06/10/2013 12:55 pm ET Updated Aug 10, 2013

Exploring Chile's Atacama

The driest place on Earth is a dramatic landscape of surreally fiery red canyons, grassy gorges, turquoise thermal lakes, cerulean lagoons, and steaming geysers. Chile's Atacama looks like an alien planet (but it's a whole lot easier to get to). Thankfully it's not too easy that it's overrun by tourists. For a long time Atacama was visited mostly by backpackers and bohemian types looking to "disconnect" before the term became a selling point on many a hotel's website and brochure.

Two decades ago, the only place to stay was in the small posadas and inns that peppered the small town of San Pedro de Atacama. Then luxury outfitter explora arrived and opened the first hotel that offered well-heeled travelers the opportunity to combine adventure with gourmet meals, decadent spa treatments and well-appointed accommodations. Almost overnight, explora put the destination on the map. Though today there are a number of stylish hotels to choose from, explora continues to attract adventure-seekers because what it offers is more than just a chic place to spend the night. The point of checking in at explora de Atacama (or for that matter either of the sister properties in Patagonia and Easter Island) is to disconnect from the everyday and get in touch with the landscape by embarking on different types of journeys. It's these experiences that keeps guests coming back for more.

Exploring Atacama: The Driest Place on Earth