This past year has been transformative for us as an Atelier, a team, and a community. We wanted our retreat this year to reflect our growth and our continued desire to understand ourselves even more.
As Garance puts so eloquently..
“I want the retreats to feel personal, to reflect something that I feel deeply – it’s a way for me to guarantee that what we do is as authentic as possible. I have been through a year of incredible change where I got to know myself in depth, which is, I realize, kind of a superpower. I wanted to bring that to our guests, and this is why this retreat is called The Art Of Self-Discovery. The idea is an in depth travel inside ourselves – we needed to find a space that supports and inspires that, and I felt like the Atacama Desert was absolutely perfect for this.”
In addition to giving you a preview of how cool the Atacama Desert is we also wanted to give you a peak at The Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa, introduce you to our guides, Susan Piver and Tashi Dos Santos, and tell you a bit more about what you can expect on this retreat from day to day.
With the theme of Self Discovery at the center of this retreat, we felt like choosing a destination that is so vast and isolated that it forces you to reflect in a way that is impossible when you’re surrounded by people in a city, or in a lush environment.
The Atacama desert is the driest desert in the world, and the only desert to receive less precipitation than the polar desert. This climate creates extreme terrain and the desert’s soil has even been compared to that of Mars. It’s a place on earth where you don’t feel like you’re on earth anymore. Despite these conditions and terrain, some of the Atacama’s interior areas have been populated for millennia and are the site for the most advanced pre-Columbian societies found in Chile. It’s an apex point of civilization.
Not to mention, the stars. Because of the Atacama’s high altitude, nearly nonexistent cloud cover, dry air, lack of light pollution and radio interference, the Atacama desert is considered one of the best places in the world to conduct astronomical observations — in other words, stargaze.
Given this extensive history and communion with nature, we wanted to stay at a hotel that embraces the natural elements and indigenous Chileans. There’s nothing worse than a hotel or resort that feels like it could be anywhere in the world. The Alto Atacama Desert Lodge and Spa is an luxe eco-friendly hotel designed to be physically and spiritually integrated into the terrain. More than half of the Atacama’s staff is indigenous and there’s an emphasis on their stories and culture imbuing the hotel with a sense of history and purpose.
All of our meals (and as much Chilean wine as you can drink) for the retreat are prepared on site at Caur Restaurant–and are included as a part of the retreat. The menu is thoughtful and fresh, influenced by traditional Atacama and Chilean cuisine with locally sourced ingredients – including the hotel gardens. Meals can be enjoyed at the hotel’s restaurant or while lounging at one of the six pools on the property with vistas of the surrounding desert. Your choice.
“We did a lot of research to find who we wanted to lead us. I don’t want to just get the “trendy guru” of the day. To me, self-enrichment needs to be extremely grounded. Susan is extremely renowned as a writer and meditation teacher and has a fascinating approach, and she’s been working with Tashi for years. We wanted to bring them together. For me, we had to have an astrologer on site – we want everything we do to be extremely connected to the place where we are and stargazing is one of the delights of the Atacama desert. We also are going to work with a lot of local talent to make this retreat even more special. We did the same in Morocco where we worked with local artisans. It’s very important to me because if you stay in your own world, why travel?”
Susan Piver is a New York Times bestselling author in addition to being a meditation teacher, speaker, and long time Buddhist practitioner. You can watch her mesmerizing Ted Talk here! What we love about her is that she works to adapt the ancient traditions of Buddhism and meditation into your life. You don’t have to be a devout Buddhist practitioner to benefit from her wisdom and teachings. She believes everything is adaptable to a modern life.
Tashi Dos Santos was born into a lineage of diviners with Greek, Algarvian Gypsy and Iberian lineage. She reads both tarot cards and astrology with profound insight, compassion and generosity. As Garance mentioned, Tashi has worked extensively with Susan so they have developed a pattern and rhythm in their teachings that compliments and supports the other.
This trip has been structured to give guests, regardless of where they are on their own journey of self discovery, the tools to easily integrate small learnings into their daily lives post-retreat. It could be as simple as journaling every morning, or being introduced to a new meditation practice — but it’s all very personal, and flexible. Nothing is forced or expected from our guests!
Our first time gathering as a group will be on Monday evening for an conversation around the theme of the “Magic of the Encounter.” It’s a casual moment for us to get to know one another, led by Garance, Tashi and Susan. Think of this as your welcome home from your travels, and a time to prep your mind for the five day journey we’re about to embark on together, beginning the next morning…
Each morning you have the option to participate in a yoga class followed by breakfast prepared on site. After which, the group meets for our daily workshop with Susan, whose teachings will be supported and complemented by Tashi throughout. Susan’s daily workshops will include such themes as how to develop the groundwork for a meditation practice, an exploration of one’s intuition, how your relationships can support self-discovery and how one can let go of expectations and just truly BE.
Now, lunch! We’ll grab a bite together, take a moment to think thru morning learnings, before breaking for the afternoon.
The afternoons are purposefully a bit more lax– Choose Your Own Adventure (who doesn’t love that series?) — so you can gauge what your mood is telling you what to do. Some options include resting by one of the six pools at the Atacama, indulge in the Alto Atacama’s spa on site, or get a private astrology and tarot reading with Tashi.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can head off the property to see the region’s open air observatory to get a look at the stars and the sky in their pristine condition, or visit the salt flats where pink flamingos roam and hot springs reside, or take a yoga class in a natural amphitheater amid prehistoric scenery.
One evening, we’ll host a full group excursion to the Valley of the Moon to watch the sunset — which is legendary for its purple and pink sunsets before the sky turns black with stars. We want to make sure you are receiving your teachings from nature as much as from each other.
This is a special moment that can only happen in the Atacama Desert, one people seek out and will travel great lengths to experience…
At the end of each day we re-group before dinner to reflect on the day and ourselves in a discussion led by Garance, inspired by her own story of self discovery — alongside Susan and Tashi.
And then of course, dinner. Depending on the weather we will either gather around the fireplaces in the restaurant or the fire pits that surround the property to toast to each day.
This is a bespoke, once in a lifetime experience that we’ve wanted to make as accessible as possible for our community, and readers. After the magic of Marrakech it only made sense for us to elevate (literally!) the retreat concept, and bring you all somewhere that will truly help you on a personal journey… and meet some wonderful people along the way.
So a few tricks we’ve put in place with our friends from Mr & Mrs Smith to making booking that much easier…
You’re traveling alone, but want a roommate. No problem. Email us at [email protected] and we’ll link you up with someone else on a roommate search — that’s 25% cost savings from the single room price!
Payment: we understand this is a commitment, please contact the Mr & Mrs Smith team with any questions on payment up front, paying with a roommate, etc. There are some points listed on the Art of Discovery FAQ on the Bookings Page.
Can you split payment with your roommate? Sure thing! The Mr & Mrs Smith travel team will happily accommodate this.
The Mr & Mrs Smith team can also be reached at any of the below numbers for questions:
From UK: 0330 100 3180
From Europe: +44 208 338 7753
From US: 1 800 464 2040
From Australia 1300 896 627
Go to Mr & Mrs Smith for more information and to book your spot!