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Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel

Designed by RDM Arquitectura, the new cabins or “observatories” are geared towards providing a view of the sky from your bed, lounge or private rooftop terrace. This is a fun and quirky concept hotel, 7 ‘geodesic’ (spherical) domes with removable roofs plus 4 stilted wooden houses with glass ceilings, all set in the stunning Elqui Valley, famed for clear skies that attract astronomers from all over the world.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-40-759x506 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Elqui Domos Hotel

Conceived in 2003 by local businessman and astronomer Esteban Zarate, who spotted a star-shaped gap in the market, Elqui Domos is a true retreat from the world. Its small size confers a feeling of exclusivity and intimacy, for a very reasonable price tag.

This is the first Astro-hotel in Chile, located in the center of the Elqui Valley, famous for its energy and clear skies throughout the year. . Elqui domos is a set of 7 Edocomos exclusively furnished to enjoy the magic and transparency Elqui Valley skies, and the nature of the Valley. You can enjoy the heavens, even from your bed, because in the ECODOMOS main bed is located on the second floor with a removable roof that can make a real experience astronomy.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-03 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Cristóbal Palma

Alternatives, of course, for one of the clearest skies on the planet. A place to rest, but also plenty of leisure Active: amateur astronomy, day and night rides, visit the “Pisco” distilleries, trekking, and cultural heritage of Gabriela Mistral.

Setting foot in the main reception/restaurant dome, starry magic starts to rub off on you with the welcome message: ‘may the stars be with you, shining for your eyes along their celestial dance’. A poolside astronomical tour will help novices to appreciate the wonder of the skies. While the stars are sleeping get out and explore the valley on foot, bike or horseback, and admire the contrast of the dusty brown mountains – which glow pink at sunset – and the verdant farmland at their feet. Fittingly for an astronomic hotel, the food is pretty stellar, too.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-07 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Cristóbal Palma

The new cabins design:

Elqui Domos was originally built about 10 years ago in an area known for amazing weather and night sky views. It consisted of some small cabins and a series of small geodesic dome-like structures with fabric roofs. Small hatch flaps were sewn into the fabric so that guests could watch the stars from the comfort of their own rooms.

The hotel owners wanted to upgrade the hotel with a more modern feel, so they asked Martin Holmes, Catalina Ventura, and Jorge Siviero to remodel the existing seven dome cabins and the restaurant lobby, in addition to constructing several new cabins that would maximize the site’s appeal for all types of travelers. According to the design team, the biggest challenge was improving the domes’ living conditions while highlighting the elements that make the hotel so unique.

The new cabins continue the weightless feel established by the dome huts by utilizing stilt-like foundations that barely touch the land. This technique also allowed the cabins to be placed to suit the valley’s topography changes –between the vast vegetation of the valley and the harsh, dry mountain overhang. Two opposing walls made entirely of windows expand the space’s feel while allowing guests a constant line of sight to the mountain peaks. The new accommodations also feature a rooftop deck.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-09-759x506 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Elqui Domos Hotel


Elqui Domes is located 110 km from the center of the city of La Serena and 580 km from Santiago. Domes Elqui is at Km 3.5 of the public road between the towns of Pisco Elqui and Horcón and is fully paved.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-12-759x506 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Elqui Domos Hotel

Elqui Domos Overview:

Elqui Domos born in February 2005 to address concerns of the owners to enjoy the grandeur of heaven Elqui Valley. We realized that the forms and constructions philosophy geodesic domes, were perfect for our goal, and was well we define the basic requirements for the final design: the bed should be placed as high as possible on it to be able to open the roof of the dome to calmly observe the stars, and have all the necessary amenities within the room not to disturb in any way the sensations that such an experience can produce.

After five years of operation we decided to expand our facilities, adding 4 cottages called “observatories”, whose architectural detail to achieve similar effects as the domes to see the sky from within these, and enjoy different views of the valley. This year we decided to change the invitation we do our passengers to see the stars, two domes that house building telescopes Celestron CGEM German equatorial mount, August 1 inch and the other 9 inch and a quarter. Are telescopes Schmidt-Cassegrain type.

The domes are motorized and there is a digital camera for observing planets and the moon. Elqui Domes intended as a magical place of rest, introspection and observation. Our goal is to deliver a different sleep experience and personalized.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-15-759x506 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Elqui Domos Hotel

Observatory Rooms Cottage:

The 4 stilted wooden houses, known as Observatories. These angular structures have been added since our visit, but they look wonderful: perched on the highest point of the site, they have vast panes of glass set in their walls and ceilings, offering panoramic views of the valley below and the sky above. Each has a double bed set on a mezzaine, plus a bathroom with a shower and a sitting area with benches and striped cushions. An additional single bed can be added on request.

The observatories are log cabins, located on the high ground, arranged on three floors: downstairs, living room and bathroom on the first floor the bed, on which there is a window to see the sky and the third floor terrace. Maximum capacity of an observatory is 3 people: one double bed and one additional single bed.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-24 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Elqui Domos Hotel

Dome Rooms:

The 7 domes are set along a central path heading upwards towards the mountains. Made from white plastic-covered canvas over a metallic frame – like a tent but much more sturdy – they can sleep up to 4. Inside, a pine structure creates a ground-floor lounge with armchairs, sofabeds, a wardrobe, a heater, a kettle and a minibar. There are several windows, although removing their covers is a little fiddly. Above, a mezzanine level holds a double bed under a removable roof.

Geodesic domes are metal structure, covered by a PVC tent. They have a terrace outside and inside, on the first floor, living room and bathroom and on the second floor, the bed, on which you can open the roof to see the sky, being outdoors. Maximum in a dome is 4 people: one double bed and two single beds extra.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-28-759x506 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Elqui Domos Hotel

  • The furnishings in both the domes and houses are quite basic, so your attention is quickly drawn outside, where your decked terrace invites you to soak up the sun by day and indulge in some star-spotting by night. Best of all, a large telescope is already set up and ready to use.
  • You’ll see the sky from the glass-enclosed restaurant, the enormous domed lounge, the swimming pool and the seven identical white geodesic domes on platforms that descend a steep, wooded slope. There is also a full range of starry activities, from evening horseback rides and astronomy lectures to lessons in the amateur observatory with a variety of high-quality telescopes.
  • To enjoy the magic and transparency Elqui Valley, one of the clearest skies on earth. The rooms are 390 square feet geodesic ECODOMOS surrounded by a large terrace. In each room you will find all the facilities for a comfortable stay: a telescope, bathroom, heating and a living room.
Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-32-759x506 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Elqui Domos Hotel

RDM Arquitectura:

Elqui Domos is a small 10-year-old hotel located in the heart of Valle del Elqui, a narrow valley stretched in between the Andes Mountains.The valley is renowned for its sharp, clear skies and pleasant weather, as well as for its great potential for wine growing, astronomy, and tourism.

The Hotel comprises several single wooden-structured cabins that provide translucent fabric domes, enabling an experience that encourages a close connection with nature as well as unique night-sky viewing –through the cabins’ roof hatches–while lying beneath the stars.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-render-01-759x317 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

render 01 – © Cinema Arquitectura

The project’s commission included remodeling the existing seven domes, the restaurant-lobby and the addition of several newcabins, in order to maximize the site’s potential. Our main challenge was to carry out an intervention that would improve the domes’ living condition while highlighting the elements that make this hotel so unique.

To refashion the existing rooms, we emphasized the role of the terrace as main living area, and highlighted a specific sense of lightness –usually found in textile architecture– by placing the cabins’ volumes barely sitting on the land, reminiscent of foreign artifacts used for sleeping, dominating the landscape, or staring at the stars.

For the new bedrooms (first build stage) the idea was to come up with a room type that would provide a complementary alternative ­–with better living standards than the fabric domes–, that would make better use of the available land, while maintaining and enhancing the conditions that make Elqui Domos such a special experience.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-39-759x506 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Elqui Domos Hotel

The fact that the new rooms had to be placed exactly where the topography changes –between the vast vegetation of the valley and the harsh, dry mountain overhang– called for bringing this condition to light. To achieve this, we conceived a type of cabin that was raised above the ground and had an inside graded space, which would negotiate the two different views –valleyand mountains– by opposing two glass walls across the entire width of the cabin. The transparent wall that shows the mountains was suggested as a junction between wall and sky, angled in a way that would allow it’s peak to be seen from anywhere within the cabin. At the same time it would allow to recreate the feel of lying beneath the stars the existing dome cabins provide. The roof deck was the fina lelement, placed so that it revives the dominant and privileged position of the cabins towards the geography.

Elqui-Domos-Astronomic-Observatory-Hotel-By-RDM-Arquitectura-35-759x505 Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura

© Elqui Domos Hotel

Project Data:

Project name: Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel
Location: Pisco Elqui, Paiguano, Coquimbo Region, Chile
Coordinates: -30.157536, -70.497271
Type: Hotel, Lodge & Tented Camp
Site Area: 4,000 sqm

  • Observatory Rooms Cottage Covered Area: 140 sqm
  • Dome Rooms: 390 sq.ft

Project Year: 2010
Construction Year: 2011
Status: Built
Completion Year: 2011
Visit Elqui Domos Hotel’s website: here


  • 2012 – Tripadvisor Hotel Ranking – Ranked #2 of 4 hotels in Pisco Elqui

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Elqui Domos
Architects: RDM Arquitectura – Rodrigo Duque Motta, 1927 Avenue of Los Conquistadores 206, Providencia, Santiago, Chile
Project Team: Martin Holmes, Catalina Ventura, Jorge Siviero
Renderings: Cinema Arquitectura
Text Description: © Courtesy of Elqui Domos Hotel
Images: © Cristóbal Palma, Elqui Domos Hotel, RDM Arquitectura, Cinema Arquitectura

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Elqui Domos Astronomic Observatory Hotel / RDM Arquitectura
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