Did you know that you can play golf or lush fairways and greens in northern Chile, then sleep nearby in a well-equipped boutique hotel? Thanks to the addition of CasaMolle in the Elqui Valley of northern Chile, the seemingly impossible is possible.
There are several problems with the oft-repeated but incorrect statement that the Atacama Desert of Chile is the “driest place on Earth.” There are those pesky floods that happen every few years, snow in the winter sometimes, the oases filled with water and trees, hot springs, and…a golf course?
The Sahara this is not, which is a good thing for visiting tourists coming to this region to the south of that desert. Thanks to a prime location next to a river, at CasaMolle you can even tee off and putt on a nine-hole course that sprung out of nothing thanks to the dedication of owner Karim Daire.
Daire had to truck in loads of soil from southern Chile just to convert the rocky riverbed into what are now fields of grass. Once the blades of green appeared, he planted trees, carved out bunkers, and punctuated the course with tranquil lagoons ripe for leisurely paddles in the waiting kayaks. Head to hole 9 for a serene glass-encased clubhouse that’s a superb spot to hide away and answer some emails.
The hotel itself has 12 rooms that can sleep a maximum of 30 guests, so you don’t have to share this little oasis with a whole lot of other people, even when the place is full. Outside there’s an inviting swimming pool, a sauna, yoga area, and hiking trails. The hot tub is a prime place at night for gazing up at the ample stars you can see in this region.
This Elqui Valley area became the world’s first International Dark Sky Sanctuary in 2015, so it’s a popular spot for scientists studying the galaxies. Two observatories in the area are open to the public, however, plus CasaMolle has its own outdoor amphitheater for star gazing.
The well-designed hotel had a real expert putting it together, the same designer who worked on Awasi Atacama and Hotel Wara in Chile. Against the backdrop of the nearby mountains, the adobe-style buildings are joined by cactus gardens, mature trees, fire pits, plush outdoor loungers, Andean textiles, and ceramics from the namesake Molle people who settled here around 200 BC.
The property has its own brand of pisco to serve and all the wines are from the local region. There’s a strong locavore aesthetic in the kitchen as well. “Nearly every fruit or vegetable that reaches your mouth can be traced right back to the organic gardens and orchards that surround the 17-hectare property.
The chef likes to share what he’s working on: waiters come looking for you on the property to share small bites of what’s coming out of the kitchen.
This sumptuous oasis in the Elqui Valley is a welcome addition to the local scene, providing a nice alternative to the crowds and popular sites of San Pedro de Atacama, with the added unique offering (for northern Chile) of a golf course. See our full review of CasaMolle in Chile.