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A desert oasis

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I recently discovered that the Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest place in the world – which doesn't make it sound ideal for tourism. However, it's good to have your preconceptions challenged, and the Awasi hotel in San Pedro de Atacama does exactly that.

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Described as a place to contemplate immensity while enjoying simple pleasures, it is a gathering of eight stone, wood and adobe cottages, with enough simplicity to make you feel back to nature – but enough luxury to make you feel indulged.

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The world that surrounds the hotel is certainly dramatic, but it is also very much capable of sustaining life – and the odd visitor. San Pedro has been an oasis for thousands of years, providing shelter to travelers. These used to be cattle drivers and shepherds, but these days visitors to the Awasi are mostly better-heeled.

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What do you do when you land in the middle of the desert? The less adventurous can lounge in one of the spacious cottages, spend the days relaxing on a reading couch, nestled in one of the many shaded sofas, or luxuriating in the pool.

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The more adventurous can take off and explore the dramatic landscapes that surround the hotel – archeological remains, dry salt lakes, active volcanoes, geysers, flamingo-inhabited pools, volcanic hot springs, and curious-looking rocky outcrops in places with names like Death Valley and Valley of the Moon. And contemplate immensity. RM

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Image (top): sanpedroatacama.com

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