Atacama Desert

OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS

15 - 19 February 2018


BY VEHICLE

LIKANANTAI CULTURE TOUR

After a short walk from the hotel to Pukara de Quitor, we will drive to the historic old town of San Pedro. There, we will stroll around the picturesque town, visit the church and the highly respected museum. We then drive to the archealogical ruins of Tulor – a 2800 year old settlement – visiting a variety of ancient villages along the way.

Duration: half day Level: easy Altitude: 2440m Acclimatization: none required

Tocanao/Atacama saltflats

On the way to the famous saltflats of San Pedro de Atacama, we visit the lovely town of Tocanao and the Valle Escondido de Kunza (the hidden valley) where we visit the church and artesan market stalls in the central plaza. From here, we continue our journey to the saltflats. On arrival, there is a gentle 20 minute walk to the Laguna de Chaxa where we can see wild flamingos and other birds native to the area. Later, when the setting sun catches on the mountains and the lagoons, you will see one of the most incredible sunsets the world has to offer.

Duration: half day Level: easy Altitude: 2300m Acclimatization: none required

Sunset at Moon Valley

A 20 minute drive brings us to the spectacular Moon Valley. This is one of the most famous national parks in Chile and for good reason. The enormous sand dunes and dramatic rock formations create a stunning lunar landscape born of land lifts and centuries of erosion. The sunsets here are extraordinary and no visit to San Pedro is complete without an trip to the Moon Valley to watch the sun go down.

Duration: half day Level: easy Altitude: 2450m Acclimatization: none required

Valle de Jere

A 45 minute drive from the hotel takes us through the village of Tocanao to the Quebrada de Jere (Jere Gorge). A gentle walk through beautiful, cultivated gardens allows you to appreciate the centuries-old irrigation systems that enabled man to settle in the area. The verdant vegetation, thanks to the Jere River, provides a wonderful contrast to the dryness of the surrounding desert. During this tour, we will also see a number of pre- historic petroglyphs: drawings carved into the rocks that acted as signposts for the Incas on their travels to and from the sea.

Duration: half day Level: easy Altitude: 2475m Acclimatization: none required

The Tatio Geysers

We leave the hotel before dawn to arrive at the famous geysers at daybreak: the steam and vapors are all the more impressive with the cold and the light of the early morning. At the geyser field, we will also see geysers thermal pools, mud fountains, colourful rock formations, hot streams and flora and fauna. The return journey is quite stunning with an abundance of wildlife and beautifully contrasting landscapes.

Duration: half day Level: medium (due to the altitude) Altitude: 4321m Acclimatization: two days

Altoandina Lagoons

A two and a half hour drive, south east from the hotel brings us to the high Andean lagoons of Miscanti an Miñiques. The lagoons are surrounded by beautiful snowcapped mountains and a wide variety of flora and fauna. The lagoons provide a stunning contrast and the combined effect is an amazing explosion of colors from white, blue and silver through to red, pink and yellow.

Duration: full day Level: medium Altitude: 4200m Acclimatization: three days.

The Altiplanic Villages

A two and a half hour drive takes us across the high plains to the lovely village of Caspana. On the way, we will enjoy a wide variety of wildlife native to the area such as llamas, vicuñas, zuris, foxes and vizcachas. We will have lunch in Caspana, which is famous for its white liparita stone buildings and its narrow paved streets. We then visit the tiny village of Chiu- Chiu, which dates back to 3000 BC. This is a good excursion for your last day at Alto Atacama as the villages are in the direction of the airport in Calama.

Duration: full day Level: medium Altitude: 3322m but up to 4500m at one point Acclimatization: three days.

Tara Salt Flats

From the hotel, we drive towards the Andean cordillera. The journey takes us through the wonderful meadows of Quepiaco where you can also see the Pakana Monks, incredible rock formations created by years or erosion. We will have a buffet lunch at the salt flats while enjoying the local flora and fauna, before returning to the hotel.

Duration: full day Level: medium Altitude: 4300m Acclimatization: three days. 


TREKKING

Moon Valley

A 30 minute drive takes us to Moon Valley. Once inside the national park, we will begin a 9km trek through the dunes, gorges and flats that have helped make San Pedro famous throughout the world. 
Duration: half day Level: medium (a three hour trek covering 9km) Altitude: 2450m Acclimatization: none required Note: this excursion is not recommended for people with vertigo. 

Quezala Gorge

We drive south taking the east flank of the Atacama salt flat, the town of Talabre is where we start our trek. Located at the footsteps of the active Lascar volcano Talabre is a fine example of an altiplanic village, defying ages & ashes. The trek follows the river that carves the beautiful Quezala Gorge. 
Duration: 2 hours Level: medium Altitude: 3500 m Acclimatization: none required

Los Colorados

From the hotel, we take a short drive along the ancient road which crosses the Cordillera de la Sal. From here, we begin a delightful trek along the top of the cordillera which provides panaromic views of San Pedro, the oasis, the salt flats and the snowcapped Andean mountains. We descend via the dunes of Moon Valley. 
Duration: half day Level: medium (a two and a half hour walk covering 7km) Altitude: 2700m Acclimatization: none required. 
Note: this excursion is not recommended for people with vertigo. 

Kari Gorge

A 20 minute drive from the hotel brings us to the Kari viewpoint from where we will walk along a narrow path into the Kari Gorge. Here, you can see spectacular rock formations of gypsum, clay and salt and see how the wind and water have left their mark over thousands of years. 
Duration: half day Level: medium (a two hour walk covering 5km, some very steep descents) Altitude: 2600m Acclimatization: none required Note: this excursion is not recommended for people with vertigo. 

Los Cardones Gorge

A 45 minute drive takes us to Guatin where we will walk through this lovely gorge, carved over the centuries by the Vilama River. During the walk, you can enjoy the beautiful contrasts provided by the colorful rocks and vegetation. 
Duration: half day Level: medium (a two walk covering 4km, some steep/slippery terrain) Altitude: 3166 Acclimatization: one full day

Alto Katarpe

This trek takes you to the viewpoint at Katarpe with its stunning views across the cordillera and the Katarpe Valley. We will visit the old administration post of the Incas and see a wide variety of petroglyphs which, thousands of years ago, served as crucial forms of expression for the local inhabitants. We return to Alto Atacama by the lush San Pedro River and the village of Katarpe
Duration: half day Level: easy (a two hour walk covering 5km) Altitude: 2721m Acclimatization: none required
Note: this excursion is not recommended for people with vertigo. 

Tambo Katarpe

A 15 minute drive takes us to the village of Katarpe. Here, we visit the old church and enjoy a gentle walk through wonderful plateaus and gorges until we arrive at the tambo of Katarpe. A tambo is where the Incas stored vital provisions for their regular trips from the Andes to the sea and back. This excursion gives visitors a wonderful cultural glimpse of the Incas and their lifes. 
Duration: half day Level: easy (a one and a half hour walk covering 3km) Altitude: 2510m Acclimatization: none required

Katarpe / Devil’s Gorge

We drive 15 minutes to the village of Katarpe. After visiting the church, we trek through the gorges of the Cordillera de la Sal. Leaving through the Devil’s Gorge, through spectacular high walls of salt, clay and gypsum. 
Duration: half day Level: medium Altitude: 2530m Acclimatization: none required

Waillar

A one hour drive brings us to the small town of Machuca. We trek along the Machuca River, following an ancient shepherd’s route and passing the old farm of Peñaliri with its carefully cultivated terraces, until we reach Rio Grande. Today, Rio Grande is home to less than 100 people, the majority of whom work the land to produce lettuce, corn, alfalfa and potatoes and to raise herds of llamas, sheep and goats. 
Duration: full day Level: medium (a five hour trek covering 14km) Altitude: 3800m Acclimatization: two days