The Atacama Desert, in the north of Chile, is said to be the driest place on earth, with places where it hasn’t rained for 400 years. The desert is so dramatic that, at first sight, it appears never to have sustained any life. However, pink flamingoes together with llamas, vicunas, guanacos and many other species of fauna and flora can be found living in perfect harmony in the many oases and lakes located in the area. With zero humidity and numerous natural mineral sources, the desert houses rock formations of a fantastic kind. The volcanoes that crown the Atacama desert are among the tallest on earth and their summits were sacred sanctuaries for the ancient Incas.
Day 1 Santiago/San Pedro
Transfer to the airport to take the flight to Calama. You are met at the airport and transferred to San Pedro de Atacama (98km) crossing the Cordillera de la Sal. On this evening’s schedule is an interesting ethnological tour which introduces the social & economic system developed by the ancient inhabitants to work and live in this remote oasis. The tour ends at the archeological remains of Tulor. Overnight at a local hotel.
Day 2 Toconao-Salar de Atacama
Visit Toconao, known for its volcanic rock handcrafts. Walk in the nearby valley of Jeria. On the way back enter the immense and sparkling white Atacama Salt Flat until we reach the beautiful Chaxa lagoon where flamingoes nest. In the afternoon visit the famous archaeological museum to gain an insight into the ancient cultures. Next, walk around the remarkable remains of the fortress of Quitor. As the sun goes down enter the silent Moon Valley and explore its extraordinary rock formations. Overnight in San Pedro.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3 Geysers of Tatio
Leave the hotel early this morning (at 4-4:30 am) in time to observe the geysers in action. This is the highest geyser field in the world. The boiling steam rises up to 40 meters over the surface and some 900 meters from underground. It is best to visit this early in the morning because the morning winds tend to dissipate the steam after 8:30 am. Enjoy breakfast in the open geothermal field. On the drive back to San Pedro, you will have a magnificent view of the Tocopurri and Sairecahur volcanoes. The evening is free for you to walk around San Pedro and enjoy such sites as picturesque churches and an arts and crafts market.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 4 San Pedro/Santiago/Onward
After breakfast, take a drive to visit Pakana’s Sentinels. Pakana is a group of rocky structures in columns that formed as the result of volcanic eruptions during the Tertiary Era. Also part of this unique ecosystem is the Tara Salt Flat. Enjoy lunch on the way as you travel back to Calama to catch the evening flight to Santiago. In Santiago you will catch your onward international flight.
What to Expect
Duration 4 days
Groups depart May to December
Match the trip’s intensity to your ability and motivation.
Easy walking, with opportunities for low-key physical activity.
Energetic exploration with optional day hikes, leisurely cycling, or light canoeing.
Day-long active excursions and options for demanding activity in varied environments.
Strenuous hiking or other intense activity that may be at high altitude or over rough terrain.
Multi-day trekking and other activities requiring endurance or strength. Steep trails. No technical expertise necessary.