Located in the heart of the Atacama, the traditional town of San Pedro de Atacama is an oasis for explorers eager to discover and immerse themselves in the natural wonders and cultures of the world’s driest desert. Steaming-hot geysers, shimmering salt flats, lunar valleys of time-sculpted stone, lagoons that serve as homes to local fauna like flamingos, hazy mountains and volcanoes, and some of the clearest and most spectacular night skies on the planet: all this and more is right on San Pedro’s doorstep. But San Pedro is also a center of local Atacama culture, full of historic dwellings, traditions, artwork, cuisine, and beliefs from the indigenous tribes that have lived here for thousands of years. On this trip, you’ll travel back in time, taken on a journey of discovery about the natural wonders and human inhabitants of this spectacular desert.
Flying into Calama from Santiago, you’ll be picked at the Calama Airport (the nearest airport to San Pedro) by your guide and driver, who will take you to the town of San Pedro de Atacama. During the hour and a half-long drive, you’ll be able to observe the surrounding desertscapes, consisting of sweeping lunar-like plains, strange salt formations, and multi-colored hills, all set against the backdrop of the Andes and Domeyko mountain ranges and the bluest skies you’ve ever seen in your life. Upon our arrival in San Pedro, you’ll be dropped off at your hotel and, after checking in, will have the rest of the afternoon and evening free to explore at your leisure; San Pedro is a great town to discover on foot, walking down cobblestoned streets lined with adobe buildings full of local restaurants and stores. Following dinner, you have the option to take part in a stargazing tour on the outskirts of town, where the full grandeur of San Pedro’s night skies (some of the clearest in the world thanks to the altitude, lack of light pollution, and abundance of clear nights) are best appreciated.
Optional PM Activity: Stargazing tour to observe and learn about the majestic Atacama sky.
Please note: Activities may vary or have to be changed due to bad weather, unsafe road conditions, etc. However, should a cancellation take place, an alternate activity/excursion will be arranged.
After breakfast at the hotel, your guide and driver will pick you up around 8 am and begin the drive to the “puna”, the local word for the high-altitude plateau that lies further out in the desert and is home to some of the Atacama’s most ruggedly beautiful landscapes. Along the drive, you may have the chance to see local wildlife like vicuñas and nandus (Lesser Rheas or South American Ostrich). After roughly an hour of driving up from the valley floor toward the clouds, we’ll arrive at the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons, two shimmering lagoons cradled between mountains and volcanoes. Here, we’ll stop and explore, walking along paths near the shore to admire the lakes’ rich, jewel-like colors, the colorful hills, and the local flora and fauna like Chilean and Andean flamingos, Baird’s sandpiper, and more. Part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve, these two lagoons sit over 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) above sea level, and everyone who visits is enchanted at the silence and tranquility of this special place.
We’ll then drive to Socaire, a traditional adobe village of just 360 inhabitants. The village is famous for preserving the way of life of the Atacameño people who first lived here thousands of years ago, with the modern-day residents carrying on their traditions and customs like growing corn, beans, quinoa, and alfalfa on terraces, raising llamas, alpacas, and sheep, and creating beautiful handicrafts. After lunch at a local restaurant, we’ll visit some of the village’s weavers, where we’ll learn about and observe their knitting. After this class, we’ll return to San Pedro for a free evening.
This tour is not recommended for those with high-blood pressure or who are sensitive to high altitude. If so, please inform in order to provide a different excursion.
Today, we’ll visit the famous Tatio Geysers, which at 14,173 feet (4,320 meters) above sea level are the highest in the world! Normally, people visit the geysers very early in the morning to observe the steam in the cold dawn hours, but to avoid the crowds and offer a more unique experience, we’ll be visiting when nearly everyone else has gone. At around 6:30 am, we’ll drive first to the village of Machuca on the way to the geysers, where you can be charmed by the traditional buildings and church, as well as interact with the locals who have lived here for generations raising llamas and farming. We’ll likely have the place all to ourselves before the crowds of tourists coming back from the geysers descend on the town.
We’ll then continue on to the Putana wetlands next to the Putana Volcano, where we’ll pause to observe the local birdlife and dazzling colors of the wetlands; if we’re lucky, we may also see other wildlife like guanacos, lamas and suri!
Then, a short drive further on, we’ll arrive at the geysers, which we’ll have nearly all to ourselves as the early-morning tours will have departed. We’ll walk along marked paths through the geysers, watching them erupt. You also have the option of taking a quick soak in the river next to the geysers! After exploring the area, we’ll return to San Pedro (around roughly 2:00 pm) and you’ll have the rest of the day to relax or explore.
Even though it’s the last day, there’s still one last stop before leaving San Pedro. We’ll depart early in the morning to visit one of the most famous places in the Atacama, the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), an otherworldly valley of rock and salt that, over time, has been sculpted into out-of-this-world formations and shapes; it looks a bit like being on the moon (hence the name). After arriving, we’ll enjoy breakfast while the rising sun reveals the full splendor of this lunar landscape.
After witnessing what must be one of the most beautiful sunrises on Earth, we’ll have the opportunity to visit an “Ayllu”, an ancient community dwelling of the Atacameños or Lickan-Antai tribe. Walking along the paths between the houses, we’ll be able to observe how the dry desert heat and sand has preserved this glimpse of how these tribes lived so long ago. We’ll even have a chance to discover the tastes and flavors of the Atacama by trying a sample of traditional food, prepared for us by an Atacamenian family with fresh, local ingredients. We’ll return to San Pedro around 11:30 am, and, at a pre-arranged hour, your drive will pick you up from your hotel to take you to the Calama Airport for your return flight to Santiago.
HIGH SEASON RATES
Sept 13, 2019 – March 31, 2020
LOW SEASON RATES
April 1, 2020 – Sept 12, 2020
SOLO TRAVELER RATES
April 1, 2020 – Sept 12, 2020
2021 SEASON – HIGH SEASON RATES
Sept 13, 2020 – March 31, 2021
* This listed price is based on two people sharing a double room. The price may vary due to the time of year you travel, the size of your group, accommodation availability and not counting special dates. ** Solo travelers or guests staying in single rooms must pay a single supplement. Otherwise, the rates would be readjusted upon request. *** The single supplement is based on Regular tours, availability of which must be confirmed prior to reservation of the trip. **** If the mentioned hotels are not available, alternative hotels will be provided of a similar standard *****
Meals as mentioned on the Itinerary:
To provide you the best experience possible, we’ve handpicked the best hotel options for you to choose from. Most of the hotels we partner with are boutique, offering more personalized service and top-notch amenities, with bedrooms available on a double/twin or single basis.
Why is this trip sustainable?
Duration: 4 days
Price: from USD$ 1,125 / personCustomize This Trip