In this inaugural article about the best options for enjoying Chile as a Tourism Destination, I will talk about our travel to one of the top International destinations in Chile right alongside Torres del Paine, Easter Island and of course Santiago.
We took a flight on LAN that left us on Calama, in the Second Region of Antofagasta, and from there we rented a car to go “Visiting San Pedro de Atacama“.
Here, my first tip: There is very little price difference between the lower tier of rental cars and a bit upper tier. We rented a Haima II and ended up having to return it for a Citröen C3 Picasso that then became sort of our “official” choice for every Chilean trip thereafter. Especially if you are planning on crossing the desert or go through the mountain areas as we did. Maybe the Haima is a good choice for city trips.
The town has grown a lot lately and you can see the traditional downtown, but you can also take a stroll beyond and see a lot of development with new neighborhoods where a few years back was desert.
It is, being an international destination a lot pricier than other parts of Chile, but it being the hub for so many amazingly gorgeous views more than makes up for it.
In the past 12 months we went twice to San Pedro de Atacama, once staying in a little hostel and one staying in one of the boutique hotels. Even though there was not such a big money difference between them, the experience was a huge difference bewteen the two.
San Pedro de Atacama is located in the middle of a zone with several natural attractions, but the one I´m focusing in this article is the Tatio Geysers.
58 Miles away from San Pedro de Atacama, and nearly 14,000 feet high you will find them, and since it is at dawn, it´s probably around 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and you will need to get up as early as 4AM to go visit the geysers, but boy is it awesome and you won´t regret it!
All this sacrifice is worth it, as the spectacular show that nature offers us early in the morning is priceless, the vapor columns you will see when you are arriving is your first “Wow” moment, and it is only dawn.
Before you enter the park you will have to pay the entrance fee, around ten dollars (5,000 chilean pesos); the park is managed by local communities Caspana and Toconce and you will have the chance to do a pit stop in the bathrooms at the entrance, I strongly recommend you do so then.
Once you are in the geothermal field you will see the boiling water surging from the soil and you will se the amazing fumaroles in different forms and sizes. Some are just tiny little crevices, some are huge bonfire-like fumes. They may not be as spectacular as the Old Faithful in Yellowstone, but there are so many that it makes for a completely different kind of natural show.
The whole landscape changes as the sun goes up, so you will be indeed watching a natural play. After having breakfast in the geysers (if you go with a tour) you will start to go back down, but first stop at the thermal pool a mile away from the geysers (there are changing rooms and bathrooms there too). You can enjoy a thermal bath with all the properties of thermal water. Then you keep going back down and you´ll stop at Machuca, a little town of 15 inhabitants and a little adobe church. In the way you will also be able to see high lands fauna such as alpacas, vicuñas and different birds.
VERY IMPORTANT TIPS when visiting San Pedro de Atacama – Tatio Geysers
1- The water is boiling! Follow the instructions in signs and your tour guide. Do not go over the “do not cross” lines. It may be dangerous and having an accident where you boil yourself at 14,000 feet and 3 hours away from the Calama hospital will be no fun at all.
2- The night before do not drink alcohol, and eat lightly. That way you have more chances to avoid feeling the height sickness called “Sorojchi” or “Soroche”. It is very high up there and very windy, making it tough conditions if you are not used to these wuthering heights.
3- Wear warm clothing, but layer it. At dawn you may be in harsh temperatures of maybe even around 10 or 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but it will go up and up and up from there and when you come back it may very well be in the 70´s or 80´s at noon, and you can get stuck with a big wool pullover.
If you end up visiting San Pedro de Atacama and the Tatio Geysers, please let me know your experience in the comments section. Also, you can follow me on Twitter for more scoop on Destination Chile or my Pinterest Board below.