So last year I had the amazing opportunity to visit the country of Chile, and during my travels I spent 4 days staying in the Atacama Desert. We had a very busy itinerary ahead of us, so as soon as we arrived we had unpacked and got straight to it:
We arrived mid-afternoon after a quick but scenic flight up from the country’s capital: Santiago. Being permanently hungry, we stopped at the first place we could find and grabbed some ’empañadas’ which are a specialty of South America. This one however was different. It would be better to describe it as a calzone, as it was bigger than m head (literally) and was filled with the meatiest toppings around. Little did I know that I would soon discover there is a whole SPECTRUM of empañadas, and we even got to try mini fried cheese ones, which I highly reccomend.
After satisfying our appetites, we piled onto the tour bus that arrived at our hotel and made our way out into the desert. The two stops for that evening were Moon Valley and Death Valley. Although the name doesn’t sound quite as inviting, Death Valley was definitely my favourite as we were able to watch the sun set and the view was breathtaking.
Next was our trip to the Atacama Salt Flats. Now, these are not to be confused with the salt flats of Bolivia, as they couldn’t more different. The Atacama Salt Falts are formed from crystalised salt over many years, and they are a wonder to look at. Sticking to the designated paths, you could spend hours exploring the flats, and also get an insight into the flora and fauna that live there, as the Salt Flats are also home to a particular type of Flamingo.
We then jumped straight back onto the tour bus and began the slow and steady climb up the mountains to see the famous Altiplanic Lagoons, that are situated at a staggering 4200m above sea level. Although the altitude didn’t affect me as much as I thought it would, I definitely noticed the temperature drop from a lovely 30’C to a spine tingling 8’C as we climbed the side of the mountain, and what really struck me was the fact that there were still patches of SNOW on the ground in the middle of summer!
Today we had a very early start, getting up at 4.30 to pile onto the bus, and make our way up to the Geysers del Tatio. Although the early morning was almost painful to endure, it was definitely worth it. We arrived to the geysers just before sunrise, and got to watch the sun come up, the geysers explode, and eat pancakes all at the same time. It was unforgettable experience, mainly because of to -10 degree temperatures, but of course also because of the stunning scenery and natural wonders.
In the afternoon, we travelled just north of San Pedro, and found the Hot Springs. This was a crazy experience, especially as the water is warmer by your feet than by your head due to the thermal rocks at the bottom of the pools.
As our stay was drawing to a close, we took this evening to wander around the town of San Pedro, which has so many hidden gems just waiting to be stumbled upon. We found starlight restaurants, handmade jewellery shops and of course some of the best bars. The whole town is funded by tourism so there is definitely something for everyone.
On our last day, our flight wasn’t until the late afternoon, so we hired some bikes and went on an adventure for a few hours. I would highly recommend doing this as it’s the best way to get around, and much quicker than walking. There are so many unexplored areas in the outskirts of San Pedro and we had such a fun time exploring all the bike trails. The only downside would be the altitude – breathing suddenly becomes a chore you take some TLC afterwards!
I would highly recommend The Atacama as a MUST SEE if your ever over in South America. It was such an amazing experience for me and I would jump at the chance to return any day now!