Every once in a while, in my whirlwind, jet-away life, I get to travel with my family – hubby Anthony (who solo travels as much as I do) and our two children, now teenagers, Marissa and Dominick. Not often though. So when the opportunity presents, Anthony and I (like most parents) try to find the perfect balance: a destination that will hold our children’s interest, prove fun and adventurous, yet open their eyes to different lifestyles, cultures, landscapes and language.
Which is how Chile – from the high desert of Atacama to the southern tip of Patagonia – became the canvas for our family exploration of South America. Because the ending of our trip overlapped with the first day(s) back to school, Anthony and I decided to put our teen travelers to work by having them press fingers to I-Pads and record their experience…
We Arrive, By Dominick
The drive from the airport to Atacama was only an hour, but felt shorter to me because I was so busy gazing at the magnificent desert. When we arrived in the town of San Pedro De Atacama, I was surprised to see so many tourists and wild dogs wandering about. The town was small but crowded, and flooded with artisan shops. At Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa (where we stayed), we were happily greeted, then told it was lunch time. The menu was fantastic. I chose a vegetarian burrito, then changed into my bathing suit and hit the spa.
Inside, there were two wide, adobe cylinders containing steam rooms – one for men, one for women. There was also an outdoor hot pool with hydrotherapy jets and bubble chairs. I settled in quickly. The water from the hydrotherapy jets massaged my neck and back, and it felt great, especially after flying. Soon, the steam room called me in.
Afterward, I watched the sun dip slowly into the mountains as nightfall came and the moon shone brightly. I took a warm shower in my room, hopped into my nice bed with heavy covers and slept the night away….
Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa – What We Loved
- Stony, rustic
- Outdoor fireplaces
- Great food
- Wild animals (mostly dogs)
- Fun excursions!!!
Tierra Atacama offers daily excursions to guests and on their first full day, the Cifelli’s ventured out into the craggy, moody and moon-like landscape…
What We Learned, by Dominick
You can pick the salt up right off the ground and taste it, but the one rule of the park is to not remove any of the salt from the preservation. We learned too that there was a gold mining area here called Tres Marias (Three Ladies), and that Chilean Spanish is different from actual Spanish. The purest Spanish is spoken in Peru.
What We Saw…rocky hills and flat areas of sand, very few plants, large mountains and volcanoes surrounding us. Smelled…sulfur. Heard… the running of the truck. Tasted…the saltiness in the air (that I breathed through my mouth), the salt crystals from the ground – Marissa
On day two, the Cifelli family opted to explore Cactus Canyon.
What We Learned, by Dominick
I loved this excursion. It was more my style. And consisted of a lot of trekking – not too hard, not too easy. Everywhere we went, there were huge cactuses towering over us. Most were about 20-30 feet tall. They take a long time to grow, only 3.5 cm each year, but is worth the wait.
Inside the canyon, there were a lot of dragon flies and beetles. I learned that finding dragon flies in a dry place is good luck because it means there is water nearby.
We did a lot of rock climbing up and down. I stayed close to our guide, Danielo, so I would know where to put my feet next. Even though pumas are on the extinct list in Atacama, Danielo told us he found puma tracks. Wow. Our long, two-hour trek ended with a glorious view of the mountains and cactuses – lots and lots of cactuses. I now know why they call it Cactus Canyon.
What We Saw…tall cactuses, large, rocky slopes, the brightness of the sun. Heard…running of the river water, voice of our guide Danielo. Felt…sand and dirt on the rocks, warm sun, crumbling salt in my hand. Tasted…the chocolate bar I ate on our break – Marissa