We offer luxury and mid-level all-inclusive or part-inclusive itineraries here. An itinerary can be as a standalone itinerary or form part of a larger itinerary including other places in Chile (and Argentina, or Peru).

The village of San Pedro de Atacama is located in northern Chile close to the border with Bolivia and Argentina (where the three countries join) and is considered one of the key destinations in Chile visit. The village of San Pedro de Atacama is 1,667 km north of Santiago, 2,438m above sea level and 106km south-east from the mining city and airport of Calama. It is a tiny, dusty, oasis village with unpaved streets that serves as a base from where to explore the absolutely outstanding, natural, geographic beauty of the area.

The village is a simple place with buildings constructed from adobe and other natural materials but at night it comes alive as the many bohemian-style bars and innovative restaurants open up. It attracts the “hippy” crowd and back-packers, but these days a number of older, wealthier visitors are coming to get the “Atacama” experience. The accommodation in San Pedro de Atacama varies from the simple, to mid level to absolutely luxury.

San Pedro de Atacama is, as the name would suggest, located in the heart of the Atacama Desert. Most of the Atacama Desert is a rainless plateau covering the northern sector of Chile from Arica down to just above La Serena. In some areas no rainfall has ever been recorded, making it the driest desert on Earth, although rain does fall in San Pedro de Atacama when, in the summer months, the thermals above the Bolivian side of the Andes form large rain clouds that then drift down back into Chile and deposit heavy, but short, rain showers over the area, often accompanied by loud thunder and lighting. This phenomenon is called the Bolivian Winter, resulting in snow fall at higher elevations. The Atacama Desert covers around 180,000km 2 and is regarded as being in existence for over 15 million years.

The incredibly dry environment of large parts of the Atacama, together with the natural height of the Andes Mountains and the fact that there are vast swathes of land not affected by man-made light pollution, provide an ideal setting for astronomical observatories to be located. The European Southern Observatory administers two radio telescopes in the area: La Silla Observatory and the Paranal Observatory where the Very Large Telescope (VLT) is located and a radio astronomical observatory called ALMA is now operating.

The geography in the area around San Pedro de Atacama is what makes this region so incredibly dramatic to view. The landscape is the aftermath of millions and millions of years of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, lava flows and flood-ravished plains all combining to create one of the most incredible places on Earth. The combined result is impossible to describe, but if you can imagine the mind-blowing spectacle of a massive desert plain dwarfed by conical, snow-covered volcanoes reaching heights of 5,916m in the Andean Cordillera; the beauty of the changing colours on the landscape from shades of orange to red to purple as the sun sets; the view of powerful heat vapour rising up from the vast white expanse of the Salar de Atacama salt plain (home to pink flamingos); the moon-surface-like landscape of the Valley of the Moon or the vivid blue and green colours of the high-altitude lakes, the silence of which is only broken by the chirping of birds, then you may just begin to get a picture of what lies in wait here.

The entire area is also steeped in ancient, cultural history dating back thousands of years, with evidence suggesting that the first human arrival was as long ago as 11,000BC.

The Atacama desert also contains many sought-after mineral deposits such as copper and, consequently, is a sought-after location for mining companies.

Cultural History San Pedro de Atacama

The village was named after its patron saint “San Pedro” (Saint Peter) and Atacama, which originates from the word “Accatcha” from the ancestral “Cunza” tongue and means “Head of the Country”. However, long before the village got this name it was merely an oasis from which early settlers could source drinking water and cultivate crops.

Due to the unique dryness of the air and lack of rain water to help biodegrade alien materials, the environment is ideal for preserving relics from thousands of years ago, including human remains, which has led to San Pedro de Atacama becoming the archaeological capital of Chile. Here, well-preserved mummified bodies, textiles, bones, hunting tools and other items have been discovered in a good state, thus enabling a cultural history to be recorded to a degree of reasonable accuracy.

From the archaeological evidence discovered, it is believed that the first hunter-gatherer inhabitants were in the region as long ago as 11,0000BC, living off natural vegetation found at oasis points and beside the then massive lake, which has since turned into the Salar de Atacama (salt lake). Even today, at oasis villages such as Toconao fruit trees and plants grow due to the supply of natural spring water.

It has been calculated that around 5,000BC these early inhabitants, called Atacameño, started to domesticate some of the wild animals and used fleeces for wool, hide for leather and excrement for fuel and fertiliser. It has been suggested that in the summer months the newly-created farmers would then migrate, with their animals, to the higher plains where there was fresh vegetation and allow the vegetation at the lower altitude, lake-side and oasis areas to regenerate. As the settlers grew in numbers so, too, the settlements grew in size and crops such as beans, pumpkins, potatoes and maize were cultivated.

Between 3,000BC and 1,000BC it is believed that a prolonged drought resulted in the water level of the lower-level lakes to decrease significantly forcing these early human settlers, to seek water elsewhere such as in the ravines and canyons where there was a natural supply of potable water as well as shelter. This, in turn, stimulated the birth of a controlled agricultural system and animal husbandry. One village, called Tulor, has shown evidence that its original inhabitants arrived here in the period around 750BC and that they produced ceramics, weaved, performed metallurgy and introduced irrigation systems. Other historic settlements south from San Pedro de Atacama, between the Andes Mountains and the eastern side of the Salar de Atacama, such as Toconao, Sequitor, Peine and Sociare appear to have been settled between 100BC and 100AD.

However, the oasis at San Pedro de Atacama was the largest in the area and as more people settled here San Pedro village developed into the largest settlement of them all. Over the following two thousand years other cultures came and went, including the Incas, and then in 1540 the Spanish arrived.

 

 

Calama is the nearest airport, which is about a 2.5hrs flight from Santiago, sometimes via Antofagasta. From Calama the drive is about 1.5hrs to San Pedro de Atacama. If we create an itinerary for you the transfer in and out from the airport will be included or we will explain what you need to do.

 

 

It is important to remember that San Pedro de Atacama is located in the heart of a dry desert and that it is at an altitude of 2, 443m as these factors influence the climate and local weather considerably.

Surrounded by sand (therefore no heat retention), with the Andes Mountains on one side, and located at high altitude means that the days are hot and the nights are cool to cold.

In some areas no rainfall has ever been recorded, making it the driest desert on Earth, although rain does fall in San Pedro de Atacama when, in the summer months, the thermal air currents above the Bolivian side of the Andes form large rain clouds that then drift down back into Chile and deposit heavy, but short, rain showers over the area, often accompanied by loud thunder and lighting. This phenomenon is called the Bolivian Winter, resulting in snow fall at higher elevations.

Generally speaking there is very little rain fall and most days of the year are filled with “wall-to-wall” sunshine. Days are hot, evenings cool to cold and nights are cold. Clear night skies are common on most nights – ideal for star gazing.

The Seasons

Summer: January, February and March
Autumn (not really reflected as a season): April and May
Winter: June, July and August
Spring: September, October, November and December

Average Temperatures are:

Winter (Jun, Jul and Aug)
Night: 9ºC (48ºF) / Day: 24ºC (75ºF)

Summer (Jan, Feb and Mar)
Night: 13ºC (55ºF) / Day: 25ºC (77ºF) – 32ºC (90ºF):

 

 

Today & 5 Day Forecast (C°)

San Pedro de Atacama
27°
Sunny
06:3919:56 -03
Feels like: 27°C
Wind: 28km/h W
Humidity: 10%
Pressure: 1006.2mbar
UV index: 2
MonTueWedThuFri
min 12°C
30/12°C
30/11°C
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30/10°C

The information that follows is supplied by our various partners.

Important Advice:

San Pedro de Atacama is located at altitude (2,438m). The vast majority of excursions out from San Pedro de Atacama are at higher altitudes, some reaching over 4,000m. You should NOT participate in any high altitude excursions if you are not fit, are in bad health (ie have a less-than-healthy heart condition) and without first adjusting to the altitude in San Pedro de Atacama. You should also drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and get a good amount of sleep.
Many of the excursions involve travelling long distances for several hours and the only bathroom facilities are in the open behind the nearest rock.

In order to acclimatise and enjoy fully your stay in San Pedro de Atacama, consider a minimum stay of 4 nights and use your first day to relax and acclimatise.

Altitudes:

• Calama : 2,460m approx (8,000ft)
• San Pedro de Atacama : 2,438m approx (8,000ft)

Altitudes Excursion Destinations:

• Geisers del Tatio : 4,321m approx (12,000ft)
• Centinelas de la Pakana : 4,500m approx (12,000ft)
• Laguna Verde : 5,900m approx (18,000ft)
• Lagunas Altiplánicas : 4,200m approx (12,000ft)
• Miskanti & Miñique : 4,500m approx (12,000ft)

The Main Areas to Explore from San Pedro are:

Licancabur Volcano: 

The main volcano, often snow covered, that dwarfs San Pedro village, is accessible to climbers.

The Salara de Tara:

Located at 4,300m, and 100 km from San Pedro de Atacama, this is a high-altitude Altiplanico lake with a surface area covering 48km2.

North East

Puritama Hot Springs

Natural hot springs (requires an entrance fee to be paid)

El Tatio Geysers

WARNING: People have fallen through the hard crust that surrounds the geysers and consequently been scalded. In some cases people have died. Although most people wander all over the site, you would be well advised to not get too close to even the smallest pools of water.

El Tatio is a volcanic geyser field with over 90 active geyser-water pools, located at 4,321m above sea level, in the heart of the Andes Mountains 210km from San Pedro, high in the Altiplano. The drive from San Pedro takes about three hours because the route is along narrow, unpaved, steep roads at altitude and for this reason departure from San Pedro is usually at 04:00 hrs, in order to arrive for the dawn spectacle of the geysers bubbling into the air. The incredibly clear night sky, the natural phenomena of hot water from the ground boiling an egg and the opportunity to bathe in natural thermal springs is what coming to the geysers is all about.

Caspana

A truly remarkable Andean village known for its simplicity, Inca architecture and terraced farming methods. Located in a vertical-sided, narrow canyon, the people and way of life appear to be the same as it was thousands of years ago. For some, a visit to this village feels intrusive and in many respects our view is that “Westerners” should stay away. Great care should be taken to respect the inhabitants and their way of life.

Toconao Village

Toconao village, with a population of around 700 people, is at 2,475km above sea level and located 38km south of San Pedro de Atacama, sitting on the edge of the vast salt flat “Salar de Atacama”. The geographic landscape that surrounds the village is formidable. The village itself is an oasis, with a sweet water supply free from mineral contamination such as arsenic or acids, and ideal for the cultivation of fruit trees such as pears, plums and quince as well as vegetables. Most buildings are constructed from white, soft liparita stone, quarried locally. Areas of interest are the charming central plaza with a bell tower (built in 1750) and the canyon at the base of the quarry (2km out from the village) where the lush-green vegetation of fruit trees and vegetables, irrigated from the natural water supply, contrast starkly with the completely dry, sandy desert walls.

The Cejas Lagoon

Located in the Salar de Atacama in the northern sector, closer to San Pedro de Atacama, is the Cejas Lagoon. This is a roughly circular opening in the Salar offering a very deep pool of clear, saline water that appears to be “bottomless”. The excessively high salt content provides incredible buoyancy for bathers and is an interesting experience for those who enter. The view of the unbelievably impressive, surrounding landscape whilst bathing is a draw-dropper.

Note: The surrounding edges of the lagoon are made from salt crystals that are sharp and can cut feet, so best to wear bathing shoes. Also, after bathing the salt will be all over your body, so best to wash down with bottled mineral water, or sweet water brought from the hotel.

The Salar de Atacama

The Salar de Atacama is a vast salt plain covering around 8,000km2 in the heart of the Atacama Desert. The road entrance is located about mid-way along the eastern side of the salt plain, approximately 80 km south from San Pedro de Atacama. Within this salt flat is the Chaxa Lagoon, which is within the Los Flamencos National Reserve, home to flocks of pink flamingos and other types of birds, all feeding on microscopic organisms in the shallow waters.

Socaire

About 110km south, but in the hills, from San Pedro de Atacama, is the village of Socaire. This is a quiet, very small village (population cerca 400) with a very slow, agricultural-based life style.

Miscanti and Menique Lagoons

Located approximately 140km from San Pedro de Atacama, at 4,000m above sea level in the heart of the Andes Mountains are two adjacent lagoons that radiate a vivid blue colour. Dwarfed by two volcano cones at each side, the lagoons offer a haven for birds. On the return journey there is a spectacular view back over the massive Salar de Atacama.

In and Close to San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro de Atacama Church

Declared a National Monument in 1951, the church is built from adobe walls and its ceiling is made from wood of the Cañar and locust tree, and clay then covered over with cactus-wood. It served as a parish in 1641.

Valley of the Moon

Located 19 km from the village of San Pedro de Atacama and a popular tour for practically all visitors is the “Valle de La Luna” (Valley of the Moon), so called because of its resemblance to the surface of the moon.

Valle de la Muerte

“Death Valley” – a dry and hot valley with high dune sides and large rocks.

Pukara de Quitor

A 12th century fort built by the “Atacameno” tribe, restored in 1981 and declared a National Monument in 1982, located on the outskirts of the village. There are around 200 ruins of dwellings.

Street Festivals in San Pedro de Atacama

Usually around these dates: 01 – 03 February, are colourful street parades in the village.

Other Activities

There are many other places to see and things to do such as horse riding and star gazing.

Nocturnal

Star gazing is a great option as long as there is no Moon or clouds.

The following are excursions offered by some of our hotel partners:

KARI
Duration: 3 to 3.5 hours (half-day), 2 to 2.5 hours of walking.
Distance by foot: 4.8 km (3 miles).
Itinerary:
Departure by van (20 min.) along the road towards Calama. Trekking along Quebrada Kari, a small canyon formed by water erosion and flanked by it´s enormo
us salt walls. Return by van (15 min).
Level: Easy, with the exception of two 8 foot-high vertical descents.

GUATÍN – PUNTA DEL INCA
Duration: Half-day, 2 to 2.5 hours walking.
Distance by foot: 4.2 km (2.6 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van (35 min.) on the road towards the North-East. The excursion starts out by descending from the Guatín settlement until Punta del Inca, following the river’s course down through the ravine /canyon. Return by van (35 min.)
Level: Easy descent through rocky terrain, with a bit of loose ground.

CORNISAS
Duration: Length: 3 to 3.5 hours (half-day), walking for 2 to 2.5 hours.
Distance by foot: 4.2 km (2.6miles).
Itinerary: Departure by van (30 min.) towards Catarpe Valley. Trekking along the cornices of the Cordillera de la Sal with panoramic views of the oasis, the Salar de Atacama and the Andes, ending at the dunes of Valle de la Muerte. Return by van (15 min.).
Level: Easy.

KAMUR (VALLE DE LA LUNA)
Duration: 2.5 to 3 hours (half-day), walking 2 to 2.5 hours.
Distance by foot: 8.5 km (5.3 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache by van (35 min.) towards the Valle de la Luna. From there the trekking will allow visitors to appreciate the variations of sunlight and the spectacular landscapes at Cordillera de la Sal. The highest point at 2,520 mts (8,400 ft) is reached near the end of the walk.
Level: Easy

ATACAMA CULTURE
Duration: 3.5 hours by van (half-day).
Distance: 15km (9.5 miles) approx.
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van to Museo Padre Le Paige. This is a good introductory approach to this area. Then, departure by van towards Pukará de Quitor. Trekking with an optional climbing to the Pukará’s summit. By van we visit Ayllu de Solor with a chance to observe how the Atacama people live nowadays.
Level: Easy.

CUCHABRACHE
Duration: 3.5 to 4 hours (half-day), walking 2 to 2.5 hours.
Distance by foot: 4.8 km (3.0 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache by van (50 min.) towards the bocatoma of San Pedro river. Uphill walk to Alto de Cuchabrache, identifying petroglyphs along the trail, with views to Catarpe and Quitor valleys. Return to Hotel de Larache by van (35 min.).
Level: Easy.

SALAR DE ATACAMA (LAGUNA CHAXA)
Duration: 3.5 hrs. (half-day), 30 minutes walk.
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van towards the town of Toconao located 38 km. (23.5 miles) South from San Pedro de Atacama. Once in Toconao you visit the Plaza de Toconao, the Church and the historic Bell Tower, all of them historic symbols of this town. After 25 minutes of exploring through the village, we make our way towards the “Reserva Nacional los Flamencos” to the Laguna Chaxa, were the Salar de Atacama is located and bird watching is amazing. Here we wait for dawn to arrive in order to head back to the Hotel de Larache.
Level: Easy trekking (3,000 – 4,000 mts / 9,840 – 13,120 ft) These explorations can be done starting from the 2nd day.

GUATIN – PURITAMA
Duration: 3.5 to 4 hours (half-day), 2 to 2.5 hours walking.
Distance by foot: 5 km (3.1 miles).
Itinerary: Departure by van (35 min.) to Guatín, where the trek begins climbing along a 820 ft slope towards Puritama (11,574 feet). The trail passes through ancient settlements and hundred year old cacti; the terrain is rocky at times.
Level: Moderate.

MACHUCA – RÍO GRANDE
Duration: 7 to 8 hours (full-day), 4.5 to 5.5 hours walking.
Distance by foot: 14 km (8.7 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van (1.5 hrs.) towards picturesque village of Machuca (3,930 mts / 13,100 ft). Downhill trekking on a slope of approx. 787 mts (2,625 ft). along the river bed. Picnic lunch at Peñaliri. A trail follows along the edges of the crop terraces of the Río Grande village. Return by van.
Level: Moderate. Daypack required.

CASPANA – CHIU-CHIU
Duration: 8 hours by van (full-day).
Distance: 200 km (125 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van (2.5 hours) crossing the altiplano towards the picturesque village of Caspana (3,270 mts/ 10,900 ft), passing by the Geysers del Tatio. Trek across the Caspana farmlands. Lunch at the village. The trip continues with the visit of the ancient Lasana Pukará (pre-colombian fortress), the Chiu-Chiu church, and finally towards the airport in Calama.
Level: Very Easy. trekking (4,000 – 5,000 mts / 13,120 – 16,400 ft) These explorations can be done starting from the 3th day.

COPA COYA
Duration: 10 to 11 hours (full-day), 4.5 to 5.5 hours walking.
Distance by foot: 10.5 km (6.5 miles).
Itinerary: Early departure from Hotel de Larache by van (2 hrs) towards geothermal field (4,320 mts / 14,176 ft). Descending hike following an ancient “llaretero” road, with views of the volcanoes. Uphill to our picnic lunch spot. After lunch, we begin an ascending trek (328 mts / 1,094 ft. slope) on the edge of Copa Coya hill. Return to explora by van with an optional bath at the Puritama hot springs.
Level: Demanding. Daypack required.

SALAR DE TARA
Duration: Full day. 1 to 2 hours walking.
Itinerary: Departure from explora, traveling by van (2 hrs) towards the Salar de Tara (Tara Salt Flat), located approx. 3,936 mts (13,120 ft). above sea level. The road flanks the Bolivian borderline, passing through the aguada de Quipiaco (Quipiaco Lagoon), the monjes de la apacana and the cathedral-like rock formations before reaching the salt flat, habitat to altiplanic fauna. Lunch at the site, a short trek and back to Hotel de Larache.
Level: Easy.

SALARES DEL ALTIPLANO
Duration: Full day. One hour walk.
Itinerary: Departure by van (2 hrs.) towards the salar de Aguas Calientes and Laguna Tuyayito, located over 3,960 km (13,200 ft) above sea level, where we will take a short trek. Buffet lunch at the salar de Aguas Calientes. Along the road we will pass directly through the altiplano observing its flora and fauna. Return to explora.
Level: Easy.

TATIO – PURITAMA
Duration: 5 hours (half-day), 1 hour walk through the geothermic field of the Geisers del Tatio (4,320mts / 14,176 ft).
Itinerary: Departure by van towards the Geysers del Tatio (2 hours approx) passing through the town of Machuca. After an hour of exploration through the geothermic fields, we go to the Termas de Puritama for a swim and then back to explora.
Level: Medium high mountain climbing (5,000 – 6,000 mts / 16,400 – 19,680 ft) Climbing high-altitude mountains and volcanoes are demanding excursions which are suitable for people who are in good physical shape. These are not permitted for people who have trouble with heights or a heart condition. In some areas there are trails, although they are generally ascended by rope or rocks, and there is a chance of ice or snow. Climbing these mountains allows guests to observe the beauty of the surrounding landscape and interesting land formations in the area. Competition is not the goal (neither competing against oneself nor against others). It is necessary to acclimatize for two or more days beforehand by trekking in high altitudes. The recommended season for these climbs is September to April, keeping in mind complications that may arise from the altiplanic rainy season (January and February). The coldest season at high altitude level is from May to August.

CERRO TOCO (5,604 mts / 18,381 ft)
Duration: 6 to 7 hours (morning), 1.5 to 2.5 hours walking, depending on the amount snow. Slope: Approximately 540 mts (1,800 ft).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache by van, reaching an old sulfur plant (1.5 hrs); from this point begins an ascent, climbing along a well marked step path. Summit offers panoramic views of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.
Level: Moderate.

CERRO CORONA (5,291 mts / 17,359 ft)
Duration: Full day. Slope: 738 mts (2,460 ft.)
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache by van towards Talabre (2hrs.). The ascent begins across volcanic rock and ash, lasting between 2.5 to 4 hrs. depending on snow conditions. Lunch is served at the summit, on the crown. Descent through volcanic rock fields for 2 to 2.5 hrs. Level: Moderate to Demanding.

VOLCÁN SAIRECABUR (6,010 mts / 19,712 ft)
Duration: 8 to 9 hours (full-day).
Slope: approx. 639 mts (2,130 ft).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van towards Azufrera Sasiel. 2.5 to 3 hour ascent across large rock and loose stones. Arrival at the highest summit of the region. Climbing down is difficult and takes 2.5 hours. Lunch and optional bath at Puritama hot springs.
Level: Demanding.

VOLCÁN COLORADO (5,748 mts / 18,853 ft)
Duration: 11 to 12 hours (full-day).
Slope: Approx. 1,230 mts (4,100 ft).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van to El Tatio. 6 to 7 hour ascent across large rock and loose stones. Arrival at summit. Picnic lunch with views. Climbing down is difficult and takes 3 to 4 hours.
Level: Demanding.

VOLCÁN LICANCABUR (5,916 mts / 19,404 ft)
Duration: 2 full days.
Slope: 1,329 mts (4,430 ft) approximately, depending on the amount of snow.
Itinerary: Departure by van, crossing the Bolivian border. Base campsite at 4,560 mts (15,200 ft). Afternoon trek towards Laguna Verde. Early morning ascent with flashlights along Incas ruins. We reach the summit after 7 or 8 hours and get a view to the crater and the world’s highest lagoon. Climbing down is difficult and takes 3 to 4 hours.
Level: Demanding.
Other: this exploration requires confirmation 60 days prior to arrival at explora. Visa to enter Bolivia is requested.

LAS CORNISAS
Duration: 3 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 20 km (12.5) miles.
Itinerary: Departure from explora on horseback towards Valle de Catarpe, trotting and countering before climbing to cornices of Cordillera de la Sal. Panoramic view. Return descent across dunes towards Valle de la Muerte.
Level: Moderate.

QUEBRADA DEL DIABLO
Duration: 3 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 16 km (10 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache to Quebrada del Diablo. This is a narrow and uneven road, with ascents and descents, leaps and curves which requires trotting and countering. Overview of Cordillera de los Andes, the Salar (salt flat) and the oasis during the return to the village of San Pedro.
Level: Moderate.

CATARPE / VILAMA
Duration: 3 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 17 km (10.6 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora into the Cordillera de la Sal. Visit of the Catarpe church. Spectacular view of the Cordillera de los Andes. Return along the village of San Pedro.
Level: Moderate.

RÍO SALADO
Duration: 5 to 6 hours on horseback (full-day).
Distance: 30 km (18.6 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora to the cornices of Cordillera de la Sal, and then to Río Salado. Picnic lunch. Return is made following the river’s course and along abandoned villages of Cuchabrache and Catarpe.
Level: Demanding.

VALLE DE QUITOR
Duration: 1.5 to 2 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 9 km (5.6 miles).
Itinerary: Departure covering the northern part of the oasis and from there on up to the viewing of the Pukará and the farmlands of the Valle de Quitor. Upon returning we pass nearby Cordillera de la Sal.
Level: Easy.

DUNAS DE LA CHULA
Duration: 2 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 9 km (5.6 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora on horseback to Cordillera de la Sal. Panoramic views of the ayllus, the salt lake and the Cordillera de los Andes, before entering Cordillera de la Sal. The trail follows along dunes and rock formations.
Level: Moderate.

BETER / TULOR
Duration: 3.5 hours on horseback (half-day).
Distance: 17.8 km (11.1 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache to the southern ayllus. Walk around the oasis and the desert. Galloping in the dunes and nearby Beter’s ruins.
Level: Moderate.

AYLLUS
Duration: 2 hours (half-day).
Distance: 8 km (5 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from Hotel de Larache towards the Ayllus de Larache, Yaye and Séquitor. Through the way, we pass by the Rio San Pedro, were you can see a variety of vegetation and local agrarian fields.
Level: Easy

By Bicycle

explora offers the opportunity to travel along desert trails and ridges on a mountain bike. Using the equipment we provide to assure comfort and safety, biking allows our guests to fully enjoy the geography of Atacama. The use of helmets, gloves, sunglasses and adequate footwear are an important element for each of these outings. Half-day bicycle explorations will be combined with trekking and horseback riding explorations.

LAGUNA CEJAR
Duration: 3.5 to 4 hours. On bicycle 1.5 to 2.5 hours (half-day).
Distance: 19 km (12 miles).
Itinerary: Departure explora by bicycle towards the south, crossing the ayllus until reaching the entrance to the Salar de Atacama area, with its interesting vegetation. The trail is flat, going over some sandy areas. Bathing in the Sejas and Agua Piedra lagoons, floating in their salty waters. Return by van (45 min).
Level: Easy.
Other: Flip-flops are necessary to bath in the lagoons.

CIRCUITO DE LOS VALLES
Duration: 3.5 to 4.5 hours on bicycle (half-day).
Distance: 45 km (28 miles).
Itinerary: Departure by bicycle. Crossing the Cordillera de la Sal with a descent allowing views of the Cordillera de Domeyko and Llano de la Paciencia, where a winding road leads to another crossing of Cordillera de la Sal, this time along Valle de la Luna. Return to the hotel.
Level: Demanding.

PUTANA TO GUATÍN DESCENT
Duration: 10 to 12 hours (full-day). On bicycle 6.5 to 8.5 hours.
Distance: 33 km (20.5 miles).
Itinerary: Departure from explora by van (1.5 hrs) to Altos de Putana. Descent by bicycle along an unpaved road with descents and ascents along the gorge, until reaching picturesque town of Machuca. Picnic lunch along the road. The trip continues with a view of the Salar de Atacama and over-looking the settlement of Guatín. Return to Hotel de Larache by van (30 min.).
Level: Demanding.
Other: It is optional to go down by bicycle to San Pedro (70 km / 112 miles), or to the Puritama hot springs.

On 4 Wheels

Altiplanic Lagoons (Miscanti and Meñiques Lagoons)
Duration: 6 to 8 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Description:
We depart the hotel towards the highland lagoons of Miscanti and Miñiques, which are at an altitude of 4,200 m / 13,860 feet. The scenery here is ideal to make a stop in our journey and contemplate the beauty of the Altiplanic landscape, with its mountains, many contrasts and extraordinary colours. Lunch is taken in a local restaurant in the village of Socaire, a small way to give much needed support to the local community.

Salar de Tara
Duration: 6 to 8 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Description:
Heading east from the hotel, we travel towards the Argentinian border and the Salar de Tara. As the terrain rises, enjoy marvellous views of the Licancabur volcano and spot bird life, salt lakes and areas of marshland. At a height of 4200m/ 13,860 feet approximately igneous rock plugs from the “nuns” of Tara, a marvellous sight in the middle of an amazing plateau. Continue to Tara itself, where lunch is enjoyed.

El Tatio Geisers
Duration: 7 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy (with acclimatization)
Description:
The Tatio Geisers are located at an altitude of 4300m /14,190 ft. The geothermal field has close links to the volcanic activity in the zone and consists of huge steam columns which reach heights of 12m/almost 40 ft. Breakfast is served as dawn breaks. On the way back to the village, there is the opportunity to spot families of vicuñas and if we are lucky, foxes, vizcachas and Andean ostrich. We stop in the hamlet of Machuca before returning to the hotel by vehicle.

Machuca
Duration: 5 to 6 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Description:
To the north of San Pedro and reached by van via a steep road, is the tiny village of Machuca at an altitude of 4000 m / 13,123 feet. The village of Machuca has a privileged site surrounded by nature and in its only street we can see the roofs made of cactus and maybe taste barbecued llama, offered by the villagers. The church is of special interest for the cultural significance and birds and llamas can be seen in the area.

Puritama Hot Springs
Duration: 3 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Description:
This journey has established itself as a unique experience in an environment where water is an unexpected finding! Hidden at the bottom of a steep sided gorge, surrounded by vegetation, the River Puritama has 8 natural pools, with water which has an average temperature of 33 ºC/ 91ºF at an altitude of 3500 m asl (11,482 feet). Following a lovely bathe, we return to the hotel by vehicle.

Moon Valley
Duration: 3 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Description:
This journey allows participants to appreciate the surreal beauty of the landscape from many viewpoints in the Salt Mountain Range, such as the scenery of Death Valley, Moon Valley and the Andes mountain range. Includes short walks in areas with rocky outcrops, scenery formed by the wind the rain and the temperature changes of the desert. A must for photo buffs!

Atacama Salt Flat (Chaxa Lagoon & Flamingo Reserve)
Duration: 4 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Description:
The journey starts with a brief visit to Toconao village where the square and the historic church are the main attractions. Also visit a local family who lives off the sales of their handcrafts. Continue to the National Flamingo Reserve in the Atacama salt flat. There are three types of flamingo to be found here, living off the microscopic lagoon life. The views of the Andes as the sun sets are truly amazing.

Walking and hiking

Cornices
Duration: 2,5 to 3,5 hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Description:
A fun excursion for the morning or afternoon. On arrival at the old road to Calama, the walk starts with a visit to some archeological sites and wonderful views of the volcanoes of the region. At a height of around 2600m/ 8580 feet, descend via the huge dune to Death Valley- an unforgettable experience!

Kari Gorge
Duration: 2 to 3 hours walk + 40 mins by vehicle
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Description:
An amazing morning or afternoon hike through incredible scenery. We depart the hotel by vehicle towards the Mirador de Kari, located 2,550 meters / 8,370 feet above sea level. Here, you will appreciate a strange phenomenon where water, wind and temperature extremes have joined forces to produce this unique gorge in the Salt Mountain Range. We walk between dried-up clay riverbeds, calcium carbonate and lime rock formations and finish the walk in a labyrinth like area. Return to the hotel by van.

Devils Canyon & Vilama
Duration: 2,5 to 3,5 hours
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description:
A morning or afternoon excursion. Depart the hotel by vehicle and head to Devil’s Canyon to start the walk. The altitude here is approx 2,450m/8,038ft. We walk on flattish ground for about an hour, on the dry river bed through formations of lime which are part of the Salt Mountain Range. We continue along an ancient caravan route, passing by petroglyphs which show the former commercial activity in the area and finish at the old settlement known as Vilama. Return to the hotel by vehicle.

Guatin / Gatchi
Duration: 2 to 3 hours walk + 1 hour by vehicle
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description:
Depart the hotel in a vehicle towards Guatin Valley (2,800m/9,186ft). The confluence of two rivers takes place here; one coming from the warm thermal springs of Puritama, and the other is the Purifica River, whose waters are from the Andes Mountains. This unique mix of warm thermal spring water and cold clear mountain snowmelt gives rise to the new river which supports the unique ecosystem of the Guatin Canyon. We walk here, alongside waterfalls and rocky climbs whilst marvelling at the amazing Candelaria cactus.

Guatin / Puritama
Duration: 2,5 to 3,5 hours hike + 1 hour by vehicle
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description:
This excursion is better done in the morning because of the temperature changes. The walk starts at an altitude of 2,800m/9,186 ft to the northeast of San Pedro. The walk is a steady uphill climb, through the valley which is scattered with igneous rocks from the volcanic explosions of the past. We eventually arrive at the Puritama Thermal Springs, 8 pools of limpid warm water where there is a chance to bathe and relax before returning to the hotel by vehicle.

Machuca / Río Grande
Duration: 7 to 9 hours (5 to 7 hours hiking)
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description:
This walk takes place at around 4,000m/13,200ft and is a great way to acclimatize to the altitude for people who want to climb a volcano during their stay. The walk follows the river bed and on the way we can see llamas, alpacas and local birds. Stop for lunch in the abandoned mountain village of Peñaliri. Following this break, discover the abandoned terraces of the gully and continue on to the village of Río Grande, where typical vegetables are grown. Return to the hotel by vehicle.

Ruta Purilaktis
Duration: 4 hrs walk + 2 hrs by vehicle
Level of Difficulty: Easy +
Depart the hotel by vehicle along the road heading to Calama. We continue through the Domeyko Mountain Range to the starting point of our hike (3,000mts/9,840ft approx). The start of this hike will wind along a small gully and then open up to large rock formations marked by petroglyphs. Following dry river beds flanked by mountains we admire spectacular views from various viewpoints. After a gentle climb-descent, we will finish at the Matancilla Valley, also known as Rainbow Valley. We will have lunch here before returning to the hotel by vehicle.

Biking

Devils Canyon / Catarpe
Duration: 2,5 to 3,5 Hours
Level of Difficulty: Medium +
Description:
Depart the hotel on bicycles heading north towards the Salt Mountain Range, and the beautiful Devil’s Canyon. The ride takes place at an average height of 2,400m/8,000ft. After crossing the San Pedro River, we arrive at the Canyon, which is flanked by clay cliffs and has a sandy bottom in places. The ride is a constant gentle climb until we come out of the labyrinth on to the Catarpe plateau. The return journey follows the natural course of the San Pedro River until we reach the village and the hotel.

Cejar Lagoon
Duration: 4 hours approx (2 hours cycling)
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description:
This is a morning excursion to make the most of the temperature at this time of day. Depart the hotel heading south by bike towards the edge of the Atacama Salt Flat. The terrain is mainly flat and slightly uneven in places. On arrival at the Cejar lagoon, the view of the thick salt crust which has formed around the water hole is amazing. The salt concentration is incredibly high here and one floats in the spectacularly clear waters. Following a swim and a rest, we return to the hotel by vehicle.

Windy Lookout Point / Moon Valley, the Dune
Duration: 2 to 3,5 hours
Level of Difficulty: Difficult
Description:
A morning or afternoon excursion. Depart from the hotel heading northeast then head north towards the Salt Mountain range enjoying marvellous views of the Andes and volcanoes. Continue along the cornices viewing the formations of Death Valley from above, before descending via the old trails into the valley itself. Once at the bottom, continue on to Death Valley and cycle through the amazing scenery before returning to the hotel. The uphill and downhill parts are steep in places and this excursion gives a great workout!

Bike Ride through the Ayllus / Atacameñan Communities
Duration: 1,5 to 2,5 Hours
Level of Difficulty: Easy
Description:
Depart the hotel in the morning or early afternoon. The nearby oases villages are typical of the local culture and in many ways their inhabitants still follow the same way of life as their distant ancestors. View the local agriculture and the unique irrigation system. This is a great way to be introduced to the village and the climate of San Pedro.

Volcano Climbing

Toco
Duration: 5 to 7 Hours
Level of Difficulty: Medium
Description:
The journey starts from the hotel, travelling in a vehicle for 1 hour 30 minutes to the starting point of the walk at a height of 4.800 m approx (16.500 feet) The peak of the volcano is at 5.650 m. / 18.645 feet and from the top there are great views of the Bolivian Altiplano and the Atacama Salt Flat to the west. After time for a break and a rest, the descent is taken slowly and safely down the same route until the vehicle is reached. Return to the hotel by vehicle.

If time and the weather permits we can arrange more challenging volcano walks once Toco has been successfully conquered!

Horse rides

Atacama on Horseback
Description:
We can arrange a selection of rides with Atacameñan horses. Our saddles are Chilean (Western) style. The horses are mounted at the hotel and we travel with our guide to discover the desert scenery. Depending on experience and wishes of the participants, the rides can take between 2 and 5 hours. Chaps and hard hats are supplied in the hotel.

Cultural, flora & fauna

Bird Watching
Description:
Places such as the Nacimiento and Guatin canyons, the Atacama Salt Flat and northern Chilean Altiplano are habitats which house a wide variety of differing species of birds. For example, the Salt Flats are home to the Chilean flamingo, Andean flamingo, Andean avocet and Puna Plover. The open altiplano wetlands houses Andean geese, Rufous-bellied Seedsnipes, Golden-spotted Ground-doves and Ochre-naped Ground-tyrants amongst others. Other species to be found in the area include the Chiguanco Thrush, Cordilleran Canastero, Scale-throated Earthcreeper, Andean Negrito and Horned Coot amongst many others. The time of year, migratory cycles, availability of food, temperature, altitude, etc., are all determining factors when bird-watching.

Flora & fauna
Description:
The Altiplano is a huge plateau at an altitude of 4,000m/13,200ft. It is an area of vast expanses of land cut into by deep channels and valleys, spotted with high salt lakes and where dark masses of lava from volcanic eruptions change the terrain. Rain is rare, temperatures vacillate wildly and the atmosphere at this altitude is transparent and luminous. Although the conditions are harsh, many plant and vegetable species exist here and have adapted to the demands of the climate and terrain.

Padre Le Paige Museum/ Quitor Fortress
Duration: 3 to 4 hours
Level of difficulty: Easy
Description:
Through vestiges of history and the occupation of the area, we can get an idea of what has happened here in the past. The idiosyncrasies of a people and their culture come to light in visits to the archeological museum in San Pedro de Atacama as does the visit to the “pukara” or Fort of Quitor.
Petroglyphs
Duration: 3 hours
Level of difficulty: Easy
Description:
Rupestrian art displays many forms of expression- man has tried to record experiences, common elements, symbols and signs. The description and understanding of them through the science of archaeology gives us the tools to understand. Petroglyph: an inscription or engraving on rock, fundamentally made by hand and with another hard object. These places are now in the middle of nowhere, yet once were important stops on ancient trade routes, they lie witness to the travellers, shamans and merchants of the past who converged here and left evidence of their stories.

 

 

Suggested San Pedro de Atacama Clothing

Travel light, but pack sturdy, outdoor hiking boots. Take comfortable, layered clothing such as fleeces, t-shirts, swimming gear, long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Include an outdoor warm top for cold nights and cold altitudes as well as a warm hat and gloves (especially if you go to the Geysers). Lip balm, sun-screen cream and sun glasses.

Our selection of hotels includes many of the most popular accomodations in South America. You’ll find the perfect hotel in your budget.

SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA

San Pedro de Atacama is a tiny oasis village located amid one of the driest deserts on Earth called the Atacama. It offers a unique “out of this world” experience of mystic, moon and mars-like landscapes, stunning geographic scenery and unbelievable star gazing.

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