Fabrizio Ghilardi is originally from Italy and has a degree in Business Economics. In 2004 he decided to settle in Salta, Argentina where he still lives with his family. He knows every corner of the Puna, has climbed some of the highest peaks of the Andes (Pissis, Ojos del Salado, Llullaillaco, Licancabur and Sajama) and the Alps. He has published two books on travel, one of which is about the Puna. His enthusiasm is inexhaustible, he is also the manager of Hosteria El Peñón, and with his wife Valentina, transformed their house into the most charming hotel to stay in Salta, Finca Valentina.

Fabrizio Ghilardi with his wife Valentina.
Fabrizio Ghilardi with his wife Valentina.

How do the experiences you offer at Socompa give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of your region of Argentina?

​I moved to Salta Argentina in April 2003. I was an ex-banker from Milano. I had s​pent 2 years traveling and climbing in the central Andes, I was 35 young and fit 🙂 . In 2005 I got married to Valentina who was living and working in London as an architect. I decided that it was the time to go back to work 🙂 .

I had been an independent traveler for all my life, but since the landscape of our region is quite remote and unique, I decided to set up a unique travel company.

I love to say that we are a details company. We organize some of the most complicated and wonderful trips in South America, where our focus (Focus = Fire in latin) is to realize an authentic trip for each of our travelers.

​We achieve this, traveling in some of the most beautiful and undiscovered desert land of the planet, where sometimes you do not meet any vehicles for days. Our guides are just wonderful travel companions, ready to assist our travelers and to share​ amazing times together. The proud people of NW Argentina do the rest with their passion for their culture and traditions.

Pumice stone field.
In the middle of the Andean Range, there is an area characterized by the presence of more than two hundred volcanoes like the giants of Antofalla, Carachi Pampa, Antofagasta, La Alumbrera and Galán, where the eruption of Blanco Volcano formed the Campo de Piedra Pómez (pumice stone field).

How have the experiences that you offer evolved since beginning Socompa more than 10 years ago?

​I started to work alone with a 4×4. I set the initial standard of Socomap guiding and attention to details.

In more than 10 years all these has evolved in the most professional travel company in NW Argentina, without loosing the human touch, and the passion that everyone in Socompa share with the others.

Today we have a fantastic staff of 4 People at our Salta office, who take care of every single trip, from the first request to the monitoring of each day of trip (with satellite communications) and to the feed back after the end of the Trip. Today Socompa has a group of 6 exclusive guides and 4×4 vehicles. We keep on managing the preparation and the mood of our guides, by meeting and listening to them, to their suggestions or their needs. All these in order to have always a super motivated guide, able to perform the best trip for our guests.

Since 2010 we manage, through a public concession, The Hosteria El Penon, a unique hotel at 3.400 meters, in a small green Oasis, with 400 inhabitants, with electricity only from 5 pm to midnight, no telephone, and just 8 hours driving form our Base in Salta 🙂 . Hosteria El Penon provides jobs to five boys and girls who are originally from the oasis, and gives us the opportunity to welcome guests from all the World to discover the deserts of the Puna. it is an extraordinary energy and time consuming effort but worth to do.

​Finally in 2008 we slowly converted our House, designed and built by my Wife, into one of the most exclusive and nice hotels / casa de Campo in Salta, Finca Valentina. Now it has 9 suite rooms, space, peace and a very good restaurant who condense Italian recipes with Argentine ingredients 🙂 Finca Valentian has been awarded international prizes like Best Family Hotel in South America by I-escape.

So yes we did thing 🙂 but always following our strategy to build new services for our Guests that we can directly manage and try to offer always the best experience, and where if there is a problem we can always and prompt react.

We are actually working with a small local community in the middle of the desert, probably the most remote community of the desert, to build 2 private rooms with pvt bath, from some old shepherd houses, just in front of the most amazing landscape…

Labyrinth Desert Crossing.
The Puna is a vast area that stretches from Peru down into Northern Argentina, situated above the treeline between 3,200 and 3,500m and below the permanent snow line of the Central Andes. Despite the popularity of the high Atacama plateaus and salt flats of neighboring Chile and Bolivia, very little tourism has ventured into this part of Argentina.

​​W​hat is one detail of your trips that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?

​I am not sure if it is unnoticed, but every day, every minute of our trips are monitored by our office in Salta. We do organize picnic or surprise Asado in remote places where everything is coordinated and our guests arrive exactly 5 minutes before the meat is perfect.

Probably they don’t know that some of these services are exclusive, and this means we pay a salary to the providers, in order that they can keep the exclusivity and in order to offer them best working salary.

What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in a Socompa experience?

​That every person in Socompa Group is working legally with a legal salary, with all social security net, sometimes with even bigger Working Insurance. This is probably normal in a European country or US state, but not in our region…​ ​​

What is an unexpected piece of clothing or equipment guests should have to maximize their enjoyment of the experiences you offer?

​Best sunglasses. Sun radiation at 3.500 meters are really strong especially because our sky is one of the purest of the world. So wearing very good UV lenses is fundamental.

Socompa offer as a gift, a Socompa hat with the name of each guest Borado​.

Socompa experiential travel company.
The name “Argentina” comes from the Latin word for silver, argentum. The original European settlers believed the country was full of silver, and a legend existed about a mountain made of silver in Argentina that reached Spain in 1524.

What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?

​Open your mind, travel disconnected, try to communicate to local people. Think how lucky you are to do an expensive trip to the other side of the Planet. Go home happier.​

What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?

​Do what you like. Do it alone inside your company. Grow people instead of contracting with external people. ​Focus on doing things well instead of focusing on long term plans. Be consistent. Never stop dreaming to do something special.​ People are everything in a service company, so treat your employees or providers the best.

Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.

​As a Guide, when the guest start to thank you smiling with tears in his/her eyes, in front of an amazing mirador.​  ​15% of our guests are repeaters… 🙂 .​

Pumice Stone Field, Salta, Puna, Northwest,Argentina
This magnificent creation was made from the explosion of a volcanic stratum that spread ashes and debris that were crystallized right after. These later turned into rocks with holes created by gas escapes during its cooling stage and the dry harsh winds carved these porous rocks into an artwork.

Connect:

www.socompa.com
Fabrizio’s email: info@socompa.com
Socompa on Facebook: facebook.com/SOCOMPA-PUNA-ADVENTURE-TRAVEL
Socompa on Twitter: twitter.com/socompa
Socompa on Instagram: instagram.com/socompa_adventure_travel

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TravelDew is a community based platform for leaders in experiential travel from around the world. Through our interviews we honor the variety of this industry while simultaneously creating the opportunity to learn from one anther.