than anything else, it's the trust the guest feels in these guides that makes climbing a 5,000m volcano or riding a horse through the Valley of Death both comfortable and as relaxing as possible.
As the name infers, Explora is all about exploring, and the amiable guides are a constant presence, organizing excursions and greeting you at the bar with updates, ideas, and highlighted maps. This personalized detail goes well beyond the guides. The waiters remember your favorite wine, the bartender knows your preferred pisco, and the room is set for both your afternoon siesta and your evening snooze.
Of course, the Explora experience comes with a hefty price tag, but the company's commitment to sustainability and improving the local community through the Explora Foundation leave you feeling as though your money will go far beyond the confines of the hotel.
Explora has three locations in Chile: the Hotel de Larache in San Pedro de Atacama, the Hotel Salto Chico in Patagonia, and the Posada de Mike Pau on Easter Island. There are talks of expanding beyond Chile into Argentina and Peru. For more information on Explora, visit www.explora.com or CLICK HERE for a look at Atacama excursions from San Pedro.