In February, I decided that a last-minute vacation was absolutely necessary to survive the winter. Short, dark days had me itching for the Southern hemisphere. I came across Tierra Hotels while searching for luxury accommodations in South America, and was intrigued at their high-end, all-inclusive offerings. Relying solely on Trip Advisor reviews and beautiful photos, I emailed the company and asked for a proposal that could allow us to visit two or all three of their properties during a block of dates. They promptly replied with an itinerary, discount for visiting multiple hotels, and even a free night in Santiago at the end of our trip. That was all it took, our Chilean Adventure began.
I’ve never relied on a tour company or an experiential hotel brand like Tierra to do all of the planning before; but, WOW! I am a changed traveler. Besides confirming dates with the hotel, all I had to do was book our flights. Beyond that, they arranged every single detail.
Chilean Adventure Part 1 – Chiloé
We planned to travel first to Tierra Chiloé, on the south-central coast of Chile. The area, known for iconic wooden churches, penguin colonies, and mussel farms, is a stunning archipelago. After a missed flight connection and lost luggage, our adventure began with four nights in Chiloé.
Chiloé Day 1
The day began with a change in plans. We were set to arrive into Castro airport, a quick 30-minute drive from the resort, but customs lines in Santiago caused us to miss the only flight. Instead, we were routed to Puerto Montt Airport which sits about 3.5-hours north of Chiloé. The hotel was immediately responsive and set us up with a transfer from the alternative airport. We were greeted promptly upon arrival and nourished with sack lunches for our transfer.
The journey from the airport included beautiful views and a breezy ferry ride across the Chacao Channel to the island of Chiloé. We reached the hotel midday and got settled into our room before making our way to the bar for our daily pisco sour. While enjoying our cocktails, we met with the excursions coordinator and formed a plan for our visit. Did I mention that the pisco sours are delicious?
Our goal was to be as active as possible in as many ways as possible. We wanted to hike, bike, paddle, ride horses, and whatever else they could come up with! Our itinerary quickly took shape, and we had an action-packed plan for the next three days.
As our first day was taken over by travel, we decided to take a walk around the grounds and explore before dinner. Lake views, a long, rocky beach, gardens, stables, and horse trails surround the hotel.
Chiloé Day 2
We traveled by boat to the islands of Chelin and Quehui.
Chilean Adventure – Chelin
Chelin offers a World Heritage Site church, a beautiful cemetery of miniature houses, and original homes dotting a large soccer field.
We navigated between Chelin and Quehui by kayak and continued exploring.
Chilean Adventure – Quehui
Quehui offered a beautiful hike for our small group. The scenery was breathtaking as were the plentiful birds along the trails.
Chiloé Day 3
The most memorable part of our Chilean Adventure in Chiloé was probably our hike from Chepu to El Parque Ahuenco. The day started at dawn with a frigid boat ride down a murky fog-covered river haunted by a spooky sunken forest. Nature’s beauty dotted our 10-mile hike. We passed by a beautiful shipwreck nestled on a long flat beach, navigated around paths crossed by snoozing cows, traversed slippery rocks covered in seaweed, and ate lunch while watching a colony of penguins frolic and sealions ride crashing waves.
Chiloé Day 4
We spent our final day in Chiloé at the hotel. We spent the morning kayaking around the Pullao Marsh navigating between the clam farms and watching the flightless steamer ducks flap their wings against the water to glide across the marsh.
In the afternoon we rode horses around the hotel grounds, along the beach, and galloped up the hilly pastures.
Overall Tierra Chiloé – Review
Tierra Chiloé provided excellent service, a plethora of activity options, nice accommodations, and quality dining. They handled hiccups like flight changes and lost luggage with ease.
The only negative I can mention was easily minimalized by the dedication of the staff and willingness to provide private, custom excursions. That negative was, in our experience, the other guests at Tierra Chiloé were much older than we were anticipating. Thankfully this was not the case at our next stop, Tierra Atacama.
Chilean Adventure Part 2 – Atacama
After a long day of travel (3.5-hour drive, 2 flights, and a 1.5-hour drive), we crossed from the lush island archipelago of Chiloé into the high altitudes of the Atacama Desert. Tierra Atacama is located in San Pedro de Atacama in North Eastern Chile, near the borders of Argentina and Bolivia.
Again, our first evening was spent by sipping a fresh pisco sour while meeting with the excursions staff to formulate a plan for our visit. Our goal the same, as much activity as possible, we only had 2 full days to enjoy San Pedro and the neighboring mountains and salt flats. We easily filled our schedule with fun in the sun! We settled in for the evening in our spacious room.
San Pedro de Atacama Day 1
Morning Bike Ride to the Atacama Salt Flat
In order to beat the crowds, we headed out bright and early for a mountain bike ride to Laguna Cejar. While the water was frigid, we forced ourselves to take a soak in the soothing mineral waters. Due to the high concentration of salt, the lagoon water makes you float like a balloon on the surface. In the distance, we saw Chilean flamingos snacking away under the familiar view of Licancabur Volcano.
Afternoon Hike Along the Cornisas
A short drive from the hotel, we found beautiful views of El Valle de Marte (Mars Valley) from the Cornisas Lookout. We hiked around the edge of the ridge, taking in views of volcanoes and thunderstorms in all directions. We ended the hike by racing down sand dunes as they slipped away under our feet.
San Pedro de Atacama Day 2
Hiking Machuca to the Rio Grande
After taking the first day to adjust to our new altitude (the hotel sits at 8,500 feet of elevation), we set off on a full-day hike in the mountains. The hike begins at 13,200 feet and meanders, mostly downhill, to the Rio Grande River. The heart-pumping journey led us passed plenty of wildlife, stunning vistas, and ancient settlements. We saw llamas, rabbits, flamingos, and spiders. Did I mention that I almost stepped on a tarantula? Eeeeek!
Star Gazing in the Desert
I’ll always remember our final night in the desert with awe. While the clouds tried to ruin our fun, we were able to catch a glimpse of the Milky Way in all of its stunning glory. Because it is so dark, the desert provides an ideal haven for astronomers and novice star-gazers alike.
Overall Tierra Atacama – Review
Much like Tierra Chiloé, Tierra Atacama provided excellent service, plenty of active tours, and delightful dining. We enjoyed that the crowd was more diverse, and in general younger. The destination was so unique, and we were given every opportunity to make the most of our time here. If given the chance to visit again, we would need to plan for a longer visit. Due to the high elevation, many of the hikes and more extreme excursions require more time for acclimation.
Chilean Adventure Part 3 – Santiago
Due to flight schedules, our journey home afforded us a long layover in Santiago. Because we booked our vacation with them, Tierra Hotels provided a complimentary night stay at the Ritz Carlton Santiago. We filled our extra time as repeat customers to our favorite cooking class, took a long walk through Bicentennial Park, and enjoyed an amazing dinner at Osaka (a Peruvian Japanese fusion restaurant).
Ultimately, I loved traveling with Tierra Hotels. Sure, planning a trip can add to the anticipation, excitement, and enjoyment, but it can also be daunting! Having someone else who does all of the planning and coordination for you is amazing! Realistically, this was the most stress-free, fun-focused trip we’ve done. I can’t wait to travel like this again!