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TTG Features Luxury Holidays

Revolution in remote travel

Travel company Explora operates lodges and tours in the furthest reaches of Latin America. Richard Sharman, brand director, shares the firm’s ethos with April Hutchinson

What is Explora? We were founded in Chile in 1989 – not so much a hotel group, more a revolutionary way of travelling to remote places in South America. We have Explora Atacama with Hotel de Larache; Explora Patagonia with Hotel Salto Chico and Explora Rapa Nui (Easter Island) with Posada de Mike Rapu, along with four “Travesias”, which offer nomadic journeys throughout Atacama and Patagonia in Chile, Argentina and the salt flats of Bolivia.

When is the best time to go? High season in Easter Island and Patagonia is October-April, while Atacama can be visited year-round. We are relying on Lan’s air frequency for Easter Island as it has only one flight a day in low season (two in high season).

Where do guests come from? Brazil, US and Canada are our biggest markets, and the UK is next. British visitors seem to have an affinity to Patagonia – it must be the connection with the Welsh settlers who went there 150 years ago. British visitors also have an interest in history – that’s another reason they favour Patagonia. US travellers seem to be keener on meeting gauchos. People in Europe can be quite jaded because you have so much on your doorstep that’s easy to reach, but that’s why this can be a good sales story for agents, as it is something so completely different.

38 17.07.2014 Moai statues on Easter Island Discovering Patagonia on horseback

Isn’t it very far to go? Yes. Patagonia, for example, is a four-hour internal flight from Santiago, then another five hours by road to Torres del Paine. But people see this as a real “bucket list” trip. They plan a trip to Patagonia – which is the edge of the world, really – for years. But once they make it to Chile, they fall in love and realise there is a lot more to experience, so it does often become a repeat destination.

Who does it suit? City dwellers in particular are looking for the beauty of a remote experience and the chance to leave urban life behind. It can be pretty adventurous but can also be tailored to differing abilities. Some people just enjoy the scenery, others like the challenge of hiking. We match the stamina and passion of guests so they can experience what suits them. The Travesias are a series of journeys that take guests to remote places on exploratory trips. We stop at Explora camps on the way – such as revamped stone cabins and shipping containers – that have the comforts people need, including a chef. Explora is great for families, as there are lots of activities for children in all the locations – they love the talks from our experts at the lodges, on glaciology, geology or history.

Atacama Desert by night Explora Rapa Nui on Easter Island

What does the future hold? We would love to grow and add other experiences and lodges, but what we do is very intense. We opened up Chile for tourism when the country was emerging from the Pinochet regime and we still operate in very difficult and remote areas, so we are often the sole operator there. The logistics are intense and no companies do it with the degree of exploration that we do. The owners are very particular about operating in remote places – they want to showcase these parts of their country and to keep locals in the area too. People had been leaving their homes as there was little for them in these areas, but we are encouraging this kind of high-yield, low-impact tourism and engagement with the community.

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