3 April 2019 by Rachel Mostyn
Having welcomed travellers for over 25 years, explora properties were the very first to pioneer the luxury lodge concept in South America. From Patagonia and the Atacama Desert to Easter Island and Peru’s Sacred Valley, these ultra-contemporary, eco-conscious offerings are set to some of the continent’s most spectacular scenery. They’re perfect for a standalone trip, or a multi-centre getaway, netting you exclusive savings. Whatever you choose, there’s more than a touch of indulgence about it all, with a fully inclusive menu of fine dining, drinks and activities.
Horse riding in the Atacama Desert
At explora, even your airport transfer is included. However, the fun really starts when you arrive, with a programme of included excursions to choose from. Spanning over 3,600kms of routes, each offering gets right to the heart of the destination, whether that’s hiking to a lesser-visited Incan site in the Sacred Valley, cycling through the moonscape of the Atacama Desert or cruising around Easter Island’s iconic moai statues. For something of the unique, consider a high-mountain ascent or stargazing with an expert astronomer.
There’s also a special focus on equine culture, with all the lodges’ horses raised and trained in Colunquén – a ranch in central Chile. It’s overseen by Gaela Hourcq, who brings over 25 years of professional experience in some of the world’s most prestigious stables. Indeed, the entire guide team comes specially selected. They’re experts in the geography, history and zoology of their specialist regions and are on hand to recommend between activities, picking out those that best suit your personal interests and abilities. There’s even a range of expedition offerings, including overnight treks.
Dining at explora Atacama
Given their remote settings, you might be surprised to learn that the explora properties offer some of South America’s finest dining. For example, explora Valle Sagrado has partnered with Virgilio Martinez, star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table and owner of Central Restaurante – Forbe’s sixth-best restaurant in the world. Whether taking a picnic or dining in the restaurant, expect innovative takes on traditional Andean dining, informed by the very best in fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Of course, there’s a focus on dining throughout the explora properties, each drawing inspiration from its surroundings. In the Atacama Desert, guests are treated to spit-roasted barbecues in a traditional adobe house, while explora Patagonia offers the likes of tender lamb and sumptuous, locally grown vegetables.
Restaurant at explora Patagonia
There’s perhaps nothing more indulgent than returning from a day’s exploring to your favourite drink and some good company. And, at explora, the open bars foster a convivial atmosphere, with like-minded travellers sharing stories of their adventures. You’ll also quickly find your favourite tipple, whether that’s a local spirit, beers or, this being South America, a fine vintage wine. The expert staff will be able to recommend between the fantastic varietals on offer.
Although you can expect the likes of spa facilities, architect-led design and luxurious rooms across all, each of the explora properties are uniquely designed to make the most of their privileged setting. Here’s what’s in store:
explora Valle Sagrado
Peru’s Sacred Valley is a treasure trove, capped by Machu Picchu at one end and Cusco’s Incan treasures and colonial charm at the other. In between, you’ll find everything from alpaca-dotted terraces to Incan forts and colourful local markets. And, in among it all, there’s the explora Valle Sagrado, tucked away among an ancient corn plantation that’s littered with Incan archaeology.
Indeed, even though the main lodge is all blonde timber and clean lines, the spa and swimming pool are housed in a 17th-century colonial house. It once belonged to a Peruvian independence hero. Indeed, the region is ripe for exploration, with the included excursions taking in the likes of forgotten Incan citadels, lunar-like salt pans and lesser-visited farming communities. Naturally, a visit to Machu Picchu will also be most people's focus. Whatever you choose, you’ll return each day to dining by one of South America’s finest chefs, detailed above.
Evening entertainment at explora Atacama
Adding a touch of luxury to the otherworldly landscapes of the Chilean desert, the explora Atacama is set among 20 indigenous parcels, ringed by pampas grass and desert-adapted flora. The four pools, hot tubs and steam baths are a delightful contrast to it all; there’s even a hot springs reserve just a short walk away.
However, you’ll want to explore. Ride horses over red plains, hike to remote bubbling geysers and cycle along green riverbeds and among archaeological digs of indigenous settlements. There’s even a collection of high-mountain ascents, reaching nearly 6,000 metres above sea level. That said, with some of the clearest skies in the world, a visit to the hotel’s observatory might just linger longest in your memory. Expect views of the entire Milky Way.
The explora Rapa Nui
Carrying a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certificate, Easter Island's explora Rapa Nui is perhaps the brand’s most impressive property. It’s a lesson in sweeping curves, natural materials and gorgeous panoramas. For some of the best views, head to the pool area, where the Jacuzzi, massage area and sun loungers look out over acres of rolling greenery. Even the rooms offer picture windows.
The activities here are equally well thought out, taking in the archaeological remains that sit among the island’s dramatic geography. Expect everything from volcanoes and lava fields to prairies, cliffs and beaches. It all centres on those enigmatic stone moai that gaze mysteriously out to sea. Lastly, there’s even the option to snorkel or scuba, with dives bringing you among submarine caves and sunken moai.
View of the Torres del Paine from explora Patagonia
Put simply, the explora Patagonia offers one of South America’s most iconic, most spectacular views. Sited on the edges of Lake Pehoe, it looks right out over the granite towers of Torres del Paine – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It’s scenery that you’ll explore on a full range of excursions, meandering throughout the national park. Admire mighty glaciers on boat cruises, spot unique wildlife on lagoon walks and take a horse round those iconic towers. It’s the chance to fulfil all your gaucho cowboy fantasies.
Then, returning to base, you’ll be able to soothe any sightseeing aches in the spa, enjoying a soak in the sauna or one of the open-air Jacuzzis. The massages are equally superb. For further relaxation, there’s also the excellent Chilean wines in the bar, while the full-board fine dining is fantastic. Over summer, there’s even a quincho barbecue for those spit-roasted specialities.