Awasi; the success of Matías de Cristóbal

| Johan van Rijswijck

Awasi hotels represent the ultimate experience with optimal comfort and a keen eye for the smallest detail, which has made this unique concept an award-winning formula. I will never forget the first time I arrived at one of the Awasi hotels.

Johan in conversation with Matías

During our Gente Mágica interview, Johan talked to Matías de Cristóbal, general manager of Awasi. Matías talks about the success of Awasi, his passions and his idea behind the concept.

Please not that the introduction is in Dutch. The interview itself is in English.

A true battle of exhaustion on the road to Awasi

The first time I stayed in an Awasi hotel was during the preparation of a very big trip with more than 80 classic cars. I drove a classic Volvo through the vast and desolate Atacama Desert. My journey to the oasis of San Pedro, where the hotel of Awasi is located, did not go well. The engine of my classic had cures and in a dusty hamlet, many hundreds of kilometres before arrival, the car started to malfunction. Two local mechanics, who had long since reached retirement age, tried to repair my steel steed with a hammer and chisel.

A stroke of exhaustion followed. While searching for a suitable garage, I had to push the car through the dusty streets of a mining town. Eventually I came across a dark workplace where I had to wait many hours for the redeeming message that my car was able to continue on the road to San Pedro. Tired, dirty, sweaty, but in good spirits and as fast as I could I continued on my way.

Exactly what I needed

After another one-and-a-half-hour drive and finally with more than 24 hours delay, I arrived at Awasi Atacama. A young lady who saw me coming smiled, said nothing and as I approached, she conjured up an ice-cold beer from nowhere for me and my travelling companions. It was exactly what I needed most at that moment. And this is typical of Awasi. The atmosphere combined with an eye for detail. Things are already arranged before you want to ask for them. Guides who are all very knowledgeable and passionate. They make you feel like you are visiting a good friend, who lives in a very nice place far away from civilization and who is happy that you are visiting him.

That this experience is part of the Awasi concept, became clear to me when I visited the newly opened Awasi Iguazu in 2018 and went out with my guides Pica and Carlos, about which you can read more in the blog.

Read Johan at Awasi Iguazu

The creator of the Awasi Concept

The creator and cultural guardian of the Awasi concept is the Argentinean Matías de Cristóbal. Matías actually ended up in the hotel business by chance. He started his career as a banker but lost his job in 2001 when Argentina experienced one of the worst economic crises of the last hundred years and the country was almost bankrupt.

However, as the breadwinner of a family with three growing children, he could not and did not want to get away with it. He saw that in remote mountain villages beautiful, high-quality handicrafts such as hand-woven canvases and ponchos were being made. He knew there was a market for this among the wealthy inhabitants of Buenos Aires. By opening a luxury boutique shop in Buenos Aires, he was able to bring supply and demand together, giving artisans from the remote mountain villages a fair price for their high-quality handicraft products. It turned out to be a successful move that resulted in a second shop in the Spanish city of Barcelona.

In the end it was these shops that brought him to Awasi over 15 years ago. One of the owners, who visited his shop in Buenos Aires as a customer, immediately recognised his sense of style, eye for detail in combination with his business acumen and asked him to think along with them about a new hotel concept they intended to realise in the Chilean Atacama desert. Matías grasped this challenge with both hands.

An award-winning formula

Awasi has three small-scale hotels, all situated in breathtakingly beautiful landscapes with a unique flora and fauna. In 2007, Awasi started its first hotel in the Atacama Desert with 10 guest rooms. In 2013 the second hotel opened its doors with 12 rooms in Torres del Paine, the heart of Chilean Patagonia. In 2018, Awasi Iguazu welcomed its first guests with 14 guesthouses and located in the Mata Atlantica rainforest, near the waterfalls of the same name in Argentina.

Visiting an acquaintance

Every guesthouse has its own driver/guide, who will accompany his or her guests from the moment they arrive and take them through the spectacular surroundings. It is as if you are visiting an old friend who lives in a country you have never been to before. Upon arrival your favourite drink will be served and together with your guide you will make a plan for the coming days. The map of the area will be picked up and your guide will tell you what to do. Afterwards your guide will listen to what you would like to do, how you would like to travel and what made you want to get to know this area.

Culinary delights

In the middle of all this you will be spoiled with culinary delights, because it is not for nothing that Awasi with all three hotels is affiliated to Relais & Chateaux. This is the worldwide organisation that guarantees culinary enjoyment at the highest level. Awasi stands for ultimate experience with optimal comfort and a keen eye for the smallest detail, which has made this unique concept an award-winning formula.

In conversation with Matías

In our Gente Mágica interview, Matías talks about the long and sometimes bumpy road he had to take to achieve Awasi's success. He shares his passion and his vision. We also talk about his side activities and hobbies. In addition to being CEO of Awasi, Matías is a member of the Board of Directors of Relais & Chateaux and is a passionate amateur photographer. Watch the conversation on our YouTube channel or listen to it as a podcast via Spotify or Itunes.

Watch the online conversation

Contact us for more information

For more information about this interview or a visit to one of the Awasi hotels, please feel free to contact us. We will be happy to help you. Send an email to or call us on +31 73 610 62 04. We are happy to help.