Tierra Atacama – in a desert
Tierra Atacama is located in the Atacama Desert which is one of the driest places on earth. The region is situated at the northern tip of Chile where the country rubs shoulders with Bolivia. After a two hours flight from Santiago and an additional hour in a car you will arrive at the touristy San Pedro de Atacam. It is an oasis village fed by two rivers and with just 4,000 citizens, but flooded with thousands of adventurous tourists.
The location of San Pedro de Atacama and Tierra Atacama is a dream for trekkers and people enjoying amazing natural beauty. You are surrounded by the Andes Mountains, salt flats, volcanoes, high plateau and salt crusted caves. The high Altiplano of the Atacama Desert is truly one of the planet’s natural wonders with its rivers, green canyons, lakes, geysers, sand dunes, salt flats and natural hot springs.
Tierra Atacama is an all inclusive boutique lodge so you have few options when it comes to dining. You eat at given hours and you choose your meal from the daily changed menus which are adapted to the high altitude of 2,400 meters and for excursions. There are lots of great examples around the world of how you can make nutritious food delicious, but you will not find it at Tierra Atacama and some of the food is not even healthy. The cuisine is mainly international with local touches and some of the ingredients from the region, but others that have long travels before they end up on your plate. The food is basic with zero innovation and lack of any joy in the cooking. Dishes like the Patagonian lamb chops with mote wheat salad or filet of ostrich with cabernet sauce and a side of fettuccini tossed with thyme and sage might sound nice, but the flavours will put your taste buds on strike.
The list of no-no’s at Tierra Atacama is too long for this review. It is not a good start for a meal when your entire table is covered with flies. It is disgusting and it is a serious health issue considering where the flies have been before they end up on your plate (there are many horses walking on the dirt roads just outside the lodge…). The staff hardly speaks any English at all despite the fact that many of the guests only can communicate in English or by pointing so you can expect many misunderstandings. However, despite the many faults which include both the kitchen staff and the service in the dining room, it in the end all comes down to the food which is simply put bad. Head Chef Francisco Valencia should consider if he is really the right man for a job at a luxury lodge and Executive Chef Rafael Figueroa seems to manage the restaurant mostly by phone from Santiago. A lot has to be done to sort out the mess at Tierra Atacama’s restaurant.
There are several luxury lodges operating in the area and they all offer inclusive packages for serious money. Explora was the first high-end operator in the region and later came Tierra together with others as well. Unfortunately Tierra Atacama has lost its flare and the exclusive feel is long gone. You will literally feel like you are a sack of prepaid dollars and nothing more and since you have paid everything in advance there is not much to do to change your situation. The competition in the area is fierce so you should easily choose any of the other alternatives at this price range.
Tierra Atacama scored 9 points of 100 points in our rating system.
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Published: January 26, 2012
Camino a Séquitor s/n
Ayllú de Yaye
San Pedro de Atacama
Phone: +56 55 555 975