Make sure to pack a bottle of water before trekking through one of the world´s driest deserts! Nevertheless, water sources do exist in the Atacama Desert and we will come across some of them on this trip, including oases, fresh water rivers and geysers, which allowed pre-Colombian civilizations to inhabit this otherwise arid land.
This program, specially designed for trekking lovers, offers a dynamic way to see the many archaeological sites and volcanoes that surround San Pedro de Atacama.
- Type of trip: trekking
- Duration: 6 days
- Suggested period: March to November
- Physical level: moderate
- Technical level: basic
Highlights of the trip
- San Pedro de Atacama village
- Tatio Geysers
- Moon Valley
- Altiplano villages
- Puritama hot springs
DAY 1: CALAMA (IN) – SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA
Reception at the airport in Calama. Transfer to the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama during which we cross the planes of the Atacama Desert and the first low mountain range, the Cordon Barros Arena.
In the afternoon we make a hike through the gorges of the so called Salty Mountain Range, an old bed of an prehistoric salt flat which was raised to form a labyrinth of clay and minerals. We walk for about 3-4 hours. The hike ends at the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) where we watch the changing colours of the moonlike landscape during the sunset. Transfer back to San Pedro de Atacama.
Overnight in Ecological House (or similar according to availability), lunch included
Transfer: 1 hour approx
Trekking: 3-4 hours approx
DAY 2: SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA – SAN BARTOLO
After a relaxing morning we visit Pukara de Quitor. The ruins of an pre-hispanic fortification once established the military and commercial control of the oasis and is strategically situated at the narrow spot of the river valley. We follow the river until Catarpe where we start our trekking through a long canyon which has been used for by the native inhabitants. Since on some of the way we will use the riverbed as our trail its best to bring some sandals.
Overnight in CAMP (approx. 2700m), all meals included
Transfer: 15 min approx
Trekking: 4 hours approx
Elevation + 200m
DAY 3: SAN BARTOLO – RIO GRANDE
On our second marching day we continue following the canyon which shows us the geological past in it many coloured stratums in the rock surrounding us. We past an antique mine long time abandoned. When lowly progressing further specimens of the Cordon cactus start to appear while we are getting closer to the agricultural lands of the Rio Grande village where we will spend the night.
Overnight in CAMP, all meals included
Trekking: 6-7 hours approx
Elevation + 500m
DAY 4: RIO GRANDE – MACHUCA
During our third trekking day we continue to slowly gain in altitude walking towards the altiplano. Our path leads us pass abandoned farmers’ homes and through the agricultural terraces that gave the name to the Andes mountain range. Eventually we reach the source of the river in a sector of wetlands in the region referred to as bofedal. Those high moors are the habitat of many Andean birds and the vegetation is highly appreciated by the lamas of the nearby village Machuca. Tonight we camp there the village with its attractive colonial church.
Overnight in CAMP (approx 4000m) all meals included.
Trekking: 6-7 hours approx
Elevation + 800m
DAY 5: MACHUCA – PURITAMA HOTS SPRINGS – TATIO GEYSERS
Today our vehicle takes us to another valley, that of the Purifica River. We follow an ancient path along the canyon first walking on the fringe and then descending into the valley. The shore of the stream is covered by ornamental grasses in which the path sometimes disappears. We can already feel that the water of Purifica River is not a cold mountain stream but much to warm and at the end of the canyon we arrive at the Hot Springs of Puritama that feed the river. Here we can enjoy a relaxing bath in the different pools of the site. Eventually we walk out of the canyon and our vehicle takes us to the Tatio Geysers in the middle of the altiplano. While passing the wide planes we have a good change to spot grassing herds of Vicunas, a wild relative of the lama. In the evening we can make a little walk in the surroundings of the geysers to enjoy the lonely landscape.
Overnight in CAMP (approx 4300m) all meals included.
Trekking: 1-2 hours approx.
Elevation + 400m
DAY 6: TATIO GEYSERS – CASPANA – CALAMA OR SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA (OUT)
We get up early in the morning to take the vehicle to drive down into the geothermal field. Here you can walk along the geysers, fumaroles and cooking pools which are most active during the hour around sunrise. The vapour of the warm water pools and the colourful minerals offer an optic spectacle when the sun eventually rises behind the mountain range. We have breakfast on the spot before we continue our tor towards the indigenous villages of Caspana and Chiu Chiu while driving down from the altitude until Calama. Transfer to the airport/hotel or return to San Pedro de Atacama (hotel not included), breakfast and lunch included.
Transfer: 3 hours approx
Marche: 1-2 hours