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Chile on the RiseDecember 8, 2008 By: Joe Pike Travel Agent
This South american destination is ready to come out from under the radar
You’re going to be reading a lot about Chile in 2009, as Travel Agent expects the destination to get a major boost from hosting TravelMart Latin America. But many of its properties are, and may likely stay, under the radar. In an effort to fix that, we bring you two resorts we recently came across that will impress your clients heading to this South American destination.
A suite at Casa Higueras, offers a hilltop view of Valparaiso
The first property we bring you is a boutique hotel in Valparaiso, one of the first cities founded by the Spanish in Chile, and one that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famous for its art and bohemian nightlife. In the heart of Valparaiso is a narrow street called Calle Higueras, located atop Cerro Alegre, once one of the city’s most elegant neighborhoods, whose residents were powerful English and German immigrants. Here, your clients can find Casa Higueras, a 20-room boutique hotel. This former private home dates back to the 1930s, and opened its doors as a hotel only about two years ago.
The property features five Traditional Rooms, four Premium Rooms, four Premium Superior Rooms and seven Suites. Most rooms feature an independent terrace, minibars and more.
We were told room No. 8, one of the suites, is the best room. It’s huge and has a front view of the port from the bed and living room. The chimney is part of the original house, but is only for decoration and not in use anymore.
Casa Higueras is located just blocks from the famous El Peral funicular and the Yugoslavo Walkway. The hotel has an outdoor pool, Jacuzzi and saunas. Massage service can be reserved in advance.
The restaurant, which is open to the general public, is divided into three areas: the principal indoor dining area, a private dining space and an outdoor terrace. (We were told the outdoor dining area was the best of the three because of the views of the port.) In the summer (November through April), 50 people can be seated at any one time in all three dining areas. In the winter, seating is limited to 25 people.
This property is perfect for groups and couples. Agents should call Claudia Schovelin, reservations manager, at 011-56-2-657-3950 or [email protected].
Awasi hides behind an ancient wall that was preserved during construction. There isn’t even a sign on the exterior wall, allowing the hotel to blend in with the local architecture.
The hotel opened about two years ago and is located in San Pedro de Atacama, in Chile’s Atacama Desert, said to be the driest on the planet.
The interior of a round cottage at Awasi Resort
Awasi has eight cottages, all of them built out of stone, adobe and wood. Each one has more than 500 square feet of space with a private patio, a reading armchair and a solarium. Other nice touches in the cottages are the wooden floors, beds with alpaca blankets and outdoor showers. (The only major difference between the cottages is that some are rectangular while others are round. We were told that most clients prefer the round ones.)
In three of the eight rooms, an extra bed may be added if necessary. Guests can have a personal butler unpack their belongings upon arrival, and a Pillow Menu allows clients to select the pillows of their choice for their bed.
Awasi’s restaurant is only open to hotel guests. The culinary team at the resort consists of four professionals who only cook for a maximum of 16 guests. The dishes are made using only native ingredients that have been part of the diet of the local people for thousands of years. These include purple potatoes, patasca, quinoa and chañar.
An Awasi 4x4 vehicle and a professional guide are always available for private excursions. In fact, Awasi has a fleet of 4x4s specially prepared for the difficult conditions of the desert and the altitude. The vehicles are equipped with a GPS unit and VHF or satellite telephones.
For your environmentally conscious clients, it’s probably worth mentioning that the design and materials used in Awasi were all obtained in the area in order to respect the local culture and traditions of the Atacama people. The buildings are made of adobe, and the architecture is designed after the ancient Tulor homes of Atacama. The ground in the common spaces is laid with rock from the local mining town of Toconao, and the marble used in the bathrooms is excavated from the nearby city of Calama. Water used for gardening and maintenance is recycled through an on-property drainage system. The layout of Awasi was adapted to the vegetation, and not a single tree of the land was cut during the construction. Also, the guest rooms and common spaces incorporate locally made decor and furnishings such as aguayos, pottery and alpaca throws. Pumice stones in the bathroom are from the local volcano Laskar.
San Pedro de Atacama is located in the Chilean highlands near the borders of Bolivia and Argentina, 1,040 miles north of Santiago. The road between San Pedro de Atacama and Calama is paved and in good condition, and passes through desert landscape. The area is very rich in all kinds of llama, alpaca and sheep-wool textiles, volcanic stone items, Atacama ceramics and cactus-wood carving.
If your clients are looking to see more than one country during their trip, guests from Argentina can arrive at Awasi through the Argentina-Chile border stop, Jama Pass (located in Jujuy Province). The distance from Jama to San Pedro de Atacama is 220 miles. From Bolivia, guests can arrive in San Pedro via the Bolivian town of Uyuni.
Agents should contact Ivan Costa, commercial manager, at 011-56-2-233-9641 or [email protected].