We recently caught up with our Jesús Parrilla, Explora's Vice President, to discuss the philosphy behind our favourite way to explore Chile.
How do you sum up the main philosophy/ethos of Explora?
Explora is a way of travelling where the focus is the journey itself. We don’t expect the journey to peak or reach culminating points: we enjoy every moment and do not precipitate the end. Our philosophy is based on three main concepts: remote areas, in-depth exploration and luxury of the essential. Our lodges are located in some of the most remote areas of the world; The Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world; Patagonia, the southern tip of the world; Rapa Nui or Easter Island, the world's most remote inhabited island.
We offer in-depth explorations from our lodges to discover the natural and cultural surroundings. We want our travellers to interact with their environment and establish relationships with other people – to be a part of, rather than observing, each situation they encounter. For us luxury is not about the appearance, but about the experience.
We strive to offer luxury by focusing on the essential, on providing exactly what our travellers need to make every aspect of their journey as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible. Luxury is in the simple details, and comes not from its price but from its ability to enrich the travel experience. For example, having cold and hot water in our remote campsites in the middle of nowhere, or having enough silence and darkness during the night to take a deep rest after a day of exploration; our experience is full of those kinds of details.
The Travesías are a key feature and are celebrating their fifth anniversary this year – which has been the most popular / which is your favorite? And why?
Among our nomadic journeys, the most popular is the Travesía explora to Uyuni. Nevertheless all of the Travesías are proving very popular with travellers.
It’s very hard to answer which is my favorite, since every Travesía has very special and unique details. The landscape is completely different from one to another, even though the essence is the same: travel for travel’s sake and discovering new territories. I would say my favorite is Explora to Cachi (starting from Salta, Argentina) – when I first joined the company after 10 years of hectic business I needed to disconnect myself from all of that. The experience was radical and extremely beautiful. Experiences like these change the way you understand the world and what really is valuable in life.
Are there plans to launch new Travesías?
We launched our fourth Travesía, explora from Uyuni (Potosí – San Pedro), just last year. We are all the time exploring new territories in the south of South America but at the moment we don`t have plans to launch a new one in the next year. A new Travesía involves a lot of investment, human and financial, because you start to operate campsites along the way in the middle of nowhere and almost all year round.
Tell us about the Explora guides...
Since we offer journeys not hotel stays, the guides play a key role in the experience. We have our own School Guides where spend several months every year preparing them. The Explora guides are very knowledgeable about the geographical areas where our lodges are based and can provide travellers with expert orientation to help them choose the explorations that best suit their interests and abilities. All have substantial knowledge about geology, botany, zoology, glaciology and history. And last, but not least, all of them have Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification, which guarantees that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide assistance to people in remote areas.
Atacama is one of the best places for stargazing and Atacama Hotel de Larache owns one of the largest amateur telescope in South America – has this been a popular feature? What are the plans for the Observatory?
Yes, of course. The observatory at our lodge in Atacama is not just a whim. From our point of view, if we offer an in-depth exploration of the surroundings we have to provide our travellers all the ways to do it. If we are under the clearest skies of the world, as we are in Atacama, we have to have very well trained guides in astronomy and the technical support to make it possible for people to experience the wonders of the sky. We want our travellers to take advantage as much as they can from every single aspect of the destinations.
What are the future plans for Explora?
We are in the middle of a process in which we are adjusting the business to fit with how dramatically the world has changed – but without losing our ethos as an expedition company. We are working hard in consolidating our position as a leading travel company in South America and being the leader in terms of sustainability. We are very happy to see that there are some hotels in the region that are adopting some initiatives we have already implemented. We are also focused in our continuous improvement policy, always working to better every aspect of our business, be it commercial, operational, guiding or customer service.